5 Lingering Questions From Fleetwood Mac's Split With Lindsey Buckingham

When Fleetwood Mac announced Monday (April 9) that the legendary band had replaced guitarist Lindsey Buckingham with Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell for its upcoming tour, its statement brought up more questions than it answered.

Here are a few of those lingering questions:

What went south? Prophetically, the last song that Fleetwood Mac performed together was “Go Your Own Way,” when the band was honored Jan. 26 as MusiCares Person of the Year. But at that gala, held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, all seemed well with the band. While receiving their award, Buckingham acknowledged the dysfunction that fueled so many of the band’s hits, but added, “Not very far below the level of dysfunction, what we are feeling more than ever in our career is love.” After artists, including Lorde, Keith Urban, Juanes and Little Big Town, saluted the band, the quintet took the stage to close the evening with energetic performances of “The Chain,” “Little Lies,” "Tusk,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Go Your Own Way.”

Why Mike Campbell and Neil Finn?  Longtime friends Campbell and Stevie Nicks go back nearly 40 years. Campbell played on Nicks and Tom Petty’s 1981 duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.”  More recently, “I Don’t Care,” a song the guitarist co-wrote with Nicks, appeared on Nicks’ 2014 album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, a collection of newly recorded versions of demos that Nicks initially recorded between 1969 and 1987. Less obvious is the Finn connection, but drummer Mick Fleetwood and Finn have a history, if not one as deep as that of Campbell and Nicks. Fleetwood told an Australian newspaper in 2016 that he was playing on Finn’s next album, referring to Finn as “a new music friend…I invited myself to play in Auckland so I am going down there first to work on his next album, as a friend.”

When did this all go down? Regardless of the circumstances -- whether Buckingham jumped or was shoved -- his departure seems to be a very recent development. On April 4, guitarist Billy Burnette, who replaced Buckingham when he left Fleetwood Mac in 1987, tweeted, “Breaking news: Lindsey Buckingham is out, but I’m not in.” Burnette quickly deleted that tweet, but it’s possible that he already knew that Finn would be coming in, as Finn was already woodshedding with the band. After the news broke on Monday, Finn said in a statement that he was invited to join Fleetwood Mac two weeks ago -- that would be March 26 -- and that “a few days later, I was standing in a room playing music with Fleetwood Mac.”

What does this mean for the setlist? When Christine McVie stopped touring with the band -- from 1998 to 2014 -- Fleetwood Mac largely dropped her songs from its live repertoire, with the exception of “Don’t Stop,” on which Nicks sang McVie’s part. While it’s easy to imagine Finn singing Buckingham’s co-lead on “Don’t Stop,” it’s much harder to envision his taking over Buckingham-fronted “Go Your Own Way,” “Big Love” or “Tusk.” According to the statement, Fleetwood Mac, who is co-managed by Suretone’s Carl Stubner and CSM’s Sheryl Louis and booked by CAA, will announce tour dates soon, presumably for fall of this year. Fleetwood told Rolling Stone last August that he and Nicks had discussed delving deeper into the band’s catalog beyond the hits.

What’s next? The question remains whether Buckingham is out for good -- and what that even means for a band that has not put out a studio album with all five primary members (Nicks, Buckingham, McVie, John McVie and Fleetwood) since 1987’s Tango in the Night -- or if this is a temporary split. Given that he, Nicks and Christine McVie have left and come back before, the final chapter is far from written. With Fleetwood Mac, the words from another band known for its dysfunction seem applicable: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”