Another entry in our series on musicians who just couldn’t get the fair shake they deserved.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, guitarist/singer/and songwriter Walter Egan was part of the “California sound,” the burgeoning country-rock hybrid that would make superstars out of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. Egan got a record deal with his band Sageworth and Drum, but it fell apart in 1971, before the band made an album.
However, in 1972 country rock icons Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris opted to record “Hearts of Fire,” a song Egan wrote, for Parsons’ Grievous Angel. Scheduled for release in 1973, Angel was delayed when Parsons died of a drug overdose. The album would ultimately be regarded as one of the finest ever made, but it sold poorly and it lead to only a handful of session work gigs for Egan.
Four long years alter, Egan landed a contract with United Artists and he asked some of the biggest producers in the industry to help him make an album including Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, and John Fogerty. All turned him down. A friend suggested he ask guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to produce, who had just joined Fleetwood Mac with his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks. Buckingham agreed to produce the record, but things get awkward when after Buckingham and Nicks broke up, Egan and Nicks briefly dated
Fundamental Roll was released to little notice. Frustrated more by getting dumped by Nicks, Egan wrote a song called “Magnet and Steel.” The song appeared on his next album, Not Shy, in 1978, and it went to #8 on the pop chart. It was Egan’s first hit…biggest hit…and only hit.
In the early 1980s, Egan was invited to join Fleetwood Mac. However, no one from Fleetwood Mac has ever confirmed that the invite took place. After a string of low-selling albums, Egan recorded an album in 1983 called Walternative featuring guest shots from Jackson Browne and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Instead, Warner Bros. shelved it and doesn’t release it…until 1999.
What did Egan do in the mean time? Mostly session work. But in 1986, he appeared on the TV game show Scrabble and said his occupation was “famous musician. Host Chuck Woolery asked if the audience would know any of songs, so he sang the chorus of “Magnet and Steel.” The audience clapped politely; Egan does not win the game.
Back to 1999, the same year Egan’s Walternative was finally released, alternative rocker Matthew Sweet recorded a cover of “Magnet and Steel” for the Sabrina the Teenage Witch soundtrack album. What California rock musician with ties to Fleetwood Mac did Sweet enlist to play guitar and sing backup? Lindsey Buckingham.