FFWDing to the Best Part: “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Molly — one of my bestiest buddies and owner of the excellent DIY blog The Nesting Game — texted me with her vote for the “Best Part” of “Go Your Own Way” the other night.  It’s something I struggle with.  This is among my favorites, if not my favorite song OF ALL TIME, so in essence, there is every best part and no best part. Just as white is the absence of color in its stark purity, “Go Your Own Way” lacks a best part because all is simply perfect, even while lacking a traditional A-B-A-B-C-B structure. It has memorable lyrics, tight harmonies, tiny key changes/reversals within each verse, killer guitar riffs, tambourines, and a solid hook that holds up nearly 40 (!) years later.

Editorial Note: BLACK is no color, white is EVERY color. Whatever. The analogy, while hopelessly flawed, still works. But I still hate myself.

Anyway, Molly nominated Lindsey Buckingham’s snarling “go your own way” at 0:51, which closes out the first chorus. “Such an F you inflection,” she said, and she’s right.

As musicosity1 pointed out, “I’m continually amazed at the willingness of former lovers to air their joint miseries publicly in musical form, knowing full well that they’ll be called on to sing those songs over and over before crowds thinking only of entertainment.”   

Lindsey Buckingham — one of my favorite people on the planet — wrote this in the early, raw throes of his parting from Stevie Nicks, whose overrated smoker’s voice he had brought into Fleetwood Mac, only to be ungratefully shamed by her (well, that’s the story I tell, as a bigger fan of Christine McVie).

Now, decades and partners later, they continue to sing it on stage together.  Stevie stands across the stage at her mic, draped in velvet and yards of wild hair, calmly singing her harmonies about the woman who simply wants to “shack up,” despite having this guy that would “give [her] [his] world.”

I guess they’re both pretty over it at this stage. (Well … maybe.) But on the studio recording, perhaps he wasn’t over it.  Perhaps he was still pretty damn log-jammed under it.  The emotion is at the surface.  “Take your ball and go home, STEVIE … (unless you don’t want to, in which case I can make you happy),” he seems to say with those four simple, beautiful, eloquent words.

But that’s not my favorite part, if forced to think about it. Nope, my Best Part is 2:38 — the start of the final guitar solo, which lasts nearly a full minute before it takes a backseat to the vocal refrain. Then THIS fades beautifully, amid Mick Fleetwood’s manic drumming, into the close.  The four identical notes that begin this riff somehow transmit the frustration, disappointment, anger, and longing that Lindsey was feeling at the time he penned these lyrics. They don’t call a guitar an “ax(e)” for nothing.


6 thoughts on “FFWDing to the Best Part: “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac (1977)

  1. A storied song from a storied album which defined the music of 1977 the way “Saturday Night Fever” did the music of 1978. Each has endured in its own fashion. The “Rumours” album is like a diary of not only the Nicks/Buckingham/Fleetwood triangle, but of the McVie vs McVie drama. The album’s producer, Ken Callait (also the father of Colby Callait), was kind enough to write a book about all the in-studio and out-studio shenanigans surrounding the lengthy recording process, unheard of in that day but well worth it in retrospect: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Rumours-Inside-Classic-Fleetwood/dp/1118218086 Buckingham, like Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, plays electric guitar with his fingers, which gives an unusual, stinging strike tone. You can hear a couple of different takes of the guitar solo sliding around during the solo. Buckingham had very specific visions for each of these songs, to the domineering point where he tried to teach John McVie and Mick Fleetwood specifically how to play their respective instruments, earning animosity. Like the Eagles and the Beatles, too much prowess in too confined a space generated tension and then schism. And yet it was Nicks, not Buckingham, who proved to have the more successful singer-songwriter solo career.

    A best part? I can’t identify a single moment that crests above the rest, but I do have a favorite element. On the chorus, Mick Fleetwood, more a personality than musician, plays a standard 4/4 rock back beat. But on the verses, he lays out a much more interesting rhythm on the floor drums, almost a counterpoint to the vocal melody. The song structure is not totally left field, though the instrumental third verse is an interesting choice, and the quick chorus fade-out surprises as well. They had trouble fitting all the songs onto the album, given the technological limitations of the time. One suspects that if “Rumours” had been made in the era of 80 minute CDs, the songs would have been much longer, which is not always a good thing, but would have been nice in this particular case.

    • One of my favorite authors, Chuck Klosterman, once pointed out that around the 0:05 mark on “I Don’t Wanna Know,” you can hear this squeak along the neck of the guitar. One of those little studio imperfections that adds to a song’s greatness.

      Interesting point about Mick’s drumming in the verses.

  2. Pingback: Your Least Favorite Song: “Are You That Somebody,” Aaliyah (1998) | Neurotic City

  3. Pingback: FFWDing to the Best Part: “What’s the World Coming To,” Fleetwood Mac (2003) | Neurotic City

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