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How We Met; Mick Fleetwood And Lindsey Buckingham

Guitarist and songwriter Lindsey Buckingham (far right), 50, made his first album in 1973 with his lover, the vocalist Stevie Nicks. In 1975 the duo joined Fleetwood Mac, and helped transform the band from one rooted in raw British blues to the biggest-selling mainstream rock act of the late Seventies. In 1987 he went solo, and has a new album out later this year. He now lives in Los Angeles. Fellow LA resident and drummer Mick Fleetwood, 51, founded Fleetwood Mac in 1967 with Peter Green. After Green quit in 1970, the band went through several, famously stormy incarnations, before breaking up in 1995. The five members of the Seventies line-up were reunited for 1997's 'The Dance' album and tour

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM: I met Mick right before New Year's Eve in 1974. Stevie and I were living in LA. We'd done an album on Polydor as a duo, which had come out without making much of a splash, and we were trying to figure out what the hell to do next. Anyway, we were doing demos of new tunes one day at Sound City studio in the San Fernando Valley. At one point I walked towards the control room. I heard a song of ours, "Frozen Love", being played very loudly and I saw this giant of a man standing up, grooving to a guitar solo of mine. I thought, "What is goin' on?", and left them to it. That man was Mick.

When he heard my guitar something obviously clicked in his mind, because after their guitarist Bob Welch left, I got a call from Mick asking if I wanted to join Fleetwood Mac. Originally they weren't looking for a duo, but I said Stevie and I were a package deal.

We all met at a house Mick was renting in Laurel Canyon. My first impression was that he was tall. Very English. Very thin. He liked the image of the English country gentlemen, with his watch fobs, tailored pants and beautiful shoes. He was quite an imposing presence, a bit demonic (he's mellowed with age).

We all got along great from the start. As soon as we started rehearsing there was a certain effortlessness, even though Christine (McVie, the keyboardist), for instance, is from a classical background and I'm totally untrained. In the early days I'd think John's playing was too busy, there was too much going on. Now I realise that everyone's playing was almost too busy: we were each expressing ourselves as much as we could without impinging on anyone else. The tension you get from that is what made it so good. I didn't understand that for years.

I had mixed feelings during the first album. There were things important to me I'd given up for the sake of playing team ball, a period of dues- paying because we were a fivesome who didn't have a body of work. When we got to Rumours, though, I was interested in doing more. The previous album had a significant level of success, and the stakes suddenly were very high. From the early sessions, there was a buzz.

I don't know why the hell we went up to Sausalito to record Rumours. Sausalito was a very strange place back in 1976. It was just across the bay from San Francisco and there were a lot of crazy people there. It was tough keeping them out of the studio. That put a surreal spin on some of the early tracks. It was a tough time because that's right when Stevie and I were breaking up, and Christine and John McVie had split up.

I didn't feel betrayed by Mick when he later had an affair with Stevie. Quite honestly I'd have been surprised if it hadn't happened. I remember he came over, sat me down and told me, and I went, "Oh, okay." Stevie and I had long since parted company and she'd had several boyfriends in between.

We fed on the trauma in terms of our writing, and in the studio there were all these raw nerves exposed. It was made more difficult by the late- Seventies subculture of drugs. The way people were conducting their lives it was difficult to get serious work done. That went on until I left the band in 1987, just after we'd finished recording Tango in the Night. Mick was pretty nuts back then. We all were. In terms of substance abuse, that was the worst it got.

After I left I didn't see much of Mick for about eight years. I felt I needed some distance, and so I let the emotional dust settle. We then met up again in 1995 to work on my solo album. It was great seeing him again. He wasn't doing drugs, he was in a totally different space. We had a lot to talk about and all the care and love that had always been there came to the surface. Then when Fleetwood Mac reunited last year it was a treat. We were all able to enjoy each other as people. I was able to look Stevie in the eye and acknowledge we were these two kids who came down from northern California and made something significant happen.

As for Mick, it was good to see him blossom and get into the feeling again. What we share as a musical sensibility is the most extreme element of rock'n'roll. We're out there eyeballing on stage and keeping it from being Abba. He's a stubborn guy, he likes to agendise behind the scenes - which is something that's always infuriated me, but then that's what got Fleetwood Mac together again for the tour. He's a courageous guy, and one of the most intuitive people I've ever met. I think our friendship can only get better and better.

MICK FLEETWOOD: I first met Lindsey when I was at Sound City, checking out the studio with a view to having Fleetwood Mac record there. The producer Keith Alson played me a demo he'd been working on, just to demonstrate the sound of the studio. It turned out to be "Frozen Love" by Stevie and Lindsey. At that point Lindsey put his head round the door and we nodded to each other.

I've always had a good ear for guitar players, so when Bob Welch left a few weeks later, I called Lindsey. I'd instantly liked his guitar playing - it was economic, melodic, with an astute sense of tone and a unique style. Even though we were looking for a guitar player at first, we found that Lindsey and Stevie came as a duo. Their loyalty to one another was apparent, they were very much a couple, and a powerful package.

We met them properly at my funny little rented house in Laurel Canyon. I remember Lindsey's gorgeous, curly hair. He was very handsome. I thought that was good - you don't want some ugly sod playing guitar! He was a very creative person, somewhat protective. And he had a dark thing about him, which I liked. Peter Green had that.

When we got to recording Rumours I put the band in a studio in Sausalito, because I thought it would be good to get out of LA and have everyone's total commitment. It went insane. All the relationships were starting to splinter. The girls were very close then, and the guys were crazy, living in a house up in the hills. It was like a bordello, basically, with blacked-out rooms, thick shag carpets and deprivation tanks. I'm afraid to say there was a very liberal sprinkling of assorted drugs. It was not easy. As well as Stevie and Lindsey, John was freaking out because he and Christine were breaking up. John would get a few drinks down him and moan, "She's just there, she's five feet away from me, she's singing songs about me." I'd be there to counsel even though my marriage was up the spout. We were all up the spout.

In the middle of it all, one day Lindsey said, "I don't know whether I can handle this." He was not a happy camper. He'd been used to leading things when he was just a duo with Stevie, and he was finding it hard. I gave him a pep talk, saying, "This whole thing is a compromise. That's what a band is about. But if it's an unhealthy one for you, then you don't have to be here." From then on he was really focused on making the record. It reminded me of the power Peter Green had musically, it was a pleasure to see.

There weren't tensions between us when I went out with Stevie, because it was at least two years after they had split up. I remember one strange night, though, when they had just joined the band, long before I had any relationship with Stevie. Lindsey and I were both stoned, and he turned to me saying, not in a dramatic way, "You love Stevie, don't you?" Through the mist I remember thinking, "That's a heavy thing to say." We'd all hardly been on the road.

Lindsey and Stevie are always gonna be an item of sorts, though, they have an unsquashable alliance whether they like it or not. What's nice is that during the last tour they were able to say, "You know what? We made it. In a calm, loving way." Because it got pretty bleak there for a while.

After Lindsey left the band I didn't see him for years. To be quite blunt, we grew apart. Then we both reached out to each other two years ago. I wrote to him around the time me and John broke the band up. I was very much at a loose end, when Lindsey asked me to play on his solo album. Initially I thought it would just be two weeks in the studio as two players, two guys. It turned out to be over a year.

That was the beginning of a whole new relationship for me and Lindsey. We'd go out and have meals and talk about things that'd worried him in the past. I love his ability to be terrifyingly truthful. It's a great attribute, but he needs to be careful with it. And his intensity makes me nervous. In the past I would get devastated by it. Meeting up again was good stuff, and it continues to be good stuff: I think he loves me, I feel he has respect for me, and in a friendly way he knows I'm a bit of an old rascal.

Will we be friends in 10 years time? Absolutely. One hundred per cent. If we never played another note together, the relationship would still be there.

! 'The Dance' (Warner) is out now.