I’ll confess, right off the bat, that I was a latecomer to Fleetwood Mac. Having previously relegated them under the moniker of “soft rock” their vision of the sunshine coast and cocaine felt as far removed from my early musical beginnings of fearsome punk as was possible to be. However, as my mind has mellowed with age, it has allowed it to open a little further than ever before. With the creaking cerebral gates ajar, Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac quickly made their way inside.
The band have quickly become one of my go-to acts — a group guaranteed to elicit either dancing, crying, laughing or fighting but, usually, a heady combination of all four. No place is this better displayed than within the confines of their seminal album Rumours. A record so good that not even the cataclysmic relationships of the band could bring it down. One of the album’s finest moments, among many, is the simply supreme song ‘The Chain’.
Now somewhat cruelly thought of as “the Formula One theme tune” by some, the song is actually a searing piece of songwriting from Nicks. Having joined the band in 1975, by the time she and Lindsey Buckingham had found their feet on stage they were seen as integral to the band’s new iteration and the forthcoming success that lay ahead. While Nicks’ velvety vocal was to be admired, it was her songwriting prowess that truly elevated the band.
Songs such as ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Landslide‘ would showcase her talents prior to Rumours and when given the chance to fully flex her muscles on the 1977 LP, Nicks didn’t disappoint. She provided some of the album’s best songs, including ‘Gold Dust Woman’, an ode to cocaine, and ‘Dreams’, the song she wrote in Sly Stone’s bed, but ‘The Chain’ may well be one of the best. Built on a deeply grooving bassline and the kind of musicianship the band had in spades, it has become a unique moment in their set.
However, when the song was initially constructed, as you can hear below, it was levied as a far more restrained number. The demo below, which is comprised of a simple acoustic backing and Nicks’ dynamic vocals brings an uncanny sense of vulnerability to the track which is missing from the final production. A keen ear will also be able to pick out arrangements that would find their way into different songs, speaking highly of the band’s creative process at the time.
Eventually, the song would morph into what we know and love today. A patchwork song built out of several different pieces from different members of the band, the track remains one of the most unifying moments on the album Rumours. Moving effortlessly across the seventies spectrum the group show their mettle on this one and announce themselves as patrons of music in every form.
“‘The Chain’ basically came out of a jam,” recalled Mick Fleetwood of the song’s composition. “That song was put together as distinct from someone literally sitting down and writing a song. It was very much collectively a band composition.” Listen below to hear the early sketches of that composition as we revisit the early demo of Fleetwood Mac song ‘The Chain’.