The Meaning Behind “Big Love” by Fleetwood Mac, a Song Left Behind by Lindsey Buckingham on His Way Out of the Band

When folks heard “Big Love” by Fleetwood Mac in 1987, they likely assumed that it was business as usual for the mega-successful band. Little did most know that the author and singer of the song, Lindsey Buckingham, had one foot out the door on his way to briefly leaving the Mac.

Videos by American Songwriter

What is the song about? How did it emerge from a Buckingham solo project? And why would it be a long time before Buckingham could finally play it on stage with Fleetwood Mac? Let’s go back to the ’80s and find all about this “Big Love.”

A Twisted “Tango”

Five years passed between Fleetwood Mac albums in the ’80s. Mirage arrived in 1982, and its follow-up Tango in the Night came in 1987. During the interim, Stevie Nicks’ solo career took off into the stratosphere, and Christine McVie enjoyed a Top-10 single (“Got a Hold on Me”). Buckingham’s solo album Go Insane in 1984 was a bit more on the experimental side, but it seemed like a good jumping-off point for a bigger splash on his own.

And that’s what the original intention was, as Buckingham started preparing songs for this next release. Plans changed, however, when Christine McVie enlisted Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood on a one-off song for a movie in 1985 that rekindled their desire to play together again. At that point, they asked Buckingham if he’d be interested in coming back into the fold for another band record.

Buckingham already had material that was pretty much in the can for his solo record. But he felt like Fleetwood Mac’s story couldn’t end with the star-crossed Mirage album (even though it was a big hit). Hence, he decided to return, and the band settled into making what would become Tango in the Night.

Big Hits and Big Drama

Tango in the Night delivered four Top-20 hits, with “Big Love” paving the way as the lead single and reaching No. 5 on the charts. Although John and Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood are credited on the song, the Mac version is largely Buckingham’s original solo demo with a few touch-ups. Stevie Nicks only sang on the remix version; those high-pitched vocals you hear grunting throughout the song are actually Buckingham with his voice altered by Vari-Speed effects.

That Nicks didn’t appear is telling, as she was absent for much of the making of Tango in the Night as she tended to the demands of her solo career. Considering that Buckingham had shelved his solo plans for the Fleetwood Mac album, this created even more tension between the already-fractious exes.

Unfortunately, those tensions came to a boil at a group meeting meant to discuss the tour for the album. Buckingham told the group he was leaving, which led to an ugly dustup between Nicks and him. When Buckingham did return to the band in 1997, he finally had the chance to perform “Big Love” under the Fleetwood Mac banner, which he did in a thrilling acoustic guitar showcase.

What is the Meaning Behind “Big Love”?

The lyrics to “Big Love” are minimal, but they say a great deal, especially when combined with the brooding music and intensity of Buckingham’s performance. The song seems to take place at an intersection where lust and love get a bit confused. The narrator promises fidelity and domesticity in the first verse: Oh, I’ll build you a kingdom / In that house on the hill.

By the second verse, the use of the past tense is a bit concerning, as it suggests problems have arisen between the two: You said that you love me / And that you always will. It’s only in the bridge that we find out that this guy is suffering without her: I wake up alone with it all / I wake up but only to fall.

In this context, we have to assume that his Looking out for love / Big, big love is an ongoing quest still unfulfilled. It’s a bravura effort from Lindsey Buckingham, one that likely would have been that big solo smash for him. That it ended up a Fleetwood Mac song only added to the never-ending drama surrounding that wonderful band.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Kelly Clarkson

Watch Kelly Clarkson Deliver the Sad Truth With Rocking Cover of Metallica