Still, Buckingham’s solo work demonstrates that great songwriting and artistry can stand apart from the synergy of a great band. In six studio albums since 1981, along with a few songs on various movie soundtracks, Lindsey Buckingham’s songs range from bursts of pop brilliance to odd, synth-heavy experimentation. Influences from the usual suspects, like the the Beatles and the Beach Boys, can be heard, and there are echoes of Kingston Trio folk melodies and Spanish-influenced guitars. It’s a mixed bag, to be sure, but when Buckingham is at his best, you’d be hard pressed to find a more expertly crafted three minutes.
It’s never easy choosing the best from a deep and diverse catalog, but we tried. Here are our picks for the ten best Lindsey Buckingham solo tunes.
# 10 – Bwana
The very first cut off Buckingham’s very first solo effort (1981’s Law and Order), Bwana is a driving 4/4 with a killer hook and fun ra-ta-ta-ta background vocals that sticks in your head. It also features one of the most memorable lines in Buckingham’s entire catalog: “We all have our demons, and sometimes they escape.” Ain’t that the truth.
# 9 – It Was You
You don’t have to know a lot about Lindsey Buckingham as a person to know that the man has suffered a lot of heartache; his years with Fleetwood Mac, all the way up until he walked away in 1987, are a display of him fighting the entire spectrum of feelings over the demise of his relationship with fellow bandmate Stevie Nicks. So a song like “It Was You,” a lovely and layered tribute to his family off 2006’s Under the Skin, is refreshing for longtime fans to hear. He even works the names of his children into the lyrics, which is a bit awkward for fans to sing along with, but it fits.
# 8 – Countdown
The first single off his post-Mac 1992 album Out of the Cradle, “Countdown” is pure 1990s pop. The intro guitar draws you in, and the song unfolds as Buckingham sings about the past slipping away and the future opening up over a D-A-E progression. It’s an uplifting anthem for those of us who are hoping for better days ahead.
# 7 – Love Runs Deeper
A killer track from 2008’s Gift of Screws, “Love Runs Deeper” offers pop sensibilities, lots of texture, and a singalong chorus that is reminiscent of a few tracks on Rumours. The guitars are strummed more than they are picked, the vocals are thick, and the drums crash loudly over it all. For many listeners, what “Love Runs Deeper” proves is that despite Buckingham’s penchant for experimentation and noodling, he’s truly at his best when he’s building pop songs.
# 6 – Did You Miss Me
A longtime favorite of devoted fans, “Did You Miss Me,” also from 2008’s Gift of Screws offers up a mix of insecurity and snark, all wrapped up in a rhythmic chord progression that sounds remarkably like the Coldplay hit “When I Ruled the World” from the same year. Buckingham’s trademark layered vocals and and guitars are present throughout, and the track simmers along for almost four minutes before soloing out.
# 5 – Holiday Road
Even if you’re not a Lindsey Buckingham fan, you probably know this song — it’s in all of the Vacation movies! The catchy guitar hook and soaring “oooooooooh” vocals are hard to resist, so it’s pretty amazing that “Holiday Road” hit just No. 82 on the Billboard Hot 100. It may have to do with the strange dystopian office video made to accompany the song; in the video-dominant 1980’s, soundtrack singles often benefited from lighthearted videos peppered with clips from their films. Still a great track to listen to. Fun fact: there’s a barking dog solo on the outro.
# 4 – Don’t Look Down
It’s hard to find a bad track on 1992’s Out of the Cradle, and “Don’t Look Down” starts the album off right. A frenetic guitar intro opens up into a multi-guitar-and-vocals burner that’s punctuated with Buckingham’s yelling the song’s title as the chorus. The first listen is strange, the second makes more sense, and by the third, you’re trying to sing along with five voices at once. It’s a true studio accomplishment, though live versions with a full band come off equally successfully.
# 3 – Go Insane
In 1984, new wave synth pop was all the rage, music videos were crammed with weird CGI effects, and Lindsey Buckingham released “Go Insane.” It was a respectable pop hit, climbing to number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, despite the fact that its accompanying video featured Buckingham and his Eraserhead haircut displaying some questionable acting chops. All these years later, it’s still a glorious specimen of Buckingham’s attempting to experiment with his pop sound.
# 2 – Trouble
From the cocaine-fueled countdown to the ahhhs of the fade out, Buckingham’s first bona-fide solo hit is an early ‘80s soft pop gem. On the surface, it seems simple, but a few listens reveal its brilliance; lush guitar work, layered falsettos, and lyrics that are more relatable than you might think. It hit number 9 on Billboard in 1982, making it Buckingham’s biggest solo hit to date.
# 1 – Soul Drifter
If David Bowie is the Starman and Billy Joel is the Piano Man, then Lindsey Buckingham is the Soul Drifter. This song finds its way to the top of our list because of its candid lyrics, infectious melody, and lush guitars, but also because it’s quietly autobiographical. If “Go Your Own Way” was a reflection of Buckingham’s 1970s emotional mindscape, then “Soul Drifter” offers his post-Fleetwood Mac persona. He’s never happy in one place, and he won’t stay for long, but he’ll lift others up before he moves on.