Contributors to this interpretation included: Lauren Leichter, Silver Springs, Ann S., Erik, Maria, Justine and Carlene.
There is a thin line between love and hate, between creativity and commercialism, between sanity and insanity. And so begins the journey into one of the most intriguing songs on the Fleetwood Mac album, Tusk, an album that was and is, considered by many, to be the actual first solo masterpiece of Lindsey Buckingham. There is a sense in the mood of Tusk that Lindsey was in one place while the other members of Fleetwood Mac were in another. Tusk was not an easy album to make. Amidst the heartache of the aftermath of breaking up relations with Stevie Nicks, combined with the pressure of stardom and producing another successful Rumours album, Lindsey probably felt very alone - both emotionally and creatively, leaving him with feelings of uncertainty surrounding his strong desire to move beyond the successful pop-influenced "Rumours-formula" for the next Fleetwood Mac album. Tusk was the result of these feelings and "Walk a Thin Line" is a very clear example of how such unsteadiness affects our state of mind through the choices we make.
The music and lyrics to this song are very halting and dry. If you listen to the music, it's very simple, the pairing of a soft love ballad combined with quirky folk music. The background "humming/chanting" throughout the song has a constant nagging feeling, emphasizing the possible frustration and isolation Lindsey felt when he composed the song.
"I said take your time, but no one was listening." Lindsey and his relationship with both Stevie Nicks (romantically and non romantically), as well as his relationship with the other members of Fleetwood Mac, may have often made him feel alone. Imagine how lonely one becomes when their voices are not heard. Here it is possible he is talking about Stevie, telling her to take her time about her feelings for him, he would be there for her. When the relationship with them ended, he felt alone, cheated, possibly even abandoned. He waited for her and was patient, but she was not there when he needed her. He may have felt he had to sacrifice his love for Stevie and the creativity within himself in favor of the band's need, and he may not have felt at peace with these sacrifices.
"I walk a thin line." Lindsey repeats this line throughout the song. A thin line between his love for Stevie and his hate for her abandoning him? Between his sanity and insanity? Between the commercial pressures and obligations of being a musician and the artistic demands he places upon himself? Whatever thin line he is referring to, it is evident he does not feel at peace with himself and is emotionally fragile.
"They told me that I never would recover, still some say they knew me well, I said 'stay by my side' but no said nothing." Again, Lindsey may be talking about the recovery of his relationship with Stevie as well as the perils of sudden fame and how this affects his relationships with his bandmates. I believe it is a combination of the two. He calls for help, asking many to stay by his side, including Stevie. He feels no one is being loyal to him or really listening to what he is saying. Perhaps many of them can't relate to the musical visions he wanted to explore with Tusk. Stevie has tried to see his "crystal visions", as she mentioned in the song "Dreams". Seeing into Lindsey's visions is not easy and his frustration of not being heard and understood must have made him feel crazy at times. His pleas are once again ignored leaving him with his own battle, and he walks the thin line again.
"I said, 'please toe the line' but no one was listening." He is asking for his ideas to be heard. For his voice to be understood. Once again, he is rejected.
"I said 'fate takes time', but no one was listening." Lindsey knows everything will work out eventually, from his relationship with Stevie (be it together or just friends) to his wanting to take Fleetwood Mac's music to a higher, more complex level. However, the lack of acceptance from those involved continues to leave him walking a thin line, and fate, although not imminent, will determine the outcome. Until then, his feelings of unsteadiness will continue and he walks a thin line.
(The interpretations to these lyrics were compiled through discussions on the message boards of the Penguin, The Ledge. It is entirely possible that the artists had something completely different in mind.)