12 O'Clock Track: "The best [Fleetwood Mac] song that never made it to a record album"

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Thunder only happens when its raining.
  • Thunder only happens when it's raining.
Today I'm going to Los Angeles for a six-day vacation. People associate cities with all sorts of things—memories, dreams, or pieces of art. For whatever reason, I think of Fleetwood Mac when I think of LA. The sound of the music and my impression of LA are inseparable.

Like LA, Fleetwood Mac initially gives off a tacky and artificial impression. Their music has glossy surfaces and breezy instrumentation—cleanly recorded acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and silky keyboard parts—it's the kind of music you expect to play in stores where you buy candles and bath products. But those surfaces are deceptive: pay attention to Fleetwood Mac's music and you'll find that it's often quite sophisticated and nuanced; and sometimes, as on 1979's postpunk double album Tusk, (their best album), it can be bizarre. While I'd imagine most people hear FM rock, soft pop, and pop-country, I often hear power-pop, dub, and the art-rock of Brian Eno in a lot of their music (and all those other ostensibly less interesting genres as well).

Depending on how you listen to pop music, you either hear lyrics and music separately or simultaneously. Personally, I need to make a connection with the music before I listen to the words. In the case of Fleetwood Mac, it took some time to get over some of my biases against the music. But I think one of the brilliant things about Fleetwood Mac is just how well the music and lyrics work together, because once you internalize the melodies, they suit the lyrics perfectly.

There is already at least one, probably two or three more, VH1 specials on Rumours, so I'll spare you the back story. Basically, Fleetwood Mac songs are about breakups and postbreakups—in the case of Rumours it's the latter. And Fleetwood Mac can be an especially masochistic balm when you're just getting over a breakup. It creeps up in unexpected ways: one minute you're just buying shampoo at CVS, the next thing you know "Dreams" is streaming faintly from the ceiling speakers and you're standing in the middle of the store trying not to cry with a bottle of Head & Shoulders in your hand at 11 o'clock at night.

LA is a place where people go to escape. The real world can be an ugly place, and a person with a certain type of disposition frowns on Angelenos, who spend their lives in 70-degree-plus weather amid mostly beautiful people. And Fleetwood Mac's music is the sound of people struggling to avoid their problems, the surface of the music the sunny distraction from the shrapnel of narcissism—heartache, drugs, depression, and the people hurt while dealing with all of it. This is the compelling friction in Fleetwood Mac's music, between the illusion of happiness and the reality of emotional trauma.

Look no further than "Silver Springs," written by Stevie Nicks for Rumours, which was just reissued in a bountiful four-disc box set. Nicks had written the track, and the band recorded it, but it was cut from the album due to exceeding the accorded length for an LP; it was instead used as a B side for the "Go Your Own Way" single. She was so angry about its exclusion that it became a sore point for years, not seeing an album release until it was re-recorded for The Dance 20 years later. It's not hard to see why Nicks was so incensed: According to the song's Wikipedia page, "Richard Dashut, the engineer and co-producer, called it 'The best song that never made it to a record album.'"

On the box set, "Silver Springs" is added as the album's closing track, and it raises the already impressive quality of the album even higher. Slightly ragged, with a serpentine array of guitar parts played by Lindsey Buckingham, it's a midtempo number that exposes the lingering resentment of a destroyed relationship, an attitude that would inform much of Tusk, Rumours's follow-up.

Nicks sings, "Time casts a spell on you/But you won't forget me/I know I could have loved you/But you would not let me." The song's protagonist is burned by their former lover, who's moved on, and distance has only inflamed the wounds that should have healed. Bitterness informs music that's otherwise sweet and bright, like the jealousy that seethes beneath the Los Angeles sunshine.

For people without Spotify, I've also included a YouTube of the original, but I would pay for Spotify just to have access to the full reissue. Aside from a beautifully remastered version of the original Rumours, the set also includes a full live show and two discs of outtakes, rough cuts, and demos, all of which add new dimensions to this artifact of deeply affecting artifice.

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