Among rock guitarists, I’ve long admired the skills of Lindsey Buckingham above many other guitarists. He has some distinguishing traits, most notably playing with fingers rather than the flatpick.
It was no accident that Fleetwood Mac took off after he joined in 1975 with girlfriend Stevie Nicks. It wasn’t just about three songwriters, three lead singers–though that is a rare and effective combination for a band. It’s also about the musicianship, and taking other people’s songs to a higher level.
Dial back three centuries. It was Antonio Vivaldi who turned the baroque concerto into an assembly line production. Over six-hundred ten-minute productions of three movement (fast-slow-fast) works. Some were very memorable.
That three-movement scheme is borrowed somewhat for jazz. State the melody and play with it a bit in the ensemble, then the soloists go at it, then finish up with a reprise.
Somewhat reminiscent of both is the ambitious last song on the self-titled album Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham made before they were invited into Fleetwood Mac. This album was the “cool find” in about every fifth dorm room on campus when I was in college. And I had my copy, too. They had some fine session musicians working on this disc. Some of the songs were not … great. But a few were good. One was very, very good, I thought.
My favorite song by far was “Frozen Love.” It’s one of the few songwriting collaborations of Buckingham and Nicks.
Lyrically, it’s far from a masterpiece. It deals with the most common theme in popular music: a relationship. The lyrics probably give more of a personal window than its writers might intend, a sort-of go-your-own-way before they sang it a few years later. What are they trying to say, and who’s saying it? It struck me as two people tired of a relationship that might have already been pulling in two different directions. Long before the F-Mac infidelities finished it off.
I like the song just for the musicianship. I’m assuming Buckingham has layered himself playing electric and acoustic guitars. The style sounds that familiar to me. After two verses in the first 2:38, there’s a long middle movement. It starts with an acoustic guitar solo. Sounds like two guitars, but Buckingham can play two parts on one instrument.
A violin and bassoon come in after the three-minute mark. More strings about 3:40, and the electric guitar solo arrives a bit after that. Three minutes of a build-up that moves the listener from a sparse, perhaps frozen expression, into a good deal of heat. The lyrics resume about 5:38, and the two singers finish off, each singing those ambivalent words.
At over seven minutes, there’s no way this song would have a hope of AM airplay in the 70′s. But it’s a fine early attempt by two songwriters who went on to greater pop stardom, and much more well-known efforts. And shorter songs than this.