For guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, his solo career was marked with success. His debut album, Law and Order, produced a Top 10 hit entitled “Trouble”. His second album, Go Insane, garnered moderate success, especially with the title track single. And that is the song that I picked to be featured in today’s blog post.
Behind the Lyrics
When interviewed in 1984, Buckingham explained about the meaning behind lyrics:
“Insanity can be said to be very relative to the context you find yourself in. An example might be very acceptable and typical behavior for a group of people in a little rock and roll microcosm might be grounds for someone being committed if they worked in a bank…
…Looking at it that way we all tend to go insane a little bit, I think that’s ok. I think that’s one of the things the album is saying – it is ok to go insane, it can be quite cathartic actually, to watch yourself go out to the edge and sort of reel yourself back in – now hopefully you do reel yourself back in.”
He would later explain that the lyrics were also a metaphor for his feelings from a post-break-up with Stevie Nicks. He was quoted on a radio interview:
“We were disintegrating as couples, by that, we were suffering as people. So to get work done, I had to go through this elaborate exercise in denial – leaving whole areas of baggage on the other side of the room, compartmentalize feelings… no time to get closure, to work things out… working in a very highly charged and ambivalent environment. So the go insane thing- would just be whenever I let my guard down and got back to all the things I hadn’t dealt with, it was almost like going insane- like I always do. Took a long, long time, working in an artificial environment on a personal level. So many things not worked through for a long, long time.”
The Musicality of “Go Insane”
The song is written in a minor key, presumably F minor or C minor based on the chord structure I found a guitar tabs site. The minor key fits perfectly with this song. It helps to bring out the various emotions that Buckingham felt when he was writing it: sadness, anger, bitterness, the pain, the angst, confusion, and insanity. Likewise, the instrumentation reflects the mood as well. The bass, a deep and dark instrument, features a prominent melody during the verses. While the guitar has a nifty yet simple chord progression throughout the song. There is a lot of naturally and unnaturally synthesized sounds throughout the song. You can hear the strange ones during the bridge. Likewise, the song fits into the genre of new wave well as it is mixed with electronic pop and guitar rock.
I have read online from different critics that Buckingham’s vocals are overproduced in this piece. However, I don’t think that is the case. I like the special effects embedded in the vocals, they kind have a type of coolness. Yes, Buckingham is a talented singer (see below with his acoustic versions of the song), and these special effects could be seen as a hinder to his talent. But, I find the effects add something unique to the song.
It’s Ok to Be A Little Bit Insane
“Go Insane” highlights a lot of a lot of emotion that Buckingham experienced while writing this song. But, it also makes use relate to our own feelings. We had moments in our lives that we went over-board or we went insane. I had many during my life; some were brought by bouts of depression, some were brought on by broken relationships, and some were brought on by certain events.
I like this quote from Buckingham: “It is ok to go insane, it can be quite cathartic actually, to watch yourself go out to the edge and sort of reel yourself back in”. Insanity, as long as it healthy, can be relieving if we find the right outlets for our emotions. I can attest this as I had experienced this last year when I was bullied by a college student because I wasn’t a native speaker of Japanese (and I am a lot older than him). Instead of beating up the kid, I used that anger to go insane: studying Japanese for many hours (sometimes 12 hours a day) so I could perfect my pronunciation and learn more. I also embraced insanity through music with dance, singing, writing, or listening for long periods of time.
Have you experienced insanity before? If so, how did you let that go? What are some good outlets to help relieve insanity or strong emotions?
While typing out your answer, listen to “Go Insane” and tell me what you think in the comment section!
(Doesn’t this music video remind you of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”? I thought so too when I watched it!)
Here is a clip from the 80s’ TV show Miami Vice that features “Go Insane”:
About the Artist
Lindsey Buckingham is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and producer from Palo Alto, California. He is known as one of the lead vocalist and lead guitarist for the band Fleetwood Mac from 1975–1987 and 1997–2018. When he was little, Buckingham began playing to his brother’s 45 records with a Mickey Mouse guitar. His parents then discover his talent and bought his very first guitar for $35. An interesting fact is that Buckingham doesn’t read music.
The guitarist joined the band The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band from 1966-71 with his then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks. The pair departed from the group and then released the album Buckingham Nicks in 1973 under the label Polydor Records. But, due to the album’s poor sales, the duo was dropped from the label. However, their bad luck made a turn for the good when Mick Fleetwood offered the pair a spot in Fleetwood Mac after Fleetwood listening to their album. The rest is history.
Buckingham started his solo career in 1981 by releasing Law and Order. He has released several albums over the years. He has also been featured on various records and projects, like USA for Africa. His recent project was the album Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie in 2017 with former bandmate Christine McVie.