Chain Reaction

Album: Eaten Alive (1985)
Charted: 1 66
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  • This Motown-inspired song was written and produced by The Bee Gees: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. Barry Gibb says in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "'Chain Reaction' was never originally meant to be on the album. It was the last song we cut. We'd done the whole album and Diana said, 'Well, we still need one more song from somewhere.' We had 'Chain Reaction' all along but didn't have the nerve to play it to her because it was so Motown-ish that we were scared she wouldn't go back there. Robin Gibb persuaded her by saying, 'We think it's time you did something that you would have done with The Supremes and not just Diana Ross.' Once Diana had recorded it, she sat down and heard the playback and realized it was a credible tribute to the past."
  • In the UK, this won the Ivor Novello award for most performed song in 1986.
  • In 2001 Steps revived this taking it to #2 in the UK chart.

Comments: 9

  • Jason from UkThere are some interesting notes on this song at
  • Jason from UkI bought the sheet music for this today because I have always loved this song and wanted to analyse it, and so I have been going through it and I can honestly say I am in awe of the songwriting that has gone into this song.
    Marc is correct regarding the complex chord progressions and key changes in this song.
    The intro and first verse is in B and then it modulates up a tone to Db for the first chorus. Half way through the chorus it modulates up another semitone to D. It then returns to B for the second verse, and then it modulates to Db and D again for the second chorus. Then there's a kind of 4 bar bridge in B again and then for the climax of the tune we have a new chorus which heads up a third from B to Eb and just to top it all off it goes up a semitone again to E.

    It's quite incredible and the whole thing, chords, key modulations up and down which all just *work* without sounding at all like the chiched Eurovision-single-modulation-at-the-end-of-the-song, amazing lyrics, the melody and rhythm of the vocal, Bee Gees on harmony backing vocals, the great beat, the 80s synths in the background, and of course Diana Ross's superb vocal.

    Earlier today I had first analysed Diamonds by Rihanna and found it to consist of (no lie) 4 chords in the same progression throughout the whole song. When I moved onto this old classic and started working through the sheet music I swear I was crying because it's just so clever and just so perfect. I just wish I could write something similar. Just the chords on their own with the bass moves me to tears. You add all the other stuff up and it's just perfect pop music, at the top of its genre. This song has everything, everything.

    Okay it didn't do so well in the States but that doesn't surprise me. Maybe they couldn't get the airplay. Maybe it's too kooky; the lyrics are really heavy on the innuendo. Maybe it's too dancey, too relentlessly upbeat, for the US audience both then and now. The Yanks have never really done "dance" or uplifting, outside of the gay or Hispanic markets. Witness the vitriol heaped on disco.

    So anyway. They missed out.
  • Viktor from Santa Ana, Cathis song wasn't just a #1 hit in the united kingdom. it was also certified-gold by the BPI in 1986 selling well over 500,000 copies. in addition to its success in the united kingdom, it also reached the top of the charts in australia, staying there for a total of 3 consecutive weeks and rounded out as the #1 single of the year there in 1986. in smaller markets, the song also reached #1 in Ireland, peaked at #3 in New Zealand & #4 in south africa. i wouldn't say that is a small accomplishment by any means. sure, it did poorly in the united states. that doesn't mean that this was a bad song. one must consider many other factors such as the time when this song had been released in the united states. from the mid-1980s until the end of the decade, it was only madonna that had dominated the charts among female pop vocalists in the united states. american audiences were extremely youth-obsessed then. aside from tina turner, bette midler and later on cher, virtually most other solo female recording artists over 40 had taken an absence from hitting the top 10 pop singles chart. and even so, only tina turner, bette midler and cher each managed to crack the top 10 only once during the last 5 years of that decade; tina turner's "typical male" in 1987, bette midler's remake of "wind beneath my wings" in 1988 and then cher's "if i could turn back time" in 1989. i personally love this song, just like all the other great songs penned by the bee gees. but by this time, although the bee gees continued to produce and and write great tunes, they too had become yesterday's news among american audiences and were no longer able to produce major hits in the US. and miss ross never looked grander than she did on the video for this song. i believe its one of the best music videos she has ever made and her fans worldwide apparently agree. if anyone doubts that, just look at the viewership totals for the video on youtube which are well into the millions and remains as one of her most popular music videos of her entire career. despite how americans had dissed this song, it did bring miss ross enormous success abroad, restoring her popularity with audiences in major foreign markets such as britain, australia and south africa and helped solidify greater longevity for her career as an international pop music icon.
  • Melissa from London, United KingdomI'm sorry John, but you are an absolute moron. No one forced Diana to record it and she was doing very well in the charts at the time and not desperate at all for a hit. She'd just gone top 10 with Lionel Richie's 'Missing You'. Diana has professed to loving the song and frequently sings it at her concerts in Europe and Australia. It was a million seller and is a classic Motown pastiche. Actually I prefer it to Motown.
  • Rick from Edmonton, Abthis is one good song, Diana knows what she doing with this song, all the girls today have nothing on her. she done it all already.
    rick loiselle, Edmonton, Al, Canada
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesThis is the worst WORST song I have ever had the misfortune to listen to.Why oh why did it get to number one in some stupid country.How dare people compare this rubbish to Grease and Motown.Good music came from Motown but Dianna must iv been desperate when she recorded this load of s---t.
  • Marc from LondonBeneath the superficially poppy exterior lies a highly complex chord structure, punctuated by frequent key changes. If you don't believe me, just try to sing it.
    Perhaps this explains the lack of US success described by Mike above.
  • Nicola from London, EnglandThis song is great to listen to. And this is one off Diana's best songs to date.
  • Mike from Knoxville, TnThough a #1 chart in the U.K., this song did very poorly in the U.S. as many top 40 stations didn't even bother to test it. And since there was only trace airplay amongst other stations back then, the single suffered lackluster sales hence, only reaching #66 on the weekly Billboard HOT 100 chart. It just didn't fit in with what was playing on the radio back in 1986.
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