“Back On the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders

Song of the Day

September 12, 2017

Written by Chrissie Hynde
Produced by Chris Thomas
Recorded at AIR Studios, London, 2002
Released as a single in September 1982 and on the album Learning to Crawl in January 1984

“Back on the Chain Gang” marked a bittersweet comeback for The Pretenders. The song was written by vocalist Chrissie Hynde in 1982 after former Pretenders guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, died of a drug overdose at age 25 and it features guest lead guitarist Billy Bremner providing the signature riffs.

Chrissie Hynde

Despite the unfortunate incident that inspired the song, Hynde’s melodic vocals are catchy and melodic, which works to make the song at once melancholy an uplifting. The group’s biggest U.S. hit, “Back on the Chain Gang” also pays homage to Sam Cooke’s 1962 hit “Chain Gang” with workman grunts and hammering sound in the background of the choruses.

Watch to “Back On the Chain Gang”:

Song Lyrics

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

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

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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