Pretenders - Back on the Chain Gang

Pretenders - Back on the Chain Gang

‘Back on the Chain Gang’ is a song written by American-British musician Chrissie Hynde, originally recorded by her band the Pretenders and released as a single in September 1982. The song was included on The King of Comedy soundtrack album in March 1983 and was later included on the Pretenders' third album, Learning to Crawl, in January 1984. ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching No. 5 to become the band's biggest hit in the United States. It also peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Rock Top Tracks chart and No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. The single's B-side, ‘My City Was Gone’, later became a substantial hit in the U.S., with lyrics about Ohio.

‘Back on the Chain Gang’ was recorded after James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist, died of a drug overdose at the age of 25 on June 16, 1982. This came two days after the Pretenders fired their longtime bassist Pete Farndon because of his drug problem. On July 20, 1982, the band began recording the song at AIR Studios in London. At that time, only two Pretenders were left: singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde, who was about three months pregnant with her first daughter, and drummer Martin Chambers. Chambers commented on the song in a 1983 interview, "We had rehearsed it a lot with Jimmy, and thought it would make a pretty good single".

Pretenders Band Pic

Hynde wrote ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ as a memorial to Honeyman-Scott. The "picture of you" Chrissie Hynde sings about is a picture she found in her wallet of Ray Davies, leader of the band The Kinks. Hynde and Davies were a couple and had a daughter together. This song started off about him, but the meaning changed when Honeyman-Scott died. The song was recorded when she was about three months pregnant with their daughter. Their on-and-off relationship ended half a year later. In a 2009 interview series In the Studio with Redbeard, Hynde said: "In the early days we were full of enthusiasm and we wanted the same things … and everything was going well … it seemed too easy … I was with someone I was in love with … then I got pregnant."

‘Back on the Chain Gang’ took on deeper meaning for Hynde, with the death of her friend and the urgent pressure to find new band members to complete the upcoming album. She stated that "I dedicated the song to James Honeyman-Scott in some ways … Jimmy was a big admirer of Billy Bremner … when we had to record "Back on the Chain Gang"—well, I knew that Billy and Robbie [McIntosh] were who Jimmy would have wanted to get in, so I didn't need to think about it."

T-Shirt Sale

Label –  Sire
Songwriter – Chrissie Hynde
Producer – Chris Thomas


[Verse 1]
I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
What hijacked my world that night
To a place in the past we've been cast out of? oh oh oh oh
Now we're back in the fight
We're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang
[Verse 2]
A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh
The phone, the TV, and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell, oh oh oh oh
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang
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
[Verse 3]
I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part, oh oh oh oh
In the wretched life of a lonely heart
Now we're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang
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