The Fractured Meaning Behind Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ Classic “The Chain”

It’s 1976. Fleetwood Mac have just wrapped up a grueling six-month U.S. tour following the release of their 10th album, and their first with new guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and birthed the band’s classic hits “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.”

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Divorces and Drugs

Under pressure to make another hit album, the band reconvened and began working on their 11th album, Rumours, in the midst of personal breakups, divorces, internal clashes, and excessive drug use. “There was one coke dealer who kept us supplied with high-grade Peruvian flake, and we were so grateful to him that I considered (in my state of dementia) giving him some kind of credit on the [Rumours] album jacket,” said Mick Fleetwood in his first memoir, Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac.

At the time, Christine McVie and John McVie were divorcing and Mick Fleetwood‘s marriage to Jenny Boyd, sister of Pattie Boyd, was also falling apart. Nicks and Buckingham, who had joined Fleetwood Mac two years earlier as a couple, were barely a unit, except when they worked on songs together.

Their turbulent times were chronicled throughout the album, particularly on Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way,” Nicks’ “Silver Springs“—initially written for Rumours but released as a B-Side to the former track instead—and one of the most revelatory tracks facing the termination of their Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship, “The Chain.”

The Meaning

Throughout “The Chain,” Nicks and Buckingham remind one another that if they can’t mend their relationship at this point, it’s never coming back. Their chain would be broken.

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise
Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies

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 (never break the chain)

With Nicks and Buckingham singing off one another, every verse mounts in tension, along with the refrain of never breaking their chain.

Listen to the wind blow, down comes the night
Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies
Break the silence, damn the dark, damn the light

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 (never break the chain)

[RELATED: Fleetwood Mac to Release ‘Rumours Live’ Album]

Legacy

Rumours shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, rock, and other charts worldwide and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. As of 2023, Rumours has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, making it the sixth best-selling album of the 1970s, and the 9th best-selling album of all time.

In 2023, the band revealed the release of Rumours Live, featuring 90 minutes of previously unreleased material from the band’s full 1977 concert at The Forum, along with several non-Rumours tracks including “Rhiannon,” “Over My Head” and “Monday Morning.”

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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