5/9/19 – Fleetwood Mac “The Chain”
It’s one of my favorite songs…from one of my favorite bands…and as great as the studio version of the song is, it takes on a whole new life in a live recording I’ve been listening to a lot lately. The song is “The Chain,” one of my all-time favorite songs, by Fleetwood Mac. It’s different from anything else the band ever did, because it’s the only one credited to all 5 members of the group. There are 3 prolific songwriters in Fleetwood Mac: Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine McVie, and they always provide those immaculate 3-part harmonies. The songwriting credit this time went to Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, as well…even though they don’t normally write songs. “The Chain,” the story goes, is actually a compilation of several pieces of songs, with contributions from everyone, and it comes together in an unbelievable way.
Yeah, I know that Fleetwood Mac existed long before Mick brought in Buckingham and Nicks. They were more of a blues band in the early years, inspired by the musical brilliance of Peter Green. And there have been several versions of the band, too, with various members coming and going. There’s even a different iteration of the band out there now, since Buckingham’s not with the band. And he’s a genius in his own right, and he’s still dealing with some serious health issues these days. I know some people hate Stevie Nicks, because she supposedly had him kicked out of the band. I don’t pretend to know the real story about all that. And for the purposes of today’s edition of “The Music In My Head,” it really doesn’t matter.
All I know is when the “Rumours” album was recorded in 1976, even though it was an absolutely agonizing experience for the band because there was so much drama and turmoil going on with the members of the group, the music they made during that time was incredible. The album wasn’t released until the early part of ’77, and by that time the members of Fleetwood Mac had managed to avoid killing each other. “Rumours” became—and still is—one of the most popular and best-selling albums of all time, with so many great songs. Buckingham, McVie, and Nicks were all writing about their personal experiences, with each other, and the other members of the group, and it was a volatile time, to say the least. It was all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, as they say, but somehow, they all managed to persevere and produce some of the best rock music ever recorded. The lyrics of “The Chain,” by the way, are all about sticking together, no matter what, through thick and thin—an unbreakable bond, if you will—but, of course, the meaning of the words hasn’t held up nearly as well as the music! Especially not these days, with the bitterness that apparently exists. Again, only they know the real story.
Years later, in 1997, Fleetwood Mac recorded a live album, and it’s called “The Dance.” While I’ve loved “The Chain” every time I’ve ever listened to it, the version on “The Dance” is far superior to any other live version I’ve heard, and certainly it’s better than the song recorded in the studio. The harmonies are terrific, as usual, but what sets this version apart—at least to me—is Mick Fleetwood’s work on the drums. He’s back there pounding away, and it just makes the music jump right out of the speakers. They open up the concert with “The Chain,” (and I think they pretty much always do,) and it sets the tone for the whole show. I’ve been listening to this a lot in my car lately, so it’s no wonder it’s in my head this morning. Take a listen and see what YOU think!