“Back on the Chain Gang” is a single by The Pretenders released in November 1982. The song was also released on The King of Comedy soundtrack album (March 1983) and later included on The Pretenders’ next album Learning to Crawl in January 1984. It reached number five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (the band’s highest charting U.S. single), number four on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart and number 17 in the United Kingdom.
The song was originally going to be about Ray Davies, leader of the band The Kinks. Hynde and Davies were a couple and had a daughter together, but the meaning of the song changed after James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist, died of a drug overdose at the age of 25 in 1982.
The memorable chain-gang chant heard during the chorus of the song echoes a similar chant on Sam Cooke’s song “Chain Gang.”
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