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The B-Side of the Story: Exploring the Significance of Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs"

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Fleetwood Mac's performance of "Silver Springs" at the Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles is making its monthly appearance on my TikTok For You Page yet again, which gives me the perfect excuse to delve into the captivating history behind this amazing song. Between the harrowing love story that birthed this masterpiece, its emblematic space in Fleetwood Mac's history, and its powerful 1997 reunion rendition, this song takes the cake as a song with an impact and storyline that is far more than meets the eye.

 

If you are not well-versed in the extensive romantic lore of Fleetwood Mac, namely the relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, let me catch you up to speed. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham met in the early 60s through their rock band Fritz, finding common ground through their mutual interest in music. When the band broke up in 1971, Nicks and Buckingham realized they were more than just bandmates and started dating. Soon thereafter, the couple moved from Palo Alto to Los Angeles with the goal of continuing their musical and life journeys together.


Upon their arrival to Los Angeles in 1973, the duo teamed up under the name Buckingham Nicks and signed a record deal with Polydor Records, releasing a self-titled folk/rock album later that year. Unfortunately, after the album received limited commercial and critical success, their record label dropped them. In turn, the duo sought out other musical opportunities, abandoning Buckingham Nicks entirely. Despite the amount of celebrity that Nicks and Buckingham would go on to achieve, this intimate album has still yet to be digitally released or remastered and the likeliness of that reality diminishes with every passing day.



After the duo's unfortunate lack of success, Lindsey was approached in late 1974 by Mick Fleetwood and offered a spot in the rock group Fleetwood Mac, which was, at that point, comprised only of Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick himself. Despite the on-and-off nature of his relationship with Nicks, which was a staple aspect of their love affair, Buckingham insisted that he and Nicks were a package deal. And thus, the most iconic era of Fleetwood Mac began.


During the writing and recording process of their 1977 album Rumors, the entire band almost imploded entirely. Each band member was facing their own relationship turmoil: John and Christine McVie divorced, Mick found out that his wife was having an affair, and Lindsey and Stevie officially called it quits after nearly 5 tumultuous on-and-off years together. Dealing with their independent issues as well as inter-band-related conflict started to impact the group's ability to work together. Still, the band stuck together, and these raw emotions expressed through their music birthed a timeless Grammy Award-winning album full of incredible music that was truly written from the heart.


Enter "Silver Springs". Penned and vocally performed by Nicks herself, it is no secret that the song is definitively about her breakup with Buckingham. She dove deeper into the meaning behind the track in the Classic Albums documentary about Rumours : "I wrote 'Silver Springs' about Lindsey," Nicks confirmed. "We were in Maryland somewhere driving under a freeway sign that said Silver Spring, Maryland. And I loved the name. ...Silver Springs sounded like a pretty fabulous place to me. And 'you could be my silver springs...' that's just a whole symbolic thing of what you [Lindsey] could have been to me."


The song itself is absolutely mesmerizing. With beautiful instrumentals and reminiscent lyrics in the verses, Nicks paints a clear yet devastating picture of the idyllic life that could have been between the two. When the chorus arrives, the evocative emotional lyricism is truly compelling. Nicks opens the chorus by claiming that Lindsey will never forget her, stating "time casts its spell on you, that you won't forget me", before diving into the heart-wrenching lyrics of "I know I could have loved you but you would not let me", and concluding with "you'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you". The bluntness of the lyrics demonstrates the depth of their love and the undeniable fact that it will remain with both of them for the rest of their lives.

"You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you."

However, this song's road to release was not simple. Far from it, in fact, as it did not appear on the initial version of Rumours much to Nicks' dismay and protest. Despite the album including many other songs about the Buckingham/Nicks relationship from both points of view, the clear lack of inclusion of this vulnerable piece fueled the fire of rising tensions within the group and continued to be a sore spot for Nicks as time passed. The song was still released, relegated to the B-side of the hit single "Go Your Own Way" which ironically mirrored reality as "Go Your Own Way" and "Silver Springs" are two songs that explain the different sides of the love story between Buckingham and Nicks.


Jumping forward to 1990, with band tensions at an all-time high, Nicks approached Mick Fleetwood and asked his permission to release "Silver Springs" in her upcoming solo project Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks. Mick's refusal was the straw that broke the camel's back, and just like that Stevie Nicks left Fleetwood Mac. Following her departure, the band hired Bekka Bramlet in her place, while Nicks herself continued to release music as an independent artist.


After nearly seven years, the Rumours lineup reunited for a live performance album, The Dance, where the iconic performance of "Silver Springs" was born. Since its release as a B-side, "Silver Springs" eventually went on to be included in the Super Deluxe version of Rumours, which solidified its spot in the setlist for this live performance.

The performance of "Silver Springs" starts off as relatively standard, Nicks' live vocal skills characteristically ethereal, but occasional glances snuck between Nicks and Buckingham are undeniably intriguing. Once Lindsey jumps into the guitar solo, the energy shifts. With a commanding energy, Stevie moves her attention entirely to Lindsey, essentially singing the chorus at him, and their never-breaking eye contact makes the tension palpable. Nicks lays her heart out on the line with over 20 years of pent-up emotion; and with ad-libs of "was I just a fool?" and "give me just a chance", the performance's raw and powerful emotion will never fail to give me goosebumps no matter how many times I rewatch it.


Reflecting on the relationship between Nicks and Buckingham from the former's point of view, this track articulated Stevie's unfiltered emotions regarding the conclusion of her relationship. Diving into the extensive history they shared as co-musicians and lovers really helps me form a deeper appreciation for the true emotional declarations present in this song. Aside from the emotional contents of the song, "Silver Springs" itself also stands as a pivotal cornerstone in Fleetwood Mac's history. It was the catalyst for Stevie's exit from the group, is arguably the best song to have never made an initial album release across musical history, and its existence produced a spine-tingling performance that will remain in the hearts of many for years to come.


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