TANGO IN THE NIGHT – Fleetwood Mac – Warner Brothers – 1987
The year is 1986. Fleetwood Mac had not released a new album in four years. And, with the radio favoring younger and more heavily pop hits like “How Will I Know” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” they were considered middle-aged and washed up, like most of their late-60s and ‘70s breezy, FM rock peers, barely a blip on anyone’s radar.
The band members themselves were fractured. Stevie Nicks checked into rehab to deal with a cocaine addiction that, over the course of the past decade, had created a hole in her nose — by the end of the year, she would be in the early stages of a long addiction to Klonopin, the drug meant to keep her off the coke. Drummer Mick Fleetwood, who had declared bankruptcy two years earlier, was in the midst of an outrageously expensive cocaine addiction, while bassist John McVie was drinking heavily, and keyboardist Christine McVie was celebrating her new marriage. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was holed up in his home studio, obsessively at work on his next solo album.
The end result would not be Buckingham’s third solo album, but Fleetwood Mac’s fourteenth. A shimmering, painstakingly crafted labor of love produced by Buckingham over the course of 18 months, 1987’s Tango in the Night would become a sort of sister album to the impossible-to-top Rumours: a monolithic story of a band in the throes of self-destruction. Only this time, they weren’t all stubbornly persevering together; they were being held together, puppeted, even, by Buckingham as he coaxed an album from a band that, mostly, just wasn’t there. It would be the last studio album the iconic quintet ever recorded together.
In this episode, we discuss the qualities each distinct songwriter brings to the collective group, how Buckingham’s experimental production style helped make Tango so reflective of its time, and why we will never tire of this crazy family and all of their drama.
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Episode notes and postscript corrections
- In case you didn’t have enough family drama this holiday, here’s an episode about your favorite lives-for-the-drama rock and roll band!
- We don’t have 300 hours for our podcast, and the history of Fleetwood Mac, with all its various lineup changes and love affairs and stuff, is so long and complicated that it might take that long to explain. If you want to learn more history, there’s a really cool website called Google dot com.
- Obviously, we recommend you revisit our very first episode on Buckingham Nicks, the album Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham made two years prior to joining Fleetwood Mac. It would be quite useful for your understanding of this album.
- Speaking of Tusk, here’s the very earliest version of ‘77 Music Club, the first and only episode of “Drunk Album Reviews.” You can probably guess why we didn’t continue it.
- Lindsey Buckingham is a crazy mad scientist studio rat who loves to play with his toys and control almost everything about the production of anything he touches. See our further reading links below for more.
- Here’s some more information about Fairlight machines (more formally known as Fairlight CMIs), if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Discuss: Do the “oohs” and “aahs” that are really Lindsey pretending to be Lindsey and Stevie convince you that it is Lindsey and Stevie, or do you think it just sounds like Lindsey with a weirdly tuned voice?
- Okay, honestly, you HAVE to watch this video of “Big Love” done acoustically. Warning: Your head might actually explode.
- Still thinking “How the actual eff does one man do all that?” Watch this short interview where he explains his playing style and does “Big Love” ever so slightly slower so you can really see what’s happening.
- Sorry not sorry, but we’ve gotta say it. This album is some of Stevie Nicks’s absolute worst when it comes to both singing and songwriting. We love her, but we do have to be honest and objective here.
- “Everywhere” is an undeniable bop that will play about nine out of the ten times you are ever in a CVS anywhere. This is a fact.
- Check out our master playlist on Spotify to hear examples of how “Everywhere” really does harken back to Fleetwood Mac’s early blues-rock days, if you think about it.
- Go ahead and file “Little Lies” under “Songs You Always Hear In Drug Stores,” too.
- Okay, hear Carrie out. “Family Man” is Lindsey Buckingham trying so hard to be Talking Heads.
- Funky bass-driven melody? Check. Danceable drum beat? Check. Basic lyrics about the mundanity of everyday life? Check. I mean, come on.
- Granted, Lindsey is influenced by a multitude of sources (see: the Spanish-style guitar solos sprinkled throughout, the Beach Boys-esque harmonies), but his affinity for punk and new wave, and for boundary-pushing, has never been a secret.
- This excerpt from a 1980 Rolling Stone cover story on Fleetwood Mac — in which Lindsey talks about his love of Fear of Music and John McVie is shocked to hear that there’s a married couple in Talking Heads — will never not be funny.
- And here’s a 1987 review of Tango in Spin where the critic compares it to Talking Heads ‘77. So.
- Agree? Disagree? Drop us a line. We love to nerd out about this stuff with others.
- Stevie Nicks self-references and recycles lines in multiple songs all the time and we have SO. MANY. QUESTIONS, but it seems like there are so few answers. So, if you wanna get all English class analytical with us about it, you know where to find us.
- Since 1987, Fleetwood Mac has produced only one new album of original material (2004’s Say You Will) and one four-track EP (2013’s Extended Play). Though Lindsey and Christine released an album as a duo this spring (it’s good, we recommend it), and the band continues to tour, it seems highly unlikely that we will ever see a final album from Fleetwood Mac, and we think, truthfully, that that is quite sad and disappointing.
Lindsey Buckingham — Guitars, keyboards, Fairlight CMI, lap harp, percussion and drum programming, vocals
Christine McVie — Keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
Mick Fleetwood — Drums, percussion
John McVie — Bass guitar
Stevie Nicks — Vocals
Favorite track(s): “Big Love” (Carly) | “Everywhere” and “Family Man” (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): “When I See You Again (Carly) | “When I See You Again” (Carrie)
Destiny Rules (truly the best Fleetwood Mac doc out there) | 2004
“Big Love” (acoustic, The Dance) | 1997
“Everywhere” (acoustic, The Dance) | 1997
“Seven Wonders” music video | 1987
Tango in the Night full concert | 1987
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks Tango interview | 1987
The real story behind Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night (interview with co-producer Richard Dashut and engineer Greg Droman) | Salon (April 2017)
Tango in the Night re-release review | Pitchfork (March 2017) (ed note: this is one of Carrie’s favorite pieces ever written for Pitchfork and/or on Fleetwood Mac, so it comes highly recommended.)
Stevie Nicks: Recording Tango in my ex-boyfriend’s bedroom was ‘extremely strange’ | Miami Herald (March 2017)
Fleetwood Mac: ‘Everybody was pretty weirded out’ (scroll midway to get to Tango stuff) | Uncut (January 2013)
Lindsey Buckingham Leaves Fleetwood Mac | Rolling Stone (September 1987)
Tango in the Night review | Rolling Stone (May 1987)
Lindsey Buckingham, Lonely Guy | Rolling Stone (October 1984)