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The Unchained Romantic Rage in Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 Performance of “The Chain,” by Jocelyn Gale

Both anger and love can exist passionately and in tandem, and if you’re looking for a visual representation of this, look no further than Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 live performance of “The Chain.” This performance, from the very first exhale of notes, is a spark of lively adoration and pure abhorrence being screamed, howled and riffed until Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are breathless. 

The song “The Chain” is from Fleetwood Mac’s most infamous album, Rumors, released in 1977. Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham worked together to write this song, despite their recent split as a couple while in the writing process for that album. They joined Fleetwood Mac as a couple in 1974, but after their split, they did not spend much time together outside of writing. The Rumors album is significant to the inner workings of the separation between the two as they both have tracks giving insight into their personal feelings on the relationship. 

There have been many rumors (no pun intended) as to why the breakup came to be, but it has never unfolded completely in the public eye. The mystery of it all captivated their audience, especially with the obvious mix of passion and animosity they exuded in every performance. Listeners of their music rely on their individually written tracks on Rumors to understand why they decided to end their relationship. Buckingham wrote “Go Your Own Way,” while Nicks wrote “Silver Springs.” Nicks considered her track a dud song after the band pushed it to the B-side of the single (The A-side being “Go Your Own Way”). Nicks was livid that the band did not give her song the credit she felt it deserved, and it mainly went forgotten until many years later.

The resurgence of interest in Fleetwood Mac live performances in recent years has particularly to do with Nicks’ song, “Silver Springs,” which influenced the #1 National Bestselling book Daisy Jones and The Six. The book was released in March 2019 and gained significant traction. It gained popularity on Tikok and was made into a Prime miniseries five years later, in March of 2023.  

The author of this book, Taylor Jenkins Reid, speaks frequently about how the relationship between the core couple (Billy and Daisy) is heavily influenced by the tangible tension between Nicks’ and Buckingham’s microphones in their live performances, often referencing the 1997 performance of “Silver Springs.” This performance has amassed 23 million views on YouTube, almost five times more than the 1982 “The Chain” performance.

The “Silver Springs” performance is praised for Nick’s turn to Buckingham during the line, “You’ll never get away from the sound of a woman that loves you,” staring him down as she sings the very lyrics she wrote about their mysterious, yet heartbreaking, relationship. There is certainly passion in her vexing gaze, but it is slightly underwhelming compared to the vehement bellows from her and Buckingham working in tandem in the 1982 performance. Don’t get me wrong, the “Silver Springs” performance is great, but it does not elicit the complete heart-gripping outcries of the ’82 performance of “The Chain.” 

Since the book Daisy Jones and The Six brings newfound attention to Fleetwood Mac, it’s worth comparing the gravity of the performances with that of the book and its TV adaptation. There is no denying that the show is objectively pretty good. There are talented actresses and actors, it’s attractive cinematically, and there is a decent voice to the show. However, it lacks the palpable energy between characters pressed into the ink printed within the book’s pages (the pixels, if you’re on a Kindle). 

Similar to how the miniseries is objectively pretty good, the same can be said about Nicks and Buckingham playing “Silver Springs” in 1997. It showcases an obvious talent for songwriting and performing while giving the audience a peek into the relationship that once was. But, the 1982 performance glows in the face of the audience with a heat of anger, lust and energy. There is something that just isn’t quite as flaring in the miniseries or the “Silver Springs” performance. When reading the book, the characters come to life. The author’s imagined idea of what might have been between Nicks and Buckingham is alive within these characters, breathing and belting with every turn of a page. This feeling of wholly expressing emotions through the creative outlet is present in the same gripping manner through the melodies of the 1982 performance of “The Chain.”

Watching the 1982 performance of “The Chain” feels like watching two people in love argue with vociferousness and intensity. They are using the stage as a place to air out their grievances with a ferociousness that is the epitome of human passion for musical expression. The true beauty of it is how entrancingly they work together. The song, originally written about how if they cannot mend their relationship now, they never will, is sung with unequivocal chemistry, especially evocative after their separation.

When the song starts, they blend so melodically. They sing the line, “Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies.” It sounds sorrowful and romantic. There is subtle gravel in Buckingham’s voice contrasted against the smooth tremor in Nick’s notes that comes out even stronger in the song’s progression. In a quick transition, Buckingham escalates quickly, singing, “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.” His body jerks as his words expel through his vocal cords, hands ripping across his guitar strings. There is a grit to his voice that is raw and natural, something between a plea and a scream. It lacks control, but the guttural feeling is so indisputable that it feels steady in its franticness.

Nicks sings alongside him, and her stare is searing even through the grainy lens of a 1980s camera. She establishes her pure vocal talent with yearning howl-like vibratos that are wavering yet strong. The rest of the band is there, but they are the background music to the seething tension happening in that space between Nick’s voice and Buckingham’s accompanying guitar. They need each other to kindle the inflammatory potential of the song.

When their eyes meet as they sing, Nicks looks heart-wrenchingly enraged. She has a composure that Buckingham is not conforming to as they perform. His returned manic gaze lets every emotion he has ever felt toward Nicks’ escape. The contrast of their performances as they stand next to one another on the same song is fascinating and powerful. Nicks holds more control, as though the rage released through the strength of her outcries is tangled with a soreness of devotion that has been lost there is a sense of understanding that it will never be what it was. Buckingham is singing and playing with an unhinged, lovelorn exasperation as if begging Nicks to see that this petulance is the last effort he can put toward the affair. Buckingham sings as though he is begging for forgiveness, angry that he isn’t getting it, missing what he has lost.

So many love songs simply feel dim after hearing and seeing this performance. No other exhalation of anger and love has been so vulnerable and wholly portrayed as what can be experienced in this performance.

 It is unique in its raw talent, shared by both musicians. There is something bewitching about their ability to blend and scrape against each other simultaneously. It’s like twisting twigs back and forth in the palms of your hands, watching as the friction creates sparks that heat the tip of your nose as they ignite. There is an escalation in the push and pull of energy and magnetism throughout the entirety of the song. The song itself is a written word of exactly the energy that can be seen on stage. Their distaste and desire for each other is seeping out of them, so saturated that the audience could wring it out like a washcloth. The lustful antics of Nicks and Buckingham were apparent throughout every aspect of Fleetwood Mac, but nowhere is the unrefined gritty mess of romance more present than in their 1982 performance of “The Chain.” 

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