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October 20, 2016

Never Break The Chain

by Zahir

Suzanne Connolly analyses the intent behind the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’.

2013 marks the 35th anniversary of the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s generation-defining album “Rumours”, heralding the chance for them to return once again to the world stage on their upcoming 2013 tour. It is interesting, then, to consider just how “Rumours” revealed in the raw fragility of a band which would go on to have such unlikely longevity. Aspects of fear and change are apparent in almost every song featured on the album, revealing tensions and relationship breakdowns that were occurring within the band at the time the tracks were written and recorded.

Search “Fleetwood Mac The Chain 1982” on YouTube and you’ll come across what is, I find, one of the most emotionally charged live performances ever recorded. What you are watching is not simply a band performing a greatest hit, but a band performing a greatest hit in the midst of several personal crises and unapologetically showing it.

The resonance of the song’s lyrics with the band, especially in former romantic partners Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, is evident as they showcase not only their musical talent but manifest within it their lingering tensions through brooding glares, animalistic howls and direct address from one to the other. “The Chain” happens to be the only song credited to all five members, Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood, McVie and McVie. Recognisable to many, partly due to the use of the bass solo on Formula 1 coverage, “The Chain” reveals the fears of a band which would profit hugely from the same internal breakdowns which threatened to end their collaboration before it had the chance to really begin.

As the lyrics show, the song deals with a fear of breaking commitment both to a relationship, as was the case with the inter-band breakups of Nicks and Buckingham alongside the divorce of John and Christine McView, as well as the fear of the breakup of the musical collaboration, shown in the accusatory lines:

“And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain”

The final chant-like repetition of the line “Chain… Keep us together” provides a sort of mantra for the band at a time of great uncertainty as to their staying together.

Although the history of Fleetwood Mac is much longer and more complex than just “Rumours”, the band itself having several line-up changes before and after, it is undoubtedly this album which established them as one of the greatest bands of the 20th Century and is finding a revived fan-base in the 21st. Lindsey Buckingham ends the intense 1982 live performance of “The Chain” with a few words to the crowd: “a lot of people were wondering what happened to us… Well we’re here to show you that we just refuse to go away”. True to his word, 35 years on Fleetwood Mac are living up to this statement, and “The Chain”, even if they have had more than a few bumps in the road along the way.

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