The Power of Crackpot #1: "Back On the Chain Gang"
My favorite Pretenders song is "Back on the Chain Gang." Indeed it's one of my favorite songs, period. It was written as a tribute to original Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a drug overdose in 1982, and its striding, propulsive bass line and chiming, majestic guitar refrains create an atmosphere of noble defiance.
The song attributes the OD to the machinations of a world too corrupt for her friend to survive in. In other words, he is portrayed as a martyr and a victim, which we know is a crackpot notion, but I'll be damned if the song isn't beautiful and inspirational anyway. Or maybe it's beautiful and inspirational because it's crackpot. A more measured response wouldn't move us, would it? I'm not sure who "they" are, but they won't defeat us. And I mean that. Here's the bridge:
The powers that beThis is what I call a "repeat button song." It might be crackpot, but it makes me want to get back on the chain gang and keep on fighting that good fight: to always stand up for beauty and soul and generous hearts everywhere.
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.
1. Chrissie Hynde is a total badass with a completely original and recognizable vocal style.
2. Young readers will want to know that the "ooh ... ah" background vocal part references Sam Cooke's immortal hit "Chain Gang" (1960).