FFWDing to the Best Part: “What’s the World Coming To,” Fleetwood Mac (2003)

Disclosure that some of you may or may not know already: I mother-effing LOVE Fleetwood Mac. Loved them as a three-year old, when reportedly I would sing certain phrases of “Second Hand News” verbatim (specifically, “won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff”). Loved them recently, when I saw them in concert and have the $45 tee shirt to prove it. How Stevie Nicks could be wrapped in layers of black velvet while Lindsey and John and Mick sweat it out in tees and jeans is a mystery for the ages. Were I to ever trip my way into having a son (or get the honor of naming a friend-baby/cousin), the middle name might just be Fleetwood. (Thereby ensuring I never get such honor.)

When decompressing after the aforementioned show, I started listening to all of the band’s offerings on my iPhone.  I always liked “What’s the World Coming To,” and exclaimed “Oh! New Fleetwood Mac” when it started playing, quickly realizing that it is nearly 11 years old. But it’s all relative, because it is from what is still, in fact, their most recent album.

This wasn’t a single/hit, so very few of you will know it, and the only YouTube clip I could find (other than live performances) was lacking in video (or correct spelling), so [sic] all over the place. The basic theme of this song is “Stop this world, I wanna get off,” or “Life’s a bitch, and then you die,” or “Get off my lawn,” but the chipper percussion and fast tempo betray the underlying cynicism.

And then, at the best part? From 3:14 – 3:21,  Lindsey Buckingham sets off on a rousing vocal arpeggio that suggests he might have a little hope in this dark, dark world after all.  A similar run takes us into the close.  And for the record, WOW does Stevie Nicks look beautiful in the picture on the screen at the same time.  No wonder he’s been so pissed at her all these years.

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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.