Learning to Crawl was the rock band’s third album, and their first with a new lineup, after two of the original four members died of drug overdoses. Lead singer/songwriter Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers eventually enlisted guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster to flesh out the band for the album’s recording. But first, another duo recorded the single ‘Back On the Chain Gang’ backed with ‘My City Was Gone,’ two songs that would number among the band’s most popular.
I’ve never paid much attention to The Pretenders, in part because my wife has a visceral dislike of lead singer Chrissie Hynde (to clarify, it’s Hynde’s voice she dislikes, not the woman herself). I’m not sure why that matters all that much, because my wife dislikes many of the musical acts I enjoy, but it’s one reason I’ve neglected to explore the band’s music.
Another reason is my own dislike for the song ‘I’ll Stand by You,’ one of those syrupy power ballads either speaks to you on a deep emotional level or makes you want to wretch.
When ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ came on the radio the other day, my wife said “I hate The Pretenders but I love this song.”
I found that a funny and bizarre statement but it made perfect sense coming from her. She forms strong opinions quickly and a little contradiction like that is hardly enough to derail her. I’m a lot more tortured when it comes to matters of taste, so if I found myself loving a song by a group I hated, I’d start to question whether I could really hate the group, or really love the song. Maybe I’m the bizarre one.
Then I started wondering if there are any songs about which I could say the same thing.