Monday Melody: Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders)


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.

3 thoughts on “Monday Melody: Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders)

  1. This brings up a lot of memories. MTV days!
    I remember hearing them for the first time…Brass in Pocket, and it was love at first song.
    Did you know all of that about them when the song came out?
    At that age I was so oblivious to shit. I didn’t learn the background. I didn’t know names of band members aside from the front “men” and really famous musicians. And I certainly didn’t know the story behind this song.

    I looked up the lyrics so I could see what words I didn’t know. That was another issue. I didn’t always understand all the lyrics, which would hinder any sort of interpretation of mine.

    Reading it now really makes me think and I have questions about exactly what she means by some of them.

    This verse in particular caught my attention:
    The powers that be
    That force us to live like we do
    Bring me to my knees
    When I see what they’ve done to you
    But I’ll die as I stand here today
    Knowing that deep in my heart
    They’ll fall to ruin one day
    For making us part

    Good song, good band, great singer…thanks for the flashback. 🙂


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