Silver Springs

I have said it hundreds of times and I will say it thousands more. The best song on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album is the song they cut for time. I remember watching their episode of Behind the Music and the discussion around it. Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham both asserted that everyone loved the song but it was just too long to fit on the album. I called bullshit because the albums was only 39 minutes long, and even in 1976 there were plenty of 44 minute LPs.

Having kicked this thought around for a decade, even though I love the song and it is my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time, for a long time I thought those guys were right. It’s not the the total running time of the album would be technically infeasible, it’s that in the era of needing two sides of nearly equal length, it couldn’t possibly be sequenced well with “Silver Springs” on it.

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Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1 “Second Hand News” Lindsey Buckingham 2:44
2. “Dreams” Stevie Nicks 4:14
3. “Never Going Back Again” Lindsey Buckingham 2:15
4. “Don’t Stop” Christine McVie 3:12
5. “Go Your Own Way” Lindsey Buckingham 3:38
6. “Songbird” Christine McVie 3:21
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. “The Chain” L. Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, C. McVie, John McVie, S. Nicks 4:16
8. “You Make Loving Fun” Christine McVie 3:31
9. “I Don’t Want to Know” Stevie Nicks 3:15
10. “Oh Daddy” Christine McVie 3:58
11. “Gold Dust Woman” Stevie Nicks 5:02

That’s the thing, Rumours is an extremely well sequenced album. That’s a big part of what makes it such a classic album as a whole. Not only is every single song on it very strong, the rhythms, ebb and flow, tension and release is better than any album of its era. Adding five more minutes of mid-tempo melancholy is very tricky. Whichever side you put it on, 2.5 minutes plus or minus 20 seconds has to trade to the other. If you put it on Side 2, that would pretty much mean moving “I Don’t Want to Know.” That leaves Side 2 as a downbeat, dirge heavy album closer. It has to be on Side 1, which means that you probably can’t displace a slow song. That pretty much leaves “Second Hand News” as the one to move, which robs the album of that great opener.

I think there is one reasonable option. That is to move “Never Going Back Again” to Side 2, right after “The Chain” and put “Silver Springs” in that spot on Side 1. I finally empathize with Buckingham and Fleetwood. Years ago I laughed this off, but they are right. Is this a better album with “Silver Springs” on there, given the two sided LP/cassette constraints they were working with? I think my suggestion is reasonable but I can’t state it is better than the original. In the CD era, it’s a no-brainer. The song belongs on there. In the LP era, what they went with might have been for the best, as much as it pains me to say so.

As it is, “Silver Springs” remains my single favorite Fleetwood Mac song. I’m sure some contribution to that is the fact that it hasn’t been played to death like all the hits have been. My second favorite song of theirs is “It’s Not That Funny” but only in the live version. I remember the concert they played over and over on HBO in the early 80s and that song was a staple. Lindsey Buckingham played the hell out of it and won me over. At this point, I could take or leave all the hits with a strong chance of leaving them. As long as I have those two songs, I’m good.

Also on:

Fleetwood Mac Historical Controversy

Soundstage on PBS has recently shown a 2 part concert from Stevie Nicks. For no apparent reason this started me thinking about old Stevie songs and old Fleetwood Mac and reading about some of their history. I ran across a bit about the controversy on the Rumours album, where Stevie Nicks really wanted the song “Silver Springs” on the album but it was long, so it was cut in favor of “I Don’t Want to Know.”

I just sat down and listened to both songs, and I’d have to agree with Ms. Nicks. As good an album Rumours is, in the alternate world where they made the decision differently it would have been an even better album. Although they put it on the CD reissue 20+ years later, I would argue that if “Silver Springs” had been on the original album it would have been my favorite song on there. In fact, I’ll go on a limb and argue it as the single strongest Stevie Nicks composition I’ve ever heard.

There is not really any importance to refighting 33 year old arguments, but I’d say from my perspective time has proven Nicks right.