Here’s the way love goes, according to Lindsey Buckingham: a little forgiveness, a little neurosis, and a whole lot of acceptance. Sounds about right.
In the chorus of “That’s the Way Love Goes,” a schizophrenic track off his 2011 album Seeds We Sow, Buckingham goes to some dark places. He tells of discovering his lover’s secrets, which go unnamed here, because they can stand in for anyone’s secrets, really. And besides, what they are isn’t as important as what they represent, those bits of our past we try so desperately to lock away, even from those closest to us: “In the dungeon couldn’t believe it no / Took a look and then saw your secret.”* Whether the discovery was intentional or accidental, the journey took him and his partner to their most hidden corners.
Contrasted with the music box style of the verses (more on those in a minute), the raucus, jumpy chorus almost sounds angry – until you get to its last line, where you realize it’s quite the opposite: “Oh, that’s the way that love goes.”
What a beautiful statement. It’s a shrug of pure unconditional love, a reminder that signing on for a relationship means taking the worst in stride. Buckingham turns that notion into a celebration; the upbeat rhythm pushes the emphasis away from the pain and onto the love. There’s a joy here that’s flat out exploding.
Which is why the song starts not with the chorus but with the verse. Set against gentle guitar pluckings, Buckingham softly sings, “I’d like to take your pain away / away away away / I’d like to take your shame away / away away away.” This is love at its tenderest, a desire not only to accept but to heal. The song also ends with this verse, bookending the chaotic truth with the softness of the heart.
Later in the song, Buckingham acknowledges such acceptance, while natural, is not easy: “The diamond falls, the hand is dealt / Upon the shrine where we once knelt / Oh how I wish this veil could melt / away away away.” But that’s the beauty of it, as all that hard work and emotional weight is not enough to destroy the connection. Love wins out.
This would be enough, but Buckingham allows some of his own fears to sneak into the proceedings: “I lie alone and watch you sleep / I’d reach for you, but I might weep / If you should tell me I must keep / Away, away, away.” The trade-off for a solid relationship, as Buckingham sees it, is the understanding of (and admission to) the complications. In this case, the baggage includes a sense of neediness, a reminder that after chalking up everything else, being without the one you love is the only unfathomable option.
Dysfunctional? Absolutely. But that’s the way love goes.
*The lyrics as printed in the album’s liner notes omit a few syllabic placeholders; as sung, it’s more along the lines of “In the dungeon, well / Couldn’t believe it, no / I took a look and then / I saw your secret.” I prefer this unofficial, more rhythmically (and grammatically) pleasing take on the lyrics but included the original above for formality’s sake.
Also: The best thing about Lindsey Buckingham? His encyclopedic knowledge of presidential trivia.