‘You could be my Silver Springs’

Victoria O’Brien
The Desert Island Dispatches

Let’s start at the beginning.
When I was little, my mom kept a radio in the kitchen. From there, I remember two things: if we were home, it was on, and it was always around. We kept about a dozen or so CDs and cassette tapes on hand, swapping them out as tastes or moods changed, but there were a few that always stayed in the pile. One was Shania’s “The Woman In Me,” but we’ll talk more about that later. The other was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.”
There’s something alchemical about music and maybe no better band (and no greater frontwoman) than Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks to talk about when you talk about this peculiar magic: that you can hear a song or an album your whole life without really listening to it, but when you finally do — when you walk into the kitchen one stormy night because you’re a kid at home alone and want to hear voices that aren’t yours in the old, dark house — everything falls into place and everything changes.
“Rumours” is an album conceived and written in chaos. To get there, we begin in 1974, when Fleetwood Mac offered guitarist Lindsey Buckingham a job. Buckingham agreed, but with one condition: his girlfriend came, too. Somewhat reluctantly, the band agreed, which is how both Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were brought into the fold, recording the eponymous 1975 record that shot the group to superstardom. But with any success comes problems: the band members saw their personal lives collapse. Christine McVie divorced John due to his alcoholism; Mick Fleetwood left his wife; Buckingham and Nicks split after years of struggle, and Nicks took up with Fleetwood. I can’t possibly explain how dramatic the recording of their follow-up was, so let’s zero in on one song, a song that haunted the band for years, which producer Ken Callait described as “the best song to never make a recorded album.”
‘Silver Springs’ is a blistering six-minute torch song penned by Nicks about her doomed love affair with Buckingham. An idyllically named town in Maryland serves as the metaphor for what might have been while the bridge delivers a searing rebuke and promise: You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.
Nicks awarded the entirety of its publishing royalties to her mother, Barbara, believing its sales would be enough to thank her for years of support, but it was not to be: Fleetwood nixed it from the final tracklist, citing its length (the band agreed to give each other equal playing time on their records). Fleetwood suggested the cheerier ‘I Don’t Want to Know’ as consolation, but Nicks was furious. Eventually, she allowed it to be issued as a b-side to Buckingham’s acerbic lead single, ‘Go Your Own Way.’ It sold poorly and, after a handful of performances, was largely forgotten.
Roughly 15 years later, following the band’s dissolution, reunion, and a world tour done without Buckingham, Nicks approached Fleetwood’s team about ‘Silver Springs’ again. She wanted it for a planned greatest hits collection, arguing the song belonged to her mother. Fleetwood disagreed, preferring to keep it for a forthcoming boxed set. Nicks then issued an ultimatum: return the master tape or “I am no longer a member of Fleetwood Mac.” Fleetwood held firm, ‘Silver Springs’ went on “The Chain,” and Nicks walked away from the band for a second time.
Several years passed before Nicks met with Buckingham to record a duet for a film soundtrack. They then went about reuniting the band for a live album, 1997’s “The Dance,” which wasn’t conceived as a greatest hits show, but one that would allow audiences to hear (and see) some of their deeper cuts and rarities performed.
On the set list? ‘Silver Springs.’ Nicks and Buckingham played a fiery rendition of the song, which I encourage you to look up and see for yourself because that’s precisely when the magic happened and a song — one that is perhaps the very beating heart of “Rumours” — was finally heard.
My love for music began with my mother, so it only feels fair to begin this column by talking about this particular album and this particular song, because they belonged to her before they ever belonged to me. And knowing, buried at the center of “Rumours” and all of its lore, is the story of another mother and daughter leaves me with another funny feeling: that it’s all so strangely meant to be. This is the band whose music has carried me, seen me at my highest highs and in my deepest heartbreaks. Those lyrics are the ones I’ve jotted down in the margins. And Stevie Nicks… there simply aren’t enough inches in this column to describe the rich tapestry of her life and work, but just know she remains a common thread between me and my mom. There is a mystery to Nicks, an innate femininity, a passion and self-possession that inspires millions of women, and so I have no choice but to believe it makes perfect sense that this love was passed from my mother’s wild heart to mine.
Want to see me do a deep dive about a piece of art you love? You can email your suggestions to me at desertislanddispatch@gmail.com.