August 19, 2016

OK class, welcome to another edition of Musicology 101, where we pick a tune that few others would even think of caring about and dissect it to the nth degree so you get a greater appreciation of both the music and the musicians involved.

I’m a big Lindsay Buckingham fan – he’s one of my all-time favorite guitarists and artists who has made his mark as one of the trio of creative muses that comprised the most popular and successful line-up Fleetwood Mac ever had. Judging from some of the interviews and videos I’ve seen, as a person he strikes me as incredibly dominating, conceited, a wicked drama queen, and someone positively full of himself. But when you’re as talented as he is, and someone who have lived at the upper echelon of the rock music industry as he has, with gazillions of records sold under your belt, well, I’m gonna give dude a pass. I think he’d be fascinating to share a beer or a glass of Pinot Grigio with.

What makes Buckingham so good, and one of my rock heroes, is that he’s never been afraid to push the envelope. After the band sold millions upon millions of records with Rumours, it was Buckingham who resisted the corporate pressure to not mess with the formula and deliver another album of a similar type, instead pushing the band to release the wildly eclectic and innovative Tusk – ranked #4 on my list of all-time greatest albums.

More than anything else, I respect Buckingham for the way he’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, never afraid to share the depths of his inner self in his music, especially when it comes to his oft-times conflicted relationship with one-time love and fellow band-mate Stevie Nicks. When Buckingham is writing about love and its trials and tribulations you can sense there’s always something about Stevie lying somewhere beneath the surface. And why wouldn’t it? You’re talking about Stevie Nicks after all, right? Not just your average girl down the street.

Which brings us to our song for today, one of the best songs Buckingham (at least in my view) has ever written for Fleetwood Mac, “Bleed To Love Her”. Originally conceived as a new offering for the Mac’s 1997 “The Dance” reunion concert and album, it wasn’t formally released as a studio version until their 2003 release Say You Will.

Before we get into the various arrangements of the song, let’s look at the lyrics first. I love how simple and brutally honest they are, illustrating the underlying frustration and longing towards the object of his affection. She’s there, both physically and (perhaps) emotionally, but then she’s not; the love and the passion are there, but it’s illusive – so much so that in his very being he’s left wondering if she feels the same: is she just a tease and he a fool. And perhaps she feels the same way, yet not ready to totally commit her heart and her soul as he is:

Once again she steals away
Then she reaches out to kiss me
And how she takes my breath away
Pretending that she won’t miss me

Oh I would bleed to love her
Bleed to love her
Oh I would bleed to love her

And once again she calls to me
Then she vanishes in thin air
And how she takes my breath away
Pretending that she’s not there

Oh I would bleed to love her
Bleed to love her
Oh I would bleed to love her

Somebody’s got to see this through
All the world is laughing at you
Somebody’s got to sacrifice
If this whole thing’s going to turn out right

Oh I would bleed to love her
Bleed to love her
Oh I would bleed to love her

The song is about wanting what you may not be ever able to experience (or experience again?), and what the price might be. It’s raw and brutal in its honesty, the kind of lyric that you’d love to share with someone you hold deep in your heart and spirit, but, like the best rock and roll lyrics, the kind of thing that would sound positively idiotic if you were to actually speak the actual words to someone. Simply put, these are words spoken from the heart: what being truly in love (and perhaps in lust?), is like.

There are three versions I’d like to share, each of them unique in their own way. But before I go further I’m begging you to turn up the volume. That way – at least in the first two versions – you can truly appreciate the musicianship and the attention to detail being presented. And before I turn this sucker loose, pay close attention to Buckingham’s plucked intro: not only is it intricate and beautiful in a heartfelt way, its repeated downward-progression riff sets the mood for the entire song; in rock and roll the sure sign of a sad song coming your way.

First up, the earliest version, from The Dance. I’ve always found that first impressions matter most when it comes to what makes a particular song popular, and “Bleed To Love Her” grabs you right from the start: the guitar intro, and the way Mick Fleetwood’s drums usher in a solid, heavy feel. Because there’s a video associated with this version, it’s hard to separate the aural from the visual, but two points: 1) Steve Nicks is actually pretty tiny – look at the heels she has to wear to even come close to Buckingham’s height!, and 2) look at the eye connection between Buckingham, Nicks, and keyboardist Christine McVie throughout. Nothing romantic (I don’t think) just a sense of the pure joy that comes with a band playing together and knowing they’re absolutely locked in. Pretty cool. It’s a passionate, heartfelt song delivered simply and honestly. I loved it from the first time I heard it.

The second version is the studio version from Say You Will, and here we’re talking an entirely different breed of cat. First of all, the rather simple, stripped down performance from The Dance (obviously the result of it being performed live) is replaced by all the bells and whistles one might expect from a studio version. Rather than Buckingham’s guitar backed solely by what sounds like a second strummed guitar in The Dance, here you have layers upon layers of guitar work that weave in and out of the recording. Mick Fleetwood’s drums (at least to this ear) arrive in a jarring, awkward way, and it takes a couple of listens to get accustomed to them. They definitely sound augmented in some electronic fashion, not necessarily to the son’s detriment, just different. And John McVie’s bass sounds like it has just a hint of distortion to it – something I find quite appealing. It’s a busier arrangement than The Dance‘s version, for sure – almost too busy, to the point where the song’s heartfelt sentiments come dangerously close to being lost in the wash of sound. Whether it does or not I’ll leave to the listener to decide.

When I first heard this version I actually hated it, but by the third time around I loved it for just how different it was from the live version. Besides the additional percussion I hear multiple guitars and even the ringing tone of a dulcimer (a la one of their early hits, “Over My Head”). Also notice that, unlike the tight three-part harmony of Buckingham, Nicks, and McVie on the first version, there’s only Lindsay and Stevie here (McVie wasn’t a part of Say You Will), and even at that Nicks’s harmony seems buried in the mix. Again, not better, not worse, just different. What makes this version so cool is the multi-layered guitar work that takes the song through to its extended finish: I find it totally mesmerizing right to the fade.

The final version is from a live performance in Brisbane, Australia last year. While the song itself isn’t – at least to these ears – presented in the best possible light: it’s played too slow, somewhat dispassionate, and notable in the fact that Nicks doesn’t seem interested in participating in the harmonies (interesting!), it’s notable in the lengthy introduction by Buckingham – providing, perhaps, an all-to-honest portrayal of the song’s inspiration. It’s fascinating to me, and just shows you how Buckingham isn’t afraid to share what’s in his heart to thousands of fans.

In the end, I think of “Bleed To Love Her” as the emotional counterpoint to Stevie Nicks’s classic “Silver Springs”. In both cases, you have an artist unafraid to “go there” – something that, at its core has always been what has made the music of this particular iteration of Fleetwood Mac so unique and so enduring.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 14:02 | Comments (4)
  1. The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are my two top favorite groups…Beach Boys are my no. 1. Fleetwood Mac was one of the best concerts I ever went to…the Buckingham/Nicks love soap opera just added the perfect tension in their duos. Hell, they all slept with each other at one time or another…the ties that bind? Anyway, thanks for posting this..going on a road trip this weekend and FM will be the music.

    Comment by Jana — August 20, 2016 @ 5:35 am

  2. So Tusk is #4? What are the others? You can’t leave us hanging. 🙂

    Comment by Jim P. — August 20, 2016 @ 11:04 pm

  3. To Jana – thanks for the kind words. Where was your road trip?

    To Jim P. I know that was a teaser. I gotta plan a few posts on that. Thanks for your comment and stay tuned!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 21, 2016 @ 9:57 pm

  4. Just a short run up past Indy for a Sweat Lodge with my “adopted” family and friends.

    Comment by Jana — August 22, 2016 @ 4:40 am

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