The Pretenders were one of the most successful new wave groups of the early to mid 1980s, and “Back on the Chain Gang” was and still is my favorite Pretenders song. Chrissie Hynde, the band’s lead singer, wrote it after the drug overdose death of her husband, James Honeyman-Scott. She was three months pregnant with their daughter at the time.
To me, both this song and video shows a maturity and depth that wasn’t present in their earlier work, without sacrificing their catchy power-pop sound. Although “Back on the Chain Gang” could be thought of as depressing, it always lifted my spirits and made me want to get up and dance. It’s also a song that, to me, defines the 1980’s, but also still sounds fresh and relevant even in 2016.