Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Ten Artists Suffering The Lindsey Buckingham Paradox

Fifteen minutes ago, I was explaining the Lindsey Buckingham Paradox to Malav.

Malav, like most people, furrowed his brow and asked what, exactly, this paradox might be.

The Lindsey Buckingham Paradox is what happens when otherwise brilliant musicians decide they're better than their bandmates (creative differences, natch), strike out on their own with solo "careers", and somewhat curiously never again manage to grasp his or her own genius in the way we all know is possible.

Lindsey is a goddamned genius. He strives for constant musical evolution, always pushing the creative envelope, and is unto himself an origination point on the great conceptual flowchart of musical evolution in the last 40 years. But, solo? Mania. I mean, oh dear god, concept albums. He's a one-man Plastic Ono Band, all by himself.

It is when Lindsey Buckingham's lunatic genius is tempered by Stevie Nicks (and even Christine McVie) that the magic happens, because the whole of Fleetwood Mac is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Once this is explained, people grok the Paradox immediately and offer up their own suggestions for musicians who suffer from the same.

After numerous discussions with numerous people over the years, I thought to start making lists of artists with a terminal case of the LBP. Lindsey, of course, goes without mentioning, as he is the namesake. There are many many more, these are just today's starting point.

Today's Top Ten Artists Suffering The Lindsey Buckingham Paradox:

#10 Steve Perry (Journey)
Oh Sherry notwithstanding, just... what? Diva, untamed.

#9 Glenn Frey (The Eagles)
Where, oh where, has our Desperado gone?

#8 Tim Finn (Crowded House, or even Split Enz)
Crowded House undoubtedly achieved its great(er) success after Tim left the band, and while they were never the same, Tim... didn't. And wasn't. While Tim's brother Neil is a creative genius in his own right, somewhere in the collaboration? That's where the miracles live.

#7 Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel)
The haunting magic that Art brought to Paul Simon's artful mastery was like the unexplained awesometasticness that bursts out of, say, dipping french fries in chocolate milkshakes. There's no reason that these two things should be any good together, but they ARE. Unlike this example, however, both of those ingredients are better on their own. Not so with Mr. Garfunkel.

#6 Peter Cetera (Chicago)
Sorry, Matt. I know you're going to drive to South Carolina expressly to poke me with a very sharp stick over this one, but, man. I know even you will agree with me when I say: If You Leave Me Now? The apex. There was nowhere Cetera could go but down, down, Karate Kid down.

#5 Dennis DeYoung (Styx)
Remember when Styx was groundbreaking? Then remember how Dennis DeYoung put on the +20 Perm of Suck and went all concept album on our collective asses? Yeah. Me too.

#4 Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
Say you want a revolution? Well, you know.

#3 Jon Anderson (Yes)
The mere existence of that Jon Anderson lyrics generator is enough said.

#2 Sting (The Police)
Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers brought their own special flavors to the Police party, and without them, Sting is just a big bowl of goddamned puffy cheetos. Like Bono, maybe, without the passion or, you know, cred.

#1 Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins)
"My band is a bunch of mean-spirited drug addicts! H8erade! Solo Career! Wait, oh noes, where'd my career GO? Come back! I'll stop being an insufferable diva with a superiority complex, oh my god, I swear, just take me baaaaaack (wah)".

There are many (many) more, of course. Who do you think suffers from the Lindsey Buckingham Paradox? Let me know in the comments.


  1. From the tangential comments department:

    Split Enz rockz.

  2. • George Michael - (Wake me up please.)
    • John Davis (Superdrag even though I like his solo aint no Superdrag)
    • Thom Yorke
    • James Iha
    • Jebb Graff - (Never should have left The Bad Hair Day.)


  3. #1 and #2 are dead on. I think you are being too hard on McCartney who actually succeeded - but it depends on if you measure that success relative to their band involvement success.

    I'd replace Garfunkle with David Lee Roth, probably.

  4. Andy Patridge (of XTC). The genius of the band, yes, but the ego needs to be tempered by cohorts Moulding and Gregory.

    XTC, we miss you.

    And of even lesser fame, Shane McGowan and the Pogues. Although it can be argued that McGowan was not a huge creative force, his efforts with the Popes was far weaker than what the Pogues did without him.

  5. Richard Ashcroft,
    Mick Jagger,
    Chris Cornell

  6. I'd argue that you're right on with Sir Paul. He was only truly good on his own when he had Linda to buoy him with Wings.

    Chris Cornell (of Soundgarten & Audioslave) is another member of this paradox. Awesome voice, but for the most part, he's gotta have a collaborative band behind it to produce songs that are worth anything.

    Phil Collins is marginal...

  7. I'd replace McCartney with Lennon. The Wings had some decent stuff (definitely not Beatles level, though).

    Also, I'm not sure if it counts when Axl Rose kind of did it backwards, driving Slash and everybody else out of Guns 'n' Roses.

  8. Dave Gahan. What a piece of crap those 4/4 solo singles are.

  9. John Fogerty/CCR is the best example I can come up with. Did we really need "Eye of the Zombie"?

  10. What's the OPPOSITE of the Lindsay B Paradox? Great artistic success after going out on your own...

    I can't think of a good example, but there must be one or two.

  11. Bob Mould. Always better in a band.

  12. I'd have to disagree with McCartney. The other thing worth pointing out is that several of the bands you mentioned sucked ass to begin with. Styx? Journey? The Eagles?

    There, I said it.

  13. The opposite of the Lindsey Paradox?

    Does Dave Grohl count? After all, the first Foo Fighters album was as close to being a solo project as you can get without calling it ... well ... "Dave Grohl."

  14. Opposites? Maybe Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. Not saying they're good...just successful.

  15. I can't belive you didn't list Black Francis, oh wait sorry, Frank Black.

    He is nothing with out Deal, Lovering and Santiago. Of course the same can be said about all the band members after The Pixies broke up.

    (Lovering became a weird Magician for Christ's sake)

  16. JC Chasez. Admit it. NSYNC was WAY better than that clown. I would also include any member of the Backstreet Boys. Timberlake was the only one that managed to make the transition.

  17. Indeed, Timberlake is a good example of the reverse paradox. He has gone on to have great success as a solo artist. He probably hasn't yet matched the volume of sales that his group had, but he has managed to gain serious credibility as an artist.

  18. Uh- Shouldn't this be called a "syndrome"? A paradox is a statement. A syndrome is an affliction. The Lindsey Buckingham Syndrome. Lindsey may FACE a paradox - in that he's a total control freak - and that the best recordings are almost always a group effort - which necessitates yielding control. Lindsey faces a paradox. But when you spread it like a viurs - to other musicians. It's a syndrome. I rest my case.

  19. Trey Anastasio.

    Beyonce is the opposite of this, if you consider Destiny's Child a band. Oooh, Fergie, too.

    This post reads like I have the worst taste in music ever.

  20. i thought cause i was hungover this stuff sounded bad, but now im thinking its just bad.

  21. Every individual member of Pink Floyd (esp. Roger Waters and Dave Gilmore), They all went on to make relatively decent music, all of which paled in comparison to what they did as a band.

  22. trey anastasio
    david lee roth
    john cale
    peter gabriel
    dave mustain

    first five that came to mind

  23. Peter Gabriel has had far greater success (commercially, at least) as a solo artist than he did (or likely ever would've) as a member of Genesis.

    David Lee Roth and Slammin' Sammy are both good examples of the Buckingham Syndrome. They both had a couple of hits since leaving Van Halen, but nothing like the success they had with the band.

  24. I think mynxzilla is really talking about solo career artistic failure, without measuring commercial success either way. I mean, Sting and Paul McCartney sold a lot of solo records, right? And there are tons of successful bands whose members have just faded away afterwards.

    A couple of other suggestions in that vein, then: Jimmy Page (post Led Zeppelin) and Ozzy Osbourne (post Black Sabbath). And maybe Benny and Bjorn from Abba.

    I'd say Peter Gabriel is perhaps the best *counter-example*: he gained more critical, commercial, and many would say artistic success, and has been more influential, after Genesis than he ever did before.

  25. I don't think Ozzy belongs on the list. He had a good bit of success in the 80's, even if his new stuff is guano.

  26. I have to really disagree with Sting. I like Sting's solo work more than his work with The Police. "Russians," "Fragile," "Fortress" are three of my all-time favorite songs.

    I also personally love almost everything McCartney did after the Beatles, particularly the stuff with "Wings."

    And to the person who mentioned George Michael...uh, no. He'd be a good example of the opposite affect. His solo work is much better than anything Wham! ever did.

    I offer up Freddie Mercury. Queen was brilliant. Freddie's solo stuff was just "meh."

  27. Blah blah blah on which band/artist, etc.

    But congrats on getting the Kottke mention! And your idea is very creative.


  28. Oof. Tough call on Tim Finn. A lot of people I know consider his work a lot more genuine than Neil's regardless of whether he get's the commercial appeal or not.

    Also Sting's Soul Cages was an amazing album, and while his other solo albums were patchy there's still moments of genius there. Of late though a lot of his work has been decidedly throw away.

  29. [... stumbled up this concept on the blog Not Too Crazy, and think that the concept is a very sound one, even if I can't agree with every example offered up ...]

  30. While I don't share the same taste in music I thought this was an interesting post.

    Beth Gibbons-Portishead
    Method Man- Wu-Tang Clan (several other members did/do have great solo careers but not him)
    Brian Wilson -Beach Boys

    I imagine the opposites have many examples that are just too obvious to see initially.

    Morissey- The Smiths
    Michael Jackson- Jackson 5 (does this even count?)
    Neko Case- The New Pornographers
    Lauryn Hill- The Fugees
    Gwen Stefani-No Doubt (?, I don't listen to either)

  31. I wouldn't put Sting in this category as I think he needs his own. I think "The Sting Syndrome" should be: Solo artists who are so unbelievably awful that they make you question the quality of their previous group's effort." So far Sting's the only one I can think of but hey, I've done my part.

    And... like diana, I was going to suggest Neko Case. Her solo work is great. New Pornographers are a bore. Same goes for Jenny Lewis and Riko Kiley. (Though I don't know why diana's listing Blondie as a member of Heart... That's news to me.)

  32. I love your concept of TLBP, but I am going to challenge half of your entire list:

    • Paul McCartney: When you are one of the Beatles, there is no where to go but down. Oh, and it was John who wanted to leave -- how did his solo career compare to the Fab Four? TLBP!

    • Art Garfunkel leaving Simon & Garfunkel wasn't a case of The Lindsey Buckingham paradox, it merely was proof that Paul Simon was the musical genius -- Garfunkel was the one with the beautiful voice. Bad career move on Art's part -- not TLBP.

    • Glenn Frey -- close call on this one -- the Eagles were more than Glenn Frey's backup band -- what made them so compelling was the mass of talent there: In addition to Frey, there was Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner.

    • Peter Cetera? He was far from being the key musical influence, or genius -- that was Terry Kath, who died accidentally. Lots of talent here, Cetera was one of many who contributed to the band.

    • Journey was much more interesting before Steve Perry joined them -- its not like he was the genius behind the music -- and their most intriguing album, Infinity, was written before he joined the band (he sang most of the tracks as a hired gun).

    • Jon Anderson of Yes: Another deep deep bench of superstars. Yes did not really find success until Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe joined Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, and Chris Squire. Did anybody thing Anderson was the genius in this band? (No).

    • Sting didn't so much as leave the band as he left Rock and roll for something jazzier. And it turned out that he was wildly successful doing so. Not exactly an example of TLBP . .

    • Styx: Really, who gives a rats ass?

    Thanks, this was a fun list!

  33. Counter example or not? :Brian Eno after leaving Roxy Music.

  34. The converse of the Lindsay Buckingham syndrome would be a case where every member of a good, but not great band became phenomenal solo artists after the break-up. Anyone know of an example of this?

  35. re: vs.

    Incredible brain fart. I didn't even mean to put her in that category.
    I meant to put her solo career as worse than her Blondie career. As for Heart..can't explain but maybe I was in an 80's mindmelt.

  36. Paul Weller - The Style Council and his solo work pales next to the genius of The Jam.

    Pete Townshend - A handful of good solo songs, but with his mates, he changed rock'n'roll forever.

    Roger Waters - Suddenly, without Pink Floyd working with him, it became apparent he was a pompous jackass.

    Opposites - Busta Rhymes... Leaders Of the New School was decent, but he's at another level on his own.
    Tupac - He was in the Digital Underground, who had a couple decent tunes, but did not change the culture of hip-hop like he did.
    Neil Young... His solo work soars above CSN&Y and Buffalo Springfield.

  37. When Zach Morris left Zach Attack he pretty much turned out to be a male Madonna so the story goes...

  38. Hey's Kari from @! This entry is wonder it has gotten attention! Love it!

  39. Good list! I totally agree with Steve RE: Bob Mould and Raymond RE: Paul Weller.

    And I'm gonna catch hell for adding this guy to the list, but...John Lennon. I'm a huge Beatles fan but his solo stuff just doesn't compare.

    And Fergie and JC Chasez? Geniuses? I don't think so...

  40. Fantastic Topic. I don't disagree with most - but Roger Waters' Amused to Death is probably the all time greatest recordings around -really. It is just unbelievable in every sense of the word - An absolute work of art!

    Others I would maybe mention. Alison Moyet (Yazoo), Brad Delp (Boston), Bruce Dickinson (with respect) - there are loads

    Of opposites - Gary Moore (Thin Lizzy), Jeff Beck (Yardbirds), Steve Vai (Frank Zappa), Robbie Williams, Peter Frampton

  41. Haha! Great post xD. To the commenter above, I'd say that George Michael would qualify as someone who was MORE successful as a solo artist :).

  42. Michael that guy sucks. I looked it up but his former band Black Jack couldn't possibly be worse than his solo career!

  43. Have you seen Linday Buckingham perform lately? He's a force of nature. His band puts out such a "wall of sound", Phil Specter would be jealous. Great musicians shouldn't be rated by their commercial success. Lindsay B. is no slouch!

  44. calloused fingers:

    Actually, I completely agree. Note that I think LB is a GENIYOOOUS. Nothin' but love for the man.

  45. this might not be well recieved but: Springsteen.

    without the E Street Band, all his solo work was utterly sub par. Better Days was great, but nothing compared to anything he ever released with the E Street Band.

    and i have to say, because im partial as hell, that buckingham was great as a solo artist, though i do agree the Mac is greater than the sum of its parts.

  46. Interesting post, I was looking for data about Buckingham and I found this. There seems to be very few artists who transcend their original bands, unless the band was little more than juvenilia. My vote would be for Bryan Ferry over Roxy Music. It could be just a generational thing but I love his solo work but found most of Roxy Music, except for the last few albums, awful. By reputation, I could say that Basia's solo career transcended Matt Bianco, but I haven't heard enough of her work to really judge for sure. I think Bjork kept the Sugarcubes as a back up band, it was just a rebranding, not unlike Danny Elfman's solo album(s?) were backed by Oingo Boingo. I love Robbie Robertsons eponymous album, but really haven't listened to much of his other solo work. Peter Murphy has had a very strong career after Bauhaus, but I haven't listened to enough of either to really judge comparatively though Love and Rockets were quite good.

  47. Axel Rose - Guns and Roses...remember that douche bag? He's banned from St.Louis but not a big loss since he declared himself the greatest creative artist since Beethoven.

  48. sting was is and will always be... earhappinessmakingforme.

    sir paul sucked then, sucked with wings, and totally sucks NOW. really. jeez. but, he does win an award for teh ABSOLUTE WORST james bond song EVER. seriously. EVER.

    split enz rocks
    sigh XTC love them

  49. In some ways, Stevie Nicks is a sort of opposite of the LB syndrome. Pluck her from Fleetwood Mac, have her front her own band, and her artistic and commercial success was and is still huge. She's not as big as Fleetewood Mac, especially in some international markets, but she continues to be creative and her voice and writing are sometimes astonishing, with or without Fleetwood Mac. I agree, though, that Fleetwood Mac is a unique combination of musicians that form a greater whole than their individual talents and proclivities allow them.

    Tom Petty does well on his own, yet is most famously known with the Heartbreakers.

  50. I also disagree about McCartney.

    Robert Plant originally struck out on his own because Led Zeppelin disbanded, but he pretty much sucked as a solo artist, and the stuff with Allison Krause doesn't lead me to think otherwise. Pretty meh stuff. Pete Townshend and Keith Richards might be right about Led Zeppelin ...


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