Happy humpday and welcome to another installment of my weekly feature that takes a deeper dive on a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all so far. Today’s pick is Don’t Get Me Wrong by Pretenders who at the time they released the song were still known as The Pretenders.
Penned by co-founder, lead vocalist and guitarist Chrissie Hynde, who has been the band’s primary songwriter since their formation in 1978, Don’t Get Me Wrong first appeared in August 1986 as the lead single of the group’s fourth studio album Get Close, which came out in October of the same year.
In the U.S., Don’t Get Me Wrong peaked at no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the band’s last big hit on the pop chart. It also topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Elsewhere, the single climbed to no. 8 in Australia, no. 10 in the UK, no. 11 in New Zealand, no. 14 in Canada and no. 25 in The Netherlands.
The album Get Close also did pretty well, reaching no. 6 in the UK and Sweden, no. 9 in Canada, no. 12 in Australia, no. 13 in New Zealand, no. 18 in Norway, no. 22 in The Netherlands and Switzerland, and no. 25 in the U.S. It reached Gold certification in the U.S. (0.5 million certified sold units) and the UK (100,000 certified sold units). This places Get Close within the group’s five most successful albums.
By the time Don’t Get Me Wrong and Get Close were released, Chrissie Hynde was the band’s only remaining original member. Co-founder James Honeyman-Scott (guitar) was found dead of cocaine-induced heart failure in June 1982, two days after original bassist Pete Farndon had been dismissed from The Pretenders. Farndon drowned in his bath in April 1983 after he had lost consciousness due to a heroin overdose. Honeyman-Scott and Farndon only were 25 and 30 years, respectively. Drummer Martin Chambers, whose enthusiasm was significantly impacted by the two deaths, left during the Get Close recording sessions. He rejoined the group in 1994.
In addition to Hynde (vocals, rhythm guitar), The Pretenders at the time of Get Close also included Robbie McIntosh (guitars), T.M. Stevens (bass) and Blair Cunningham (drums, percussion). Hynde, the band’s only constant member throughout its 40-plus-year existence, and Chambers remain part of the current line-up, which also features James Walbourne (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Eric Heywood (pedal steel guitar, backing vocals) and Nick Wilkinson (bass, backing vocals).
Following are additional insights from Songfacts:
Written by Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde, this song describes the complexities of love from a female perspective – she’s inconsistent, but wonderful, and wants her lover to know that he shouldn’t get too worked up, because she could change quickly. Hynde put a lot of weather references in the lyrics, implying that her mood reacts in a similar fashion...
…Chrissie Hynde wrote the song for tennis star John McEnroe, who was an aspiring musician. “He loved playing guitar,” she told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show. “He’s a big music person, which is how I knew him, because he used to come to our shows and he was friendly with the band and stuff.”
Hynde added that she found inspiration while aboard a plane. “I had in mind that I was going to write this song for him to do. Years later, when I was on British [Airways], I heard an announcement – because I did write some of that song on a plane – and I think I nicked one of the top-line melodies from the overhead announcement: ‘Dong-dong-dong-dong … Welcome to British Airways.'”
The music video is based on the spy series The Avengers, which aired in Britain in the ’60s and was an influence on the Austin Powers movies. Most of the video is actual footage from the series, which starred Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, interspersed with shots of Chrissie Hynde as Rigg’s character. With their videos, the Pretenders made no attempts to appeal to the core MTV demographic of American teenage boys.
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube