“Back On The Chain Gang” was the first thing I ever heard from Chrissie Hynde and her crew, and two things I immediately noticed were the uniqueness of her voice and the ear candy that this song possesses.
Chrissie operates vocally in pretty much two ways: the snarl and the emotional quiver. “Chain Gang” features the latter, probably because the song is about a Pretenders band member (James Honeyman-Scott) who passed away. From a drug overdose. At 26. 26! That’s mind-boggling. And he wasn’t the last band member to OD, either. What a star-crossed band.
As for the ear candy, there’s that memorable, bluesy guitar part. There’s the grunting in the chorus, which ties “Back On The Chain Gang” to Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” from twenty-some years earlier. It was the perfect introduction to The Pretenders for me, and made Chrissie stand out during a particularly golden period for female rockers.
Also-here’s another one of the great A/B side combos in musical history. We’ll get to the flip a bit (well, a lot) later.