Fleetwood Mac launched a new tour this spring, accompanied by the release of songs on the EP titled “Extended Play.” The collection is only four songs, but one particular gem on has waited more than 40 years to meet the masses. Of all of the songs to emerge from Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham - as a duo, as solo artists, and as members of Fleetwood Mac - “Without You” is the song that most eloquently chronicles the clandestine, albeit tumultuous, musical partnership shared by Nicks and Buckingham.
The Buckingham Nicks album, released in 1973 and shortly thereafter dropped by Polydor Records, produced a goldmine of intricate guitar work, lush harmonies and well-crafted lyrics. “Without You” was not included on this album but was born of the same creative period, existing only as a stripped-down demo and cherished by fan collectors of Stevie/FM rarities. As we have come to learn over the decades of storytelling, both through song and interview, Stevie and Lindsey share a chemistry that is equal parts dynamic and combative, sweet and bitter.
Before the fame and fortune of Fleetwood Mac’s success were added to the duo’s cauldron, the Buckingham Nicks album exposed the slow simmer of a love that was passionate, possessive, and competitive. With repeating themes of passing time, keeping up, and falling behind, the album reveals a partnership based on awe and mutual respect, however tinged with insecurity and the feeling that contented love was just beyond grasp. Had it been included in on the Buckingham Nicks album, “Without You” would have softened the harder edges of Stevie and Lindsey’s collaboration, but as it turns out, the song was waiting for time itself to smooth those edges before making its debut. The resulting product, taken with 40 years of hindsight, is infinitely more profound.
Come to me now and I’ll never know another/You are a song for me, a melody, ingrained in my soul
At the time “Without You” was written, the struggling artists had only one another in creative partnership. They wrote and rehearsed songs after hours at the coffee plant where Lindsey’s father worked. Coming from the same hometown, their world was still small when they moved to LA; in just a few short years to follow they would have opportunities to partner their choice of famous musicians and elite producers.
The line “come to me now and I’ll never know another,” perhaps written in naiveté, resonates truthfully all these years later, particularly as it relates to Stevie’s songs. Stevie success outside of Fleetwood Mac is undeniable, but her songs have never quite “been known” by another producer or collaborator in the same way they are understood by Lindsey. Through several solo albums, some successful and others less so, her collaborators approached her material formulaically, often giving into fads and trends that would eclipse the simplistic beauty of her poetry. Lindsey’s innate instinct for crafting her songs produced her most timeless and enduring material.
Lindsey’s songs are also stronger with Stevie, either as his muse, his vocal harmonizer, or as stage performer to his more indulgent guitar solos. Stevie brought less to the table as a musician but provided a mythology and charisma that not only fueled Lindsey’s songwriting but also drew more attention to him than he would otherwise have known. Without one another, where would they be? When it comes to Stevie and Lindsey, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Sing, sing your song for my ears they only hear you/ If I never knew the likes of you where would I be... without you?
In releasing “Without You” now, in 2013, the Buckingham Nicks partnership has come full circle. It is acknowledgement that the purest love song they ever wrote together, long before fame and success bred years of resentment and separation, rings truer today than it did all those decades ago. It is not a traditional love song, for romantic love has long faded, but it tells the tale of a much rarer variety of soul mates, immortalized in song.
Now, if only we could get a re-issue of that Buckingham Nicks album...