The Pretenders - "Back On The Chain Gang"
from the album Learning To Crawl (1983)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #5 (three weeks)
Weeks in the top-40: 14
Today's Song of the Day marked the resurrection of the Pretenders, the classic pop-punk outfit started by expatriate music writer Chrissie Hynde from Ohio, bassist Pete Farndon, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, and drummer Martin Chambers. Their self-titled debut album, still critically acclaimed to this day, gave them their first minor hit in the US & the UK with a cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing". Their second followup single, "Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)", went to #1 in Britain and made the pop top-20 in America in 1979.
The group's next album in 1980, Pretenders II, placed "Message Of Love" in the top-5 of the nascent US rock radio chart, but it wasn't quite as successful promotionally as their first. Meanwhile, Fardon and Honeyman-Scott's drug abuse went out of control, causing Farndon to be booted from the band in 1982, and Honeyman-Scott overdosing two days later.
Farndon himself would be dead as well from an overdose in April of 1983, just as Chrissie was starting to come back with a "new" Pretenders with Chambers along with studio help to made the single "Back On The Chain Gang", a jangly pop-rock confection written by Hynde that was sweet but still gritty. The track was produced by Chris Thomas, who helped Hynde throughout her career.
"Back On The Chain Gang" became their biggest hit as yet, making the top-5 on the US pop and rock charts, though a little more modestly in England, where it peaked at #17. But the song brought a level of success and exposure that the Pretenders would be able to parlay into a more successful continuation of their career (after the release of the single, Chrissie recruited Robbie McIntosh and Malcolm Foster to the band). The resulting album, Learning To Crawl, made the top-5 on the US album charts, their biggest ever.
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In 1995, singer Selena topped the Latin Songs chart with a Spanish-language interpolation of the song, "Fotos Y Recuerdos"...
...and in 2004, Brazilian singer Danni Carlos did a cover of the song...
and here's Chrissie and the Boys live on TV in the 80s...
Up tomorrow: One Gambler does another Gamblin' Man's song, with a Modern Girl in tow.