Real savage like
One often looks to Tusk as the point at which Lindsey Buckingham completely lost his mind. The fact that the album carries, in bold letters on the back cover, the words "Special thanks from the band to Lindsey Buckingham" tells us just how far he had gone over the edge into megalomania. Or so it would seem. The fact was that Lindsey Buckingham had grown very weary of maintaining the image and multi-platinum recording status of the band. He had grown disenchanted with the growing triumph of style over substance. Fleetwood Mac had become a monster of a "supergroup" and executives at Warner Brothers were salivating over the release of a new album.
"The story is probably famous now, but the word was, when the people at Warners first heard Tusk, they saw their Christmas bonuses going out the window."
Buckingham's disenchantment with the band stemmed from years of not doing what he wanted to do creatively. There was talk he wanted to walk away. Imagine the frustration of a man who feels artistically underappreciated by his band, especially when that band was becoming increasingly creatively dominated by his ex-girlfriend. After a while the millions of dollars of income and the steady supply of cocaine cease to be a panacea. You begin to need to do something crazy. As a guitarist with a highly developed talent for creating and tweaking musical arrangements, Lindsey Buckingham went forward in 1979 with the intention of putting his stamp on Tusk in such a way that no one could pretend he was some kind of weird lounge musician playing in the background. After all, that role was best played by John McVie anyway.
Why don't you ask him if he's going to stay?
Why don't you ask him if he's going away?
Why don't you tell me what's going on?
Why don't you tell me who's on the phone?
Why don't you ask him what's going on?
Why don't you ask him who's the latest on the throne?
This was some sort of weird paranoia with musical chaos surrounding it, not to mention having the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band playing in the background in the middle of a live recording at Dodger Stadium. What the hell was the deal with this song, the title track to the latest Fleetwood Mac album, a double album that people kept skipping over tracks on because they just wanted to hear the hits? There had been moments like these before in the Buckingham-Nicks era Fleetwood Mac, but they had been isolated incidents. This time the madness was screaming out. Disgruntled listeners to Top 40 radio stations didn't know what to make of it. There was chatter about how drugs had overcome the band and the stress of having two ex-couples in the band was too much. The golden era of Fleetwood Mac was over, and not a moment too soon. The band regained its soul just before losing their dominating hold over the radio airplay charts and record sales. Tusk sold plenty of copies, but it didn't have the killer instinct of the band's previous monster albums.
Don't say that you love me!
Just tell me that you want me!
A band whose last album was the top selling record of all times has a bit of leverage with their record company. While Warner Brothers insisted that a double album was a bad idea and suggested they cut out some of the less "hit-worthy" tunes, the band would not budge. The album would still sell double-platinum. There would be more of the kinds of songs people had grown accustomed to, such as Storms and Sara from Stevie Nicks and Over & Over from Christine McVie. However, there was something odd about most of the arrangements, making the album sound schizophrenic and avant-garde. Artistically a success, it was considered a commercial failure. For any other band, selling two million copies would have been a commercial windfall. For this band, no album they could have released would have been able to match the commercial success of Rumours. It was time to do something different.
The album was about a band self-destructing and recording that self-destruction. They would rebuild over and over again, but it would never really be the same. The song titles are evidence enough of that.
Tusk Copyright 1979 Warner Brothers Records Inc.
Lyrics by Lindsey Buckingham
As recorded by Fleetwood Mac
Used without permission
No animals were harmed during the creation of this writeup
No research was done at all
Aside from memory and listening to the album before and during creation