Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang

The “picture of you” Chrissie Hynde sings about is a picture she found in her wallet of Ray Davies, lead singer and songwriter of The Kinks. Hynde and Davies were a couple and had a daughter together. This song started off about him, but the meaning changed when Honeyman-Scott died.

The song turned into a tribute to James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist who died of a drug overdose in 1982 at age 26. Scott’s death was followed by bass player Pete Farndon’s 10 months later. Farndon had been kicked out of the band because of his drug problems and died of an overdose.

The song peaked at #5 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, #14 in New Zealand, and #17 in the UK in 1983.


From Songfacts

This is a very emotional song. Chrissie Hynde would sometimes tear up when performing it.

A Chain Gang is a group of convicts who are chained together while they do manual labor, usually outside.

This was the first Pretenders single featuring Billy Bremner and Tony Butler, who replaced Farndon and Honeyman-Scott.

This was released as a single almost two years before the album came out.

Back On The Chain Gang

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

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang”

    1. I like that one also… Oh Dave… My work has picked up…so I decided to post only one a day Mon-Thursday and pick back up on muliple posts on Fri-Sun…thanks for reading Dave.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am totally by myself in my office and department. The lone IT person here. That makes it nice in some ways.


  1. Great tune never knew the true meaning of the tune. This one was played a ton on MuchMusic. I’m still amazed at how half her band died on her months apart and she carried on.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll have to listen, maybe I’ll know it. Never really got on with their music mostly because of the voice so I kind of avoided contact! Did like that last one you posted though.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That confused me as well…I found interviews where it is a tribute…so it’s mixed I guess. It’s about Ray and the band mates.

      Liked by 1 person

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