The Pretenders, “Back On The Chain Gang”

In the summer of 1982, The Pretenders, just two albums into an already-impressive career, were crumbling. In June, the band fired bassist Pete Farndon because of his drug use. Just days after that incident, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died of a drug overdose. (Farndon would succumb to a drug-related death the next year.) The band was down to two members, lead singer and songwriter Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers. But Hynde had begun writing a song which seemed to hold of lot of promise. From extreme adversity, “Back In The Chain Gang,” the song which would become the band’s biggest hit single, was born. Hynde told interviewer Paul Zollo that she altered the content of the song, which was originally inspired by her relationship with Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies, in the wake of the sudden tragedy that befell the band. “That was a song I was writing and I had shown Jimmy Scott some of the chords, and I was working on this song which he liked, and then he died, and it turned into more of a tribute to him,” Hynde explained. But there needed to be a band to play the thing, so Hynde and Chambers enlisted Billy…

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