Friday, April 05, 2024

Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs”, a break-up song written by Stevie Nicks "He's never gotten away"

Why we can never get away from the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs”

Their electric 1997 performance has become an enduring hit among younger generations on TikTok and YouTube. What do they keep coming back for?

By Daisy Jones
5 April 2024

Our story begins in the late 1970s in Maryland, USA. Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham are hurtling down the freeway, as they often did in those early days; a band used to constant touring. Nicks’ eyes drift up. She sees a sign – literally. It reads “Silver Spring”, the name of a nearby “edge city” in Montgomery County, near Washington. Now, the phrase won’t stop swimming around her mind: Silver Spring, Silver Spring, Silver Spring. “Silver Springs [sic] sounded like a pretty fabulous place to me,” she’d say in 1998, two decades after that drive. “‘You could be my silver springs…’ that's just a whole symbolic thing of what you could have been to me.”

The words became Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs”, a break-up song written by Nicks about the end of a passionate, often tumultuous, on-off relationship with guitarist and singer Buckingham that had began back in high school. It was intended to appear on Rumours, their seminal 1977 album. But the band vetoed it for being too long. “I was so genuinely devastated… because I loved the song and it was one of the Rumours songs,” Nicks told MTV in 1997. “So I never thought that ‘Silver Springs’ would ever be heard of again. My beautiful song just disappeared.”

But it didn’t disappear. Not in the way she thought it might. In 1997, the band performed the song at Warner Bros studio during The Dance tour and it very quickly became a sensation, winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance in the process. And that image, at the song's climactic end point – of Nicks singing the words at Buckingham, her eyes burning into his soul, as if casting a spell, 20 years after writing the lyrics and still meaning them – has become the stuff of legend: “I'll follow you down til' the sound of my voice will haunt you / You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.”

“Silver Springs” was big in the ‘90s. But in more recent years, the song has gained a surprising amount of renewed traction – particularly among Gen Z, who's parents might not have even been alive when it was written. On YouTube, the performance has a vast 25 million views. And on TikTok, where the collective obsession has reached fever pitch, the search “Silver Springs” has over 100 million views. We're seeing young people lip-syncing the words, mascara running down their cheeks or, as in one clip I saw, kids in class playing the song at their “year 7 exes.” Nicks burning a hole into Buckingham with her words really strikes a chord. As one TikTok user captioned over the clip: “Don't just write a song about your ex, make him play lead guitar and sing it right to his face on stage.”

It's easy to see why it still resonates – it's a captivating, enchanting song that's bolstered by the real-life drama that simmers beneath it. But why now? And why hasn't the hysteria surrounding “Silver Springs” died down? Even I'm guilty of it. It'll pop up on my TikTok and I'll watch it over and over again, on a dopamine loop. It has an addictive quality; the layering of their voices, the pummelling drums, the electric stare-off, how Nicks weaves between vengefulness and vulnerability within the space of a line (“Give me just a chance”). The live version has a particular potency – the recorded “Silver Springs” slaps, but it's not quite the same.

For a lot of people, the “Silver Springs” obsession actually began last year with Daisy Jones & the Six, Amazon's hit show based on the Taylor Jenkins Reid book of the same name which itself was loosely based on Fleetwood Mac. “I remember reading in interviews that Sam Claflin and Riley Keough [who play Daisy and Billie in the show] had been watching ‘Silver Springs’ in preparation, so that got me onto it,” says 19-year-old Eva, who listens to the song when she gets ready for college “at least three times a week.” As she says, “The real thing is even better than the show because it's real, you know?”

This seems to be a running theme. 22-year-old Kai tells me that they wanted to hear the song that “Regret Me” (a song that appears in the show) was based on, which led them to becoming “completely obsessed” with the real thing. Katie, 24, tells me that she didn’t even watch Daisy Jones & The Six, but the song “was all over social media at that time” because of it, which led her down a rabbit hole. “I listened to it so many times that it ended up on my 2023 Spotify Wrapped,” she says. “This was also around the time that my boyfriend and I broke up, so the lyrics held special significance for me.”

Of course the song hits today as much as it always has. But there's something especially 2020s about the romanticisation of drama and pain, the “main character energy” of elevating an on-off relationship to almost mythical status. “Culturally, we’re seeing an obsession with stories about unconventional, years-long relationships (Normal People, Past Lives and One Day),” says Katie. “‘Silver Springs’ has that same theme; Stevie and Lindsay take ‘it’s complicated’ to a whole new level. I think people – especially young people – resonate with this idea of having a relationship like this; a lifelong love. It’s messy, it’s romantic, it’s relatable. I also think there’s something so satisfying about looking your ex in the eye after 20 years and singing your breakup song to them.”

This is also an era in which big, mainstream artists just aren't as open-hearted and unhinged as they used to be. We don't know anything about their private lives beyond what they pretend to let us in on. Even Taylor Swift, a popstar who's forged a billion-dollar empire off writing about her exes, tends to keep her raw emotion behind a shiny, carefully thought-out, manufactured narrative. Harry Styles is one of the biggest artists in the world, yet we know very little about his actual life: his relationships, his hopes, his heartbreaks. There's a truth and authenticity that sits at the heart of “Silver Springs” that might not exist today, at a time when artists don't often allow themselves to step outside of the slick, choreographed version of what a break-up actually feels and looks like (deranged, irrational, messy).

When Nicks wrote “Silver Springs”, who knows whether she really thought that Buckingham would never get away from the sound of the woman that loves him. But it's nearly 50 years later, and the song is still playing, on a loop. Last year, 74-year-old Buckingham posted the “Silver Springs” guitar solo on TikTok alongside the caption: “I hear we're talking about that ‘97 ‘Silver Springs’ again…” “You know damn well that's not the part we mean,” reads the top comment. He's never gotten away. Neither have we.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Silver Springs didn't win a Grammy--though it was nominated.

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