The Chain, Broken

Two of the things that have long fascinated me are (1) what makes a band a band and (2) why performers continue to perform long after ordinary people move on to something else in their lives besides that which created their livelihoods.

As for the first point, the issue is that of membership and then lack thereof: if there is a “critical mass” that makes a band what it becomes known to be, does the absence of one or more individuals change the chemistry, as it were, of the band? Does the band contain an individual or individuals such that with out them the band would be something other than it had been? For example, consider The Beatles. If Lennon or McCartney had left the band while it still existed, would it have still been The Beatles? What about Harrison or Starr?

The existing members of a band (or perhaps their manager and/or promoters) typically, when losing a key member, find someone who seamlessly integrates so that there is little difference: Consider Journey post-Steve Perry and Yes sans Jon Anderson: their replacements are cover band material extraordinaire.

Lindsey Buckingham was, in effect, recently fired by his band mates in Fleetwood Mac. And he was, in effect, orally and audibly replaced by two people, Mike Campbell, formerly of the Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn, he of Crowded House.

Presumably, Campbell and Finn got their positions (jobs?) because they would be resonate with what can be considered the “sound” of “Fleetwood Mac,” a band that Buckingham was part of for 33 years: 1975 to 1987; 1997 to 2018. After all, Buckingham was instrumental, literally and figuratively, when it put out Fleetwood Mac, which solidly established the band in a way that resonates today (“Say You Love Me,” “Landslide,” “Rhiannon”) and Rumours (“Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain”).

With the departure of Buckingham, the five-person group has become six.

So is it the “same” group, or is it different? Is Buckingham’s absence that of a Lennon or McCartney or is it, well, that of Starr? Is his removal from the band as consequential as it would be were they to give Stevie Nicks the shove?

Is the Fleetwood Mac that is on tour Fleetwood Mac as they’ve been known for the past few decades, or is it a different band?

(I think unfortunately for Buckingham, it doesn’t rise to the Perry/Journey level.)

Then the “why,” as in “Why does a performer keep on performing?” Buckingham is 69, eligible for his full Social Security, and he probably doesn’t need to worry about the solvency of that program. So is it about the passion for the music? Is he driven by the Muse who wants him out there on stage with his long-time compatriots? Or is it something else?

While I don’t know the answer to that question, the October 9 filing in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, with the Plaintiff Lindsey Buckingham, “an individual,” suing Michael Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, and Stephanie Nicks, all of whom are singularly described as “an individual,” as well as The Fleetwood Mac Partnership, makes me think that there might be something else to it. As in “This action is necessary to enforce Buckingham’s right to share in the economic opportunities he is entitled to as a member of the partnership created to operate the business of Fleetwood Mac (‘Fleetwood Mac Partnership’ or ‘Partnership’).”

Those “economic opportunities” are non-trivial: according to the filing the tour that the band has embarked on would result in “an estimated $12 million to $14 million for each of the Partners.”

The whys and wherefores of Buckingham’s view on why he was booted are not clear. It almost seems as though he doesn’t know why, at least so far as the court document goes. Presumably he is fully aware of reasons behind the move, and it probably isn’t that “the other Partners, by wrongfully excluding Buckingham, have sought to enrich themselves at Buckingham’s expense.” Their additional enrichment is undoubtedly a consequence of touring without him—does anyone think that each Campbell and Finn are going to get $7 million?–but the cause?

Might it not be argued that if enrichment was the motive, the other Partners risked what they could make from the tour: Maybe there would be something of a backlash against the band because of the treatment of Buckingham and consequently the $12 million to $14 million would be on the order of, oh, $10 million to $12 million. Unlikely that that would be the motive.

But it seems to come down to the money because that’s all there is.

Obviously, Buckingham feels that the people that he had been working with for so long need to be punished in some way for removing him from the band and that the best way to do that is through the pocketbook.

There is, however, a line in the filing which seems as though Buckingham might end up regretting what he is wishing for:

“Buckingham voluntarily departed Fleetwood Mac in 1987 after the release of ‘Tango In the Night’ to pursue a solo career. After Buckingham’s departure from Fleetwood Mac in 1987 the Band’s fortunes and popularity declined precipitously.”

Doesn’t that imply that for those 10 years he was gone they suffered an economic consequence of his decision to leave, that their “economic opportunities” were compromised? Doesn’t he, in effect, owe them for that?

If it is only the money: Yes.

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