Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Countdown" by Lindsey Buckingham

Let me start this entry by saying that Lindsey Buckingham is my musical idol. He is an amazing guitarist and singer, and he is a genius when it comes to songwriting, arranging, producing, and recording. He is most famous as the frontman of Fleetwood Mac, but he's also had an illustrious solo career. Several years ago, "Countdown" was the song that introduced me to this solo career.
Buckingham is often compared to to his idol, Brian Wilson. And when you hear the dense intricacy of layered melodies, countermelodies, and rhythms in every one of his songs, you can see why. "Countdown" is very straight-ahead and much simpler than the majority of Buckingham's songs. However, one thing that separates it from other Buckingham tunes is that it was the first single he released after he left Fleetwood Mac, (Buckingham would later reunite with Fleetwood Mac in 1997. He is still with the band today.) Obviously, the choice of Buckingham's post-Mac first single would be a hard one. Especially since Buckingham lead Fleetwood Mac to be the best selling band of all time. Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 30 million copies with their Rumours album alone. I believe the reason he chose "Countdown" was because of it's repetitive catchiness and optimistic attitude.
There are several things that separate Buckingham from other mere rock musicians. One of which is his guitar playing. He has developed a very unique style of finger-picking which gives him the power of 3 guitarists. With his thumb he plays a bass line. With his first two fingers he plays a mid line. With his bottom two fingers he plays a treble line. As a songwriter, he has written more hits than most bands can accomplish in their entire career. These include songs such as "The Chain," "Go Your Own Way," "Big Love," "Holiday Road," "Peacekeeper," "Tusk," "Go Insane," "Trouble," "I'm So Afraid," "Never Going Back Again," "Second Hand News," "Family Man," "World Turning," and "Soul Drifter" just to name a few. As a producer, he is responsible for the sound that gave Fleetwood Mac their most successful albums of their career such as, Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Tusk, Mirage, Tango In The Night, The Dance, and Say You Will.
However, I think the aspect that displays his talent the most is that on all 3 of his solo albums he performs all of the musical elements. He plays every instrument. He sings every vocal. Of course, he has a guest artist here or there, playing one line, or singing one element, but the majority of his songs are entirely performed by himself. "Countdown" is one of these songs. What is even more impressive about this is from a recording standpoint. Buckingham is such an amazing recording engineer that he mixes the sounds together in a way that you can't realize he is the only performer. This is even the case from a vocal standpoint. He is so good at speeding tracks up or slowing them down and recording on top of them that he can change the timbre of sounds without losing the sense of pitch and harmony. This is the method he uses for getting backing vocals that sound like different people, both male and female sounding. This is also how he gets his extremely high guitar solo on "Countdown" to sound so unique without giving you a headache.
Buckingham is also a pro when it comes to mixing in subtle and repetitive lines into his songs that the standard listener would not notice unless they purposely listen for it. In "Countdown," there are tons of intricate, melodic backing guitar lines that are smoothly layered into the mesh. There are also repetitive percussion rhythms on shakers, cowbell, tambourine, and congas that subtlely go unnoticed. This "Wall of Sound" subconsciously adds to the extreme catchiness, which is already made by the chord progression, lyrics, lead guitar lines, drum pattern, and vocal lines. The "Wall of Sound" technique was created by hit producer Phil Spector. This was passed on to Brian Wilson. Buckingham morphed it into a style that is totally his own, and that has appealed to huge, mass audiences around the world, selling more copies of single albums than his own idols, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. "Countdown" is a great symbol to his success and groundbreaking innovation.

Countdown
Written by Lindsey Buckingham

I'm waiting on the countdown
Sitting in the shade
Things about to turn around
How the madness fades

Oh, I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

Right through your fingers
Time slips away
Oh, this feeling lingers
Right here I'm going to stay

I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

So I'm sitting in the shade
Under the dreaming tree
Now the madness fades
Right here I' going to be

Oh, I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

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