What Causes a Band to Boot a Prime Player?
On Lindsey Buckingham and his now permanent solo career
Lindsey Buckingham’s new triple disc Solo Anthology arrives at a crucial time in his trajectory. Having been fired by Fleetwood Mac for reasons still unclear — some said it was due to difference in direction, but others hinted it had to do with unbecoming behavior — it serves as a reminder of the talent and tenacity he brought to the band and indeed, how difficult he may be to replace, the addition of Neil Finn and Benmont Tench notwithstanding.
Indeed, in the annals of modern rock, few artists have consistently created songs as tuneful and riff-ready as Buckingham. By turns both quirky and catchy, the tracks he contributed to Mac’s canon were not only responsible for the band’s comeback in the mid ‘70s, but also a singular reason why they later became the biggest selling band of that decade and beyond. The first two discs of the set span his solo repertoire, with a few rarities in the form of soundtrack contributions thrown in for good measure, while the third features both individual outings and highlights from the Mac canon performed live in a mostly acoustic setting.
Taken in tandem, the album presents a picture of a benign artist content at plying his craft. Indeed, that image is a far cry from the abusive boyfriend he was rumored to represent as far as his dealings with former gal pal Stevie Nicks was concerned. And yet, if that was indeed the cause of his dismissal, it puts him in the same shameful category as other prime players who were forced from the ranks due to dissatisfactory conduct.
Oh, the humiliation! It’s one thing when you’re laid off from work and you have to explain the reasons to your friends and family. It’s even more embarrassing when you’re the object of a very public dismissal that the entire universe is privy to.
Of course, Buckingham isn’t alone. History is littered with sudden and shocking departures that were not of an artist’s own choosing. Here’s a few of the more obvious examples…
Brian Jones’ drug use and irresponsible reputation must have been super bad for an unruly bunch like the Rolling Stones to boot him from the band. Then again, it’s hard to make music when you’re nodding out or not showing up for sessions. Nevertheless, the separation was especially humiliating for Jones, given the fact that he was the one who helmed the Stones initially. Likewise, he had already been undermined by Keith Richards who had stolen his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg out from under his arms. What Jones might have accomplished in his career will never be known. A month after his forced departure he died under mysterious circumstances.
If ever there was reason to protest, then consider Brian Wilson with just cause. Not long after the Beach Boys’ victory lap commemorating their 50th anniversary, co-founder and chief aural architect Brian Wilson was given the boot by his cousin Mike Love. Love later claimed that the cause was due to Wilson’s refusal to continue to tour, but the fact that Wilson and fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine haven’t stopped since makes Love’s explanation somewhat suspect. Love may have sang his share of the songs — and co-written any number of them as well — but hiring a bunch of ringers and stringers while ignoring the iconic individual responsible for multiple masterpieces seems somewhat suspect at best.
Granted, few singers are better at harmony than David Crosby, but when he pissed off his fellow Byrds and went on the lam at Monterey after spouting off his half cocked conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK, the harmony came to a quick conclusion. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, upset because Crosby then joined the Buffalo Springfield in place of an absent Neil Young, fired him. It didn’t help that some of the songs Crosby had been writing — “Triad,” an ode to a threesome being one obvious example — didn’t fit the Byrds’s idea of a PG posture. Admittedly Crosby can still be a bit cantankerous. Just ask his CSNY colleagues and that may prove the point.
Jon Anderson’s high pitched vocals were a cornerstone of Yes‘ sound. So when he was fired after taking an extended absence due to illness it seemed like a low blow. Yes indeed, The fact that he was replaced by a singer who used to front a Yes tribute band gave the affair am even more dubious distinction. Consequently, there are now two outfits claiming the Yes birthright these days. For Chrissakes, why can’t Yes make a positive move and reunite? It worked for the Germans and there was far more postwar animosity there.
Ironically, the same fate befell Steve Perry when a hip injury waylaid him and forced him from the road. His bandmates waited nearly a year and a half before presenting him with an ultimatum — either get hip replacement surgery or they would move on without him. Perry decided to quit instead and Journey persevered with a tribute band singer taking his place.
The bottom line — getting a pink slip form your music gig really hurts. And you only get a severance check if you can claim past royalties.
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