Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Patty Loveless, “Chains”


Patty Loveless

Written by Hal Bynum and Bud Reneau


#1 (1 week)

March 10, 1990

Radio & Records 

#1 (1 week)

March 2, 1990

An early highlight from the catalog of a genre legend.

The Road to No. 1

Patty Loveless was one of the few artists to emerge in the late eighties that would reach their career peak in the nineties, despite most of her contemporaries having faded from the charts by then.   Her run on MCA Records followed previous unsuccessful attempts to break through in Nashville, but the timing worked out perfectly.  While she was honing her craft on the club scene, Nashville was moving away from the Urban Cowboy pop crossover sound and back into more traditional arrangements, which suited the pure mountain honky tonk of Loveless perfectly.

Not that her work on MCA fully captured that, given most of it was produced by Tony Brown.  She broke through with a gorgeous cover of the George Jones classic, “If My Heart Had Windows,” which served as the title of her second album.  After a Steve Earle cover (“A Little Bit in Love”) reached No. 2, Loveless released her biggest album for MCA, Honky Tonk Angel, which would eventually be certified platinum.

The first four singles all went top five, with the third, “Timber I’m Falling in Love,” becoming her first chart topper in 1989.   The strength of the album’s material led to a fifth single, still a rarity at that time.

The No. 1

Many of her best hits were drenched in melancholy, but Loveless was also quite adept at navigating clever and catchy upbeat numbers.  “Chains” is one of the latter, with Loveless lamenting about being trapped in a toxic relationship and she vows she will eventually break free.

“These love-taking, hearbreaking, cold heart, lonely-making chains” is not an easy line to deliver at all, let alone as the hook of a chorus, but she pulls it off with aplomb.   The arrangement doesn’t have the organic beauty of her later work for Epic, but it doesn’t really matter.  Loveless is singing on the track, and that makes it sound country by default.

It’s a fun, charming record that serves as a highlight of her MCA run.

The Road From No. 1

Loveless kept the hits coming at MCA for two more albums, resulting in two more gold albums (On Down the Line and Greatest Hits), and three more hit records, including “I’m That Kind of Girl,” her first hit written by Matraca Berg, who’d be responsible for another No. 1 down the road.  After having Vince Gill sing harmony on her MCA hits, she returned the favor, providing killer harmonies on “When I Call Your Name” and “Pocket Full of Gold.”

She’d top the charts again a few more times after changing from MCA to Epic Records, so we’ll be seeing her again soon.

“Chains” get an A. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Paul Overstreet, “Seein’ My Father in Me”



  1. Patty is one of my all time favorite artist. Im usually here for the sad songs with Patty, but this is my favorite of her more upbeat and jaunty material. I vividly remember my class mate singing this song in my Kindergarten class during playtime every time I hear it. Can’t wait till she gets her well deserved Hall Of Fame plaque one day!

  2. Definitely an A effort from one of my favorites. Not everything she did was great but the worst of her recorded efforts were at least good, and I enjoyed all of her albums

  3. “Chains” could be considered one of the earliest sparks of what would be the Big Bang of the 1990’s when it came to women in country music. And Patty would be the first to tell you that the West Coast country-rock influence of Linda Ronstadt is in there with her ultra-traditionalist mountain influences too.

  4. This is easily one of my all time favorite upbeat early 90’s country tunes, and as other said, one of my favorites of Patty’s uptempo songs. It’s so fun and catchy and still sounds fresh today to my ears. I’ve always really liked the twangy guitar work on this track, as well. The Honky Tonk Angel album was pretty solid, ovarall, and I enjoy Patty’s last tree MCA albums.

    This song in particular is definitely an essential part of my childhood’s soundtrack, as I have it on an old tape I recorded off the radio in early 1993. I swear I listened to that thing countless times throughout the 90’s, and amazingly, it still plays well today! Especially for a tape that’s now over 35 years old.

  5. Patty Loveless is so often celebrated today as a staunch traditionalist, but so much of her music had a contemporary kick to it as well when she was at her commercial peak.

    “Chains” was when I really took notice of her as an artist. I love the song.

  6. This was one of the songs that got me hooked on Country in 1990. That, and getting CMT at the same time. Loving this feature. It brings me back to some of the BEST times, musically, EVER!. Then Rascal Flats and the Bros spoiled it all.

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