‘Silver Springs’: The song that made Stevie Nicks quit Fleetwood Mac

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Even the crew of the legendary Mary Celeste would consider their own cursed state of affairs to be quite peaceful given how turbulent life is in Fleetwood Mac. Their dysfunctionality reached such an extreme peak that the drama in the new TV show Daisy Jones & The Six, which is partially based on their protracted, frenetic era, had to be toned down for reasons of realism. For admirers, this adds a punch of intensity and emotion to their work, while for cynics it reduces them to little more than a musical soap opera. ‘Silver Springs’ is the best song to represent that, hands down.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” is a classic breakup ballad that was written after the breakup of lead vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Nicks originally planned for the song, which he penned for the album Rumours, to appear on the B side of the single, “Go Your Own Way.”

The fading band had in mind Lindsey Buckingham in 1974 when they were looking for a guitarist and a comeback. He passed the audition, but soon a deadlock developed when he told the band that he exclusively came as a pair with Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac first hesitated—for just five seconds—before deciding that they were okay with not hiring a singer.

After the triumph, there was a lengthy period of time on the road, and this tension led to the development of cracks. In addition to Buckingham and Nicks, whose breakup had earlier appeared like it would split an atom, John and Christine McVie also started divorce procedures, and Mick Fleetwood was also divorcing Jenny. They were all simultaneously becoming dependent on cocaine, booze, or both.

To express the wonderful life she may have had with Buckingham if not for the hardships of the route, Nicks began composing “Silver Springs” about an idyllic-sounding town they went through on the journey. This song, one of Nicks’ lesser-known laments about Buckingham, is a heartfelt lament for a dying dream. Songs about love and hatred saw such a purple patch during the Rumours era that several tunes had to be removed from the album for practical reasons.

A typical album had a time restriction of about 45 minutes of audio. That was all that could fit on a regular 12-inch piece of vinyl, so unless the record company was prepared to cover the substantial cost of a double-LP, certain songs would not have been included. Tragically, “Silver Springs” was left on the cutting room floor. Richard Dashut, the co-producer of the record, once said, “[It’s] the best song that never made it to a recorded album.”

The song itself is yet another bright spot in the tragic Nick and Buckingham split. Nicks said to Rolling Stone in 2009, “It was me realising that Lindsey was going to haunt me for the rest of my life, and he has.”

It particularly hurt Stevie Nicks that Mick Fleetwood had told her that they couldn’t fit her effort on the record because Rumours were rife with songs that Buckingham had written about her. Sadly, she agreed—until, a few twisting years later, things became much worse.

Nicks reconnected with Fleetwood in 1990 and asked him whether she could use the song on her upcoming solo album. He declined. And with that, she abruptly left the band, leading her friend Christine McVie to follow suit. But as we now know, the Rumours lineup came back together in 1997 and has been enjoying the bumpy ride of the troubled band ever since.

Nicks said, “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 could have been to me.”

This heartbreaking reminder of what might have been is still a thing of beauty. It is a beauty that has both marred the band and served as a symbol of their defiance; it is simply one more blemish in the band’s otherwise flawless history.

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