This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Honourable Mention Song #14: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (as Nominated by Lori Schroeder).
Today’s Honourable Mention Song was brought to us by a lady named Lori Schroeder. My whole family know Lori from her role as a CYW (or Child and Youth Worker) in schools. Lori is tasked with helping students who require assistance to successfully navigate through their day at school. In that role, people who are CYWs tend to be well-known figures within the school community. Both of my daughters had the pleasure of having Lori at their elementary school and were able to look to her as a “trusted adult” out on the playground and/or in the school hallways, if they ever needed help. As for my wife and I, we were both teachers and got to rely on Lori’s help at the schools we worked at, too. But, for the purposes of this post, the really important connection that Lori has to me is through music. Lori is a music lover and frequent concert goer and, as such, she has contributed a lot to this musical countdown journey of ours. So, when I called for Honourable Mention nominations, I knew Lori would come up with a good song or two and she did not disappoint. Her first nominated song….and the one I went with…..was “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. What a song this is! What an album it comes from! What incredible behind-the-scenes goings-on there were while this song was being recorded! Here is the story of “The Chain”. Thanks, Lori.
“The Chain” is a special song in the annals of Fleetwood Mac’s storied history. First of all, it is the lead song on Side #2 off of one of the world’s biggest selling albums of all-time, “Rumours”. That album sold over 40 million copies, making it one of the Top Ten best selling albums ever in music history. The story of “The Chain” is actually, reflective of the story of the band during the time they were recording “Rumours”. So, let’s back up a little and talk a bit about the band per se, before we dive into the song because that context is important in understanding why “The Chain” was written and what significance it holds within Fleetwood Mac’s musical canon.
I am the last person in the world to ever admonish anyone for dating a co-worker because my wife and I were teachers on the same school staff when we started dating. Luckily for us, we were confident that we were a match and so, the normal worries and woes about how to co-exist as colleagues should our relationship go awry never amounted to anything and our lives went merrily along. However, as a general rule, dating a co-worker is an exercise that is often fraught with landmines and pitfalls. Quite often, when a relationship ends, it does so on acrimonious terms. In such circumstances, it is often better for people to be able to wash their hands of each other and go their separate ways. But, when you date a co-worker, it is impossible to go one’s separate way. You are both “chained” together, to a certain extent, because of your workplace duties and responsibilities. That is exactly what happened to the members of Fleetwood Mac.
At the time “Rumours” was being recorded, Fleetwood Mac consisted of five members; two couples (John and Christine McVie were married, while Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham were dating), along with drummer, Mick Fleetwood, who was married to a woman who was not in the band. Just prior to their recording sessions, the McVie’s divorced and only spoke to each other when it was necessary for musical reasons. Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham broke up. Their split was very bitter; with much emotional baggage seeping into the lyrics of many of the songs on “Rumours”, as well as, during many of the band’s live performances, going forward. And, poor Mick Fleetwood……..just prior to the start of the recording sessions, he discovered that his wife, back in England, had left him for another man…..his best friend! So, needless to say, the social dynamic at play during the recording sessions was quite toxic.
This is where a song like “The Chain” comes in. “The Chain” is the only song on “Rumours” in which all five band members earned a songwriting credit. The song stands as an island of collaboration amid a sea of marital discontent. What happened was that “The Chain” was not written around a conceptual idea, the way most songs are. Instead, “The Chain” was made up of bits and pieces of various jams that were going on at the time. As it turned out, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were musicians schooled in improvisational jazz and, as such, they enjoyed jamming together. It was during one of these personal jam sessions between McVie and Fleetwood that John McVie came up with the throbbing baseline that eventually worked its way into “The Chain”. Stevie Nicks made note of the baseline and a day or two later, reported to work with preliminary lyrics in hand. Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham, who worked well together despite all the acrimony ongoing between everyone else, took Nicks’ lyrics and polished the chorus. When the song was completed, all members had played a role in its creation which, in turn, proved the message of the song as being accurate. That message was that, no matter what problems and challenges the band faced, they recognized the strength of themselves as a musical unit and were pledging that nothing was going to stop them from making great music.
That sounds like the definition of professionalism to me. They all had their jobs to do and, individually and collectively, they promised themselves and each other to, not only do their jobs but, to continue to work to ensure that their jobs were completed at the very highest level of skill and quality. I think we can all agree that they managed to accomplish this with “Rumours”. It is an album that produced hits such as “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop”, “Gold Dust Woman”, “You Make Loving Fun”, along with “The Chain”. It was a huge artistic accomplishment and one that, in spite of the rancour and the discord, speaks highly of the professionalism inherent within each member of Fleetwood Mac.
Having said that, get ready for the video I am about to share. It is a live performance of “The Chain”. In this performance, you can easily see the tension between Nicks and Buckingham. They are barely able to conceal the animosity that exists between them. For whatever reason, they seem able to channel that negative energy into their musicianship and are able to produce an electric performance but, mannnnnn, there are some nasty vibes on display here. I can’t imagine being an audience member, going to a Fleetwood Mac concert, being all excited that your favourite band was performing and then, witnessing such negativity and tension on stage, right before your eyes. I am a big a believer in fairy tales and happy endings but, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the members of Fleetwood Mac. As much as I admire their desire to put the music first and foremost in their minds, the fact that there is so much negativity associated with the creation of all of their best work, changes how I listen to it now. I still love the songs, from a purely musical point of view but, there is something definitely lost in the translation for me now, as a result of how I know the dynamics of their group worked and didn’t work, if you know what I mean.
So, buckle up and get ready for a remarkable video to a terrific song. I thank you, Lori, for nominating a song with such a story behind it. Thanks, as well, for all of your comments and stories that you shared along the way during this countdown of ours. Your love of music is clearly evident. Your interactions helped to make this journey much more interesting for me and everyone else and, for that, I am most appreciative.
Without further delay, here are Fleetwood Mac with “The Chain”, from their highly successful album, “Rumours”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Fleetwood Mac, can be found here.