The turmoil which has engulfed Fleetwood Mac in their nearly 45-year history has few rivals. Yet while the drama within the band has been legendary for its infighting, drug use, affairs and backstabbing, things have taken quite the serious turn as former guitarist Lindsey Buckingham has filed a lawsuit over a litany of charges, seeking up to $14 million.
Buckingham’s firing from the group took place this past January, mere days after Fleetwood Mac performed at a Grammy MusiCares event.
April saw the iconic band announce plans for a 52-date North American tour which kicked off at the beginning of this month and stretches into next year where it concludes April 5 at the Wells Fargo Center.
At the time of the announcement, Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood told Rolling Stone of Buckingham’s departure that terms “like ‘fired’ are ugly references as far as I’m concerned.” He said the rest of the group and the guitarist simply came to a stalemate.
“This was not a happy situation for us in terms of the logistics of a functioning band,” Fleetwood said. “To that purpose, we made a decision that we could not go on with him. Majority rules in terms of what we need to do as a band and go forward.”
And move forward they did, filling Buckingham’s spot with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, and Crowded House frontman Neil Finn. Longtime singer Stevie Nicks, singer/guitarist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie round out the lineup.
Buckingham’s lawsuit looks to recoup the monies he would’ve made on the tour, estimated to be between $12 and $14 million. It also details how the group wanted to begin the tour this August, and that he wanted to postpone it until November to tour behind a new solo album.
As such, plans were already in place for the Fleetwood Mac tour when he was fired. The lawsuit is claiming breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage in the wake of his firing from the group earlier this year.
Added to the lawsuit filing was an e-mail Buckingham sent to Fleetwood in late February which has the guitarist seeking to resolve the situation in a manner beneficial to everyone.
“In the month since MusiCares, I’ve tried to speak to both you and Stevie, to no avail,” Buckingham’s e-mail begins. “I’ve only gotten radio silence this whole time. I haven’t tried Chris as I thought she might be feeling a bit fragile. I even emailed John, who responded that he couldn’t have contact with me…All of this breaks my heart. ”
“After 43 years and the finish line clearly in sight, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that for the five of us to splinter apart now would be doing the wrong thing,” he continues. “Wrong for the beautiful legacy we’ve built together. Wrong for our legions of loyal fans who would hate to see the final act be a breakup. Wrong for ourselves, and all that we’ve accomplished and shared together…If there is a way to work this through, I believe we must try. I love you all no matter what.”
Through a representative, the band offered a terse statement, saying “Fleetwood Mac strongly disputes the allegations presented in Mr. Buckingham’s complaint and looks forward to their day in court.”
Amends hardly look like they are on the horizon.
This isn’t Buckingham’s first split from Fleetwood Mac.
Back in 1987, he left the band at the peak of their popularity in part – and a bit ironically considering the current situation – because he didn’t want to tour as much. He also felt there hadn’t been sufficient closure in the breakup with Nicks, a storied romance which has become one of the most intriguing aspects of the Mac soap opera. Buckingham returned to the fold in 1996 for reunion of the ‘Rumours’-era lineup, and has been involved up until he was sacked this year.
According to Buckingham, it’s those old issues with Nicks which were behind his dismissal from the group. He told Rolling Stone earlier this month that the band’s manager informed him following the MusiCares event, “Stevie never wants to be on a stage with you again.”
The guitarist thought that meant the singer would be exiting the group, but soon came to realize he was the one who would be unceremoniously shown the door.
What happens next with Fleetwood Mac is anyone’s guess. You’d think at this point, they would’ve gotten beyond all this pettiness that makes for good copy but is detrimental to what the fans want to see on stage. The lawsuit is bound to be a messy debacle that no one really wants to deal with, least of all Buckingham.
“At the end of the day, legality will be reduced to being virtually meaningless, and humanity will count for almost everything” he wrote in the closing paragraph of the e-mail to Fleetwood.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com