Listen to this track by Anglo-American pop chart disturbers The Pretenders. It’s “2000 Miles”, a B-Side that supported the U.S “Middle of the Road” single. Both songs appeared on 1984’s Learning To Crawl, their third album and one that was a return to the public eye after the deaths of two original members.
In the UK, “2000 Miles” was released as an A-side, scoring a #15 on the British charts. This song has since been particularly high profile at this time of year, just because of the references to Christmas time. The song therefore served as a Christmas single of sorts, released in December 1983. Since its release, it’s been included on Christmas compilation albums, covered by other artists, and featured at many an office Christmas party, too.
But, where the song may touch upon that yuletide vibe, what it’s really about is missing someone, and feeling the pain of separation. On one level, this could be a very universal tune. After all, being separated from loved ones over the Christmas holidays is a pretty common experience. That’s what pop music does. It connects with common experience, and lets the listener fill in the details for themselves.
But, with this song, there is something personal to be found in there as well. Read more
Here’s a clip of Akron Ohio’s Chrissie Hynde, along with drummer Martin Chambers and a new line up of the Pretenders with their most recent cut “Boots of Chinese Plastic” as taken from this year’s Break Up the Concrete.
It’s clear that Hynde is drawing from a deep well here, the same one possibly that Bob Dylan has been drawing from lately, given this song’s quick-fire lyrical bursts and it’s hyper-rockabilly flavour. The song title is a variant on Dylan’s early track “Boots of Spanish Leather”. Yet, Hynde is clearly conscious of the comparison with this song; it’s a parody, albeit an affectionate one. And with a band of younger players behind her, there is something of the original fire on this track that graced the Pretenders’ celebrated first album made with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon.
For many years, Chrissie Hynde was an American ex-pat, making her living in London first as a journalist for the NME, and later of course in forming this band at the end of the 1970s. More recently, she returned to her native Akron. And so returns to roots here are on several levels.
Because the stripped down country-inflected rockabilly she employs here is decidedly American, not a million miles away from what Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy have done in terms of feel. And this, and for many other reasons, seems to make for something of a return to form too, and a long wait since 2002’s Loose Screw.
Welcome home, Chrissie!
For more music from the newest album Break Up the Concrete, check out the Pretenders MySpace Page.
One way I measure the effectiveness of a rock song is by its ability to inspire me to jump around and want to break stuff. There are a few records that inspire this, but one is the Pretender’s hit ‘Middle of the Road’ off of their third album Learning to Crawl. That album was a comeback of sorts, given that two of the members of the original line-up – guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon – died in a very short span before the commencement of a third album.
Guitarist Robbie Macintosh was brought on board, and fueled by the drive to move forward with the band as a tribute to Scott in particular, leader Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers made this very solid album, featuring ‘Road’, along with massive radio hit ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ which was in part about coping with the loss of her former band mates.
In any case, here’s a clip of the band in 2003, performing the song which remains to be one of my favourites:
Hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. Click the magnifying glass icon to enlarge the window.