Fleetwood Mac, Rock ‘N Roll History, and Financial Independence

I’ve spent a lot of time recently studying the history and crazy dynamics behind the members of the rock group Fleetwood Mac—a 1970s supergroup that released the album “Rumours” in 1977, which is the sixth-best selling album of all time, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, The Eagles’ Greatest Hits album, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever. And in terms of “certified” sales, it is fifth all-time, behind: Thriller, the Eagles’ Greatest Hits, Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard, and Shania Twain’s Come on Over.

I know you probably don’t read my site for my musings on 1970s and 1980s rock, but I want to share with you one story that shows how financial independence is really about autonomy, and how autonomy is partially about freeing yourself from the coercive influence of others, which is really the most important form of power that you can achieve in this life if you prioritize your own self-determination.

In particular, I want to talk about the “behind-the-scenes” story that led to the song “Go Your Own Way” being included on the eleven-track album. As you may know, “Go Your Own Way” reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 100 in 1977/1978, becoming the band’s top song from the album and appearing on many lists of “Greatest Rock Songs of All-Time” to this day. Heck, the song still gets regular airplay on many classic rock stations nationwide.

But here’s the interesting part—the song, written by Lindsey Buckingham, was intensely personal about his failing relationship with fellow lead vocalist Stevie Nicks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBYcbJBtjgE

In particular, Stevie Nicks wanted the song off the album because of the second verse that wrote about her:

“Tell me why / Everything turned around

Packing up/ Shacking up’s all you wanna do

If I could / Baby, I’d give you my world

Open up / Everything’s waiting for you”

Stevie Nicks had a big problem being on stage hearing the line packing up / shacking up’s all you wanna do. From her perspective, she was livid that she had to be on stage every night singing a song that accuses her of sleeping around and being an unscrupulous lover. She claimed that Lindsey would bring a string of different lovers backstage after every show, with the implicit intent to make her jealous. She claimed that she only hooked up with one man during the immediate aftermath of her breakup with Lindsey, and she found it especially galling that she had to be up there on stage going along with a song that attacks her character while she found the lyrics to be a more appropriate description of Lindsey’s behavior at the time.

But if you are anything like me and have a curiosity about the nerd side of rock ‘n roll, you might be asking yourself the question: How the heck did the song Go Your Own Way make it onto the Rumours album if Stevie Nicks—arguably the most influential member of the group along with Lindsey and Mick Fleetwood—hated the song and fought to keep it off the album?

The answer: the power disparity that results when one person in a relationship has financial independence and the other does not.

When Stevie and Lindsey would get in fights during the creation of the Rumours album, Mick Fleetwood would usually act as the referee between the two of them. But the fight about including Go Your Own Way on the album proved particularly fierce—Lindsey said it was the second-best song he had ever written (behind Frozen Love) and he would quit the band if the song didn’t go on the album. Stevie argued that she wasn’t going to sing a song accusing her of having lax sexual morals in front of thousands of people each night, and she threatened to quit the band if it did get included on the album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rjh9vEdgxc

But here is the thing: Lindsey came from a wealthy background, he made a lot of money from the album Fleetwood Mac that came out two years earlier, and he never spent his money on anything. That’s a hell of a good combination for financial independence.

In Stevie’s case, she did not come from a wealthy background, and she was not nearly as well off as she should have been because she spent a lot of money on coke and pot (she was naïve about pricing, and got taken advantage of by many dealers while on tour). In other words, her threat to quit was an empty one—she did not have the funds to live the lifestyle that had become habitual, and therefore Mick sided with Lindsey and included the song on the album).

If, in 1977, Stevie had been well-off and Lindsey had been flat-out broke, we probably never would have heard the song Go Your Own Way.  Your ability to get what you want (when you’re in a bargaining position with someone else) is always controlled by the autonomy you bring to the bargaining table, and the possession of financial independence is the greatest source of financial independence there is. If you have $100,000 rolling into your bank account each year from US bond interest, Coca-Cola dividends, Oil & Gas MLP distributions, and rental income, it becomes damn difficult for others to tell you what to do. Preparation is the key to everything—if you prepare for financial independence, you’re laying the groundwork to avoid being overruled and forced into uncomfortable situations because you need the money or because other people know you need the money.