Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

‘Silver Springs’ and gilded touches

I’ve recently been listening to ‘Silver Springs’, a Fleetwood Mac ballad from their mid-70s era. It contains a good example of how displacing chord I into the middle of a sequence can create a strong feeling of momentum. This happens in the song’s final sequence, the effect strengthened by a first inversion and a rising bass line (Am-G/B-C-F-G). The chord progression keeps sailing past the key chord of C and spending two bars on G at the end of each phrase.

Written by Stevie Nicks it was part of the sessions for the album Rumours but was left off, apparently because there wasn’t enough room on the vinyl. The 2004 double-CD reissue of Rumours places the song as track 7, coming after ‘Songbird’ (which ended side 1 of the vinyl LP) and before ‘The Chain’. The second disc of bonus material includes a demo version. There is a slower, weightier live version included on The Dance (1997).

This set me thinking about tracks that should have been included on an album but were left off, either kept back or released as stand-alone singles. Possibly the most famous is the Beatles’ double A-side ‘Penny Lane’ / ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ from early in 1967. These songs originated in a project to write a set of songs based on the Liverpool childhoods of John and Paul. This eventually changed into Sgt Pepper, but these two songs never made it to the album, instead being released months before (they were eventually collected on the Magical Mystery Tour album).

It shows that sometimes great songs get left off albums. Another one that’s come to my attention recently is David Bowie’s ‘John I’m Only Dancing’ which belongs with the Aladdin Sane songs (1973) but came out as a single. This is mentioned in a book by Clinton Heylin, All the Madmen, with the unwieldy but explanatory subtitle ‘Barrett, Bowie, Drake, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, The Who and a journey to the dark side of British rock’. It’s an interesting read if you’re into any of those acts or that period (1968-73) of British rock. It does exhibit some of the underlying tensions that I often find in rock criticism – mostly connected with an unarticulated conflict about the value and status of the subject (litany of failure or litany of success?).

Another track that was left off an album was T.Rex’s ‘Ride A White Swan’. This was recorded during sessions for what became the album T.Rex (December 1970), known to its devotees as the ‘brown’ album because of the sleeve, the last made as a duo before T Rex expanded into a quartet and launched glam rock in 1971. ‘Swan’ preceded the album by several months and became a hit single. Universal have just released a ‘Deluxe’ edition of this album, and the one that preceded it Beard of Stars, with additional CDs of bonus material. The T.Rex album’s first disc includes ‘Swan’ and its B-side. I’ve not had a chance to listen to these properly yet. My first impression of the original album is that this is the best remaster to date, despite what sound like some rapid fades (possibly encouraged by high levels of tape-hiss and guitar effects noise on the sessions). For those who heard these records at an impressionable age these songs have lost none of their enchantment. It is just clearer how rare a commodity it is.

I’d be interested to hear from readers of this blog of any tracks they know and love which were left off albums, perhaps reunited on more recent CD releases and expanded editions. I’ll report back on these in a future blog.

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2 responses

  1. Shane

    Hello Rikky. Sorry for an off the subject question but perhaps you can help me.
    I own all of your songwriting books and enjoy them a lot
    My question concerns the song My Sweet Lord. Back in the 70’s everyone
    played the song with F#m to B bar chords. Later we see that at the concert
    for Bangladesh Harrison played it with a capo 2nd fret making it essentially
    an Em-A progression (the capo making the first progression easier).
    But I was told that a number of songs actually use a 12 string detuned 3
    half steps for a droning sound and that is how My Sweet Lord was played.
    Other songs that use this method include Creque Alley and Wedding Song
    by Noel Paul Stookey. I tried it an it sounded exactly like the record.
    Do you have information about not only MSL but this detuned droning
    sound? This is why someone like you has to write a comprehensive book
    about 12 string electric and acoustic guitar a they are so different.
    Perhaps MSL was just recorded with Harrison, Badfinger, Frampton (?)
    all playeding together on 6 string and getting a similar sound,
    sort of like overdubbing your voice to create the George O’Hara
    singers (lol). Thanks. Any info from you or your readers would be
    helpful as everyone on the internet shows the song played the way
    I described in the beginning. Keep up the good work and I can’t
    wait for the next songwriting book.

    Shane McHugh

    March 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    • Hello Shane, thanks for an interesting post. I’m going to write a blog about it – so thanks for the inspiration. Best wishes, Rikky

      March 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

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