Lindsey Buckingham

The Fleetwood Mac member on humble beginnings, Bel-Air bachelor pads, and digging in
Photograph by Jeremy Cowart

I grew up in Atherton, right near Stanford. Stevie [Nicks] and I were in a band that bottomed out, but there was interest in us as a duo. We came up with enough material for an album, and we intuited that if we were going to make things happen, we needed to move to where the action was. We lived right off Coldwater—it wasn’t a dirt road, but it was close. L.A. was an adjustment, for sure—it’s big, it’s random.

Less than six months after we moved, we got a record deal. We had one album, Buckingham Nicks, and it didn’t sell, so we lost our deal. We had to make ends meet, so we did a lot of shows to get extra money. I remember playing a club with Stevie called the Starwood on Santa Monica. We also played the Troubadour. At Sound City studios the owner was very gracious to let us use Studio B when there was nobody booked to work on a second album. It was there that we ran into Mick Fleetwood, who was really just looking for a studio. He didn’t know [guitarist-vocalist] Bob Welch was going to quit Fleetwood Mac. I walked into Studio A, and the band was listening to our song “Frozen Love” at top volume and Mick was completely grooving to the guitar solo. A couple of weeks later Mick called and said, “Do you want to join Fleetwood Mac?” and I said, “You have to take my girlfriend, too.” That was a very lucky moment for us.

I had a house up in Bel-Air for a long time. It was not a family house; it was a bachelor house. So we bulldozed it. My wife  was quite happy because there was a lot of symbolism to having everything that went before bulldozed. We are in Brentwood now. We needed to come down off the hill.

I’ve thought about whether it would be advisable or possible to move out, but this is the thing about Los Angeles: People come here and they stay. It’s not just because there is an illusionary carrot, although that is part of it. You could probably find actors or musicians who are not much younger than myself who still haven’t caught their break. So that’s part of what drives Los Angeles. If you do happen to get lucky, as Stevie and I did, then there are reasons to stay. Unless you want to be Neil Young and live up in the mountains, there’s not a lot of motivation to move. Whatever there may be about the city that you could take to task, it’s a pretty great place.

I don’t think I would’ve wanted to raise my kids elsewhere, but it is a mixed bag. Growing up in Atherton, you could just get on your bike, go to school, and come home. You had a level of autonomy that doesn’t exist for kids today. Some of that has to do with L.A. and some of it has to do with the times. I grew up in one place. Stevie, on the other hand—her dad was a businessman who uprooted his family regularly, so she learned how to make a splash everywhere they went. It took its toll on her in other ways, and that’s not something I want for my kids. We’re dug in here, and we’re happy.