Lindsey Buckingham's career away from Fleetwood Mac began as something of an experimental lark before it finally turned into something more accessible on 1992's Out of the Cradle.
Arriving in the wake of his split with Mac following 1987's Tango in the Night, Out of the Cradle pointed to more consistent and commercial-minded work. Buckingham has continued to shape his creativity with focus and accessibility (usually playing every instrument himself) – something that couldn't be said of some of his earliest attempts to break free from the band that made him famous.
The songs on our list of the Top 10 Lindsey Buckingham Solo Songs aren't leftover Fleetwood Mac cuts. Instead, they're the best attempts of an always-searching artist to explore new corners in his rock 'n' roll playground.
"Don't Look Down"From: 'Out of the Cradle' (1992)
The opening of "Don't Look Down" provides a terrific early example of Buckingham's modern electro-acoustic style, which recalls classical nylon-string guitar. He then launches into a brilliantly layered pop confection that sounds very much like the music he made on what was then assumed to be his final Mac album, Tango in the Night.
"Go Insane"From: 'Go Insane' (1984)
At first, Buckingham used his solo projects to try out more free-form ideas (check out Go Insane's "D.W. Suite," an intriguing tribute to the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson). But when he put his mind to it, Buckingham could unleash a hit like "Go Insane." Later retooled as a slow-boiling solo number at Fleetwood Mac concerts, this tale of romantic entanglement went all the way to No. 23.
"Gift of Screws"From: 'Gift of Screws' (2008)
A classic Buckingham howler supposedly inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, "Gift of Screws" was originally recorded for Fleetwood Mac's 2003 album Say You Will, but it didn't show up until five years later on Buckingham's solo LP of the same name. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie provide a stomping cadence, but, in a thrilling moment, the song nearly comes unhinged during Buckingham's guitar solo.
"Holiday Road"From: 'National Lampoon's Vacation' (1983)
Hard to believe this seemingly ubiquitous, deliriously fun track made it to only No. 83. Credit the use of "Holiday Road" in the opening credits of National Lampoon's Vacation and in two of its three sequels – 1985's National Lampoon's European Vacation and 1997's Vegas Vacation. A complete hoot, right down to the barking dog during the fade.
"Countdown"From: 'Out of the Cradle' (1992)
The opening lick points to some kind of anthem, but then Buckingham headfakes into this gorgeously languid lament. That essential complexity – it always powered his best music, with and without Fleetwood Mac – is probably to blame for this track's failure to crack the Top 100.
"Seeds We Sow"From: 'Seeds We Sow' (2011)
Forget Buckingham's soapy relationship (musical and otherwise) with Stevie Nicks. This song, presented amid a torrent of solo guitar, is one of his rawest examinations of life's last act. Recorded at home, "Seeds We Sow" sounds like a secret shared with the listener and no one else.
"Someone's Gotta Change Your Mind" From: 'Under the Skin' (2006)
Buckingham's fabled attention to craft is shown in high relief on this towering song of sadness, a rare track on our list of the Top 10 Lindsey Buckingham Solo Songs to feature someone other than the artist himself. David Campbell's swirling orchestration gives "Someone's Gonna Change" a sense of panoramic emotion. And that's Mick Fleetwood sitting in on drums once again.
"Stars Are Crazy"From: 'Seeds We Sow' (2011)
The largely acoustic Seeds We Sow, Buckingham's first self-released album following a lengthy stint with Warner Bros. Records, is dominated by concurrent introspection, with "Stars Are Crazy" a highlight. When Buckingham launches into the darkly emotional chorus ("Sometimes we analyze, almost apologize ... wondering if the stars are crazy"), he perfectly captures the spiraling emptiness of a lost love.
"Soul Drifter"From: 'Out of the Cradle' (1992)
A pretty little pop pastry on the surface, this wanderer's tale is every bit as revelatory as any of Lindsey Buckingham's more recent and far more denuded solo efforts. It's no surprise that Buckingham is such a restless artist. But he's never expressed those gypsy desires so eloquently, and certainly never in such an infectious setting.
"Trouble"From: 'Law and Order' (1981)
The endlessly fascinating "Trouble" (a Top 10 hit) sets an introspective template for Buckingham's entire solo career – even as it hurtles along on one of his most unforgettable hooks. At times, it's like he's in on the joke, an eternal optimist who can easily get past whatever that trouble was. Other times (in particular when it's more fully explored in concert), the space between that cocksure young man and graying middle-age uncertainty becomes a chasm.