Music Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

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

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Good morning (in my part of the woods, New Jersey, USA), good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are – welcome to another Sunday Six! If you’re a frequent traveler, you know what’s about to unfold. For first-time visitors, I hope you stick around to join me and others on a new excursion into the great world of music, six tunes at a time. Off we go!

Nat Adderley/Work Song

Today, our trip starts in 1960 with music by jazz musician Nat Adderley, who became best known for playing the cornet, a brass instrument similar to a trumpet. After starting to play the trumpet in 1946 as a 15-year-old, Adderley switched to the cornet in 1950. Together with his older brother, saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, he co-founded Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1956 and frequently worked with the group until its dissolution in 1975, following the death of his older brother. In addition to playing bebop, Cannonball Adderley Quintet became known for starting the soul jazz genre. Adderly also worked with Kenny Clarke, Wes Montgomery, Walter Booker, Ron Carter and Sonny Fortune, among others. Nat Adderley passed away in January 2000 at the age of 68 due to complications from diabetes. Work Song, composed by Adderley and Oscar Brown Jr., is the title track of an album Adderley released in 1960. The tune features Adderley (cornet), Montgomery (guitar), Bobby Timmons (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums). Groovy stuff but not too aggressive – perfect music to start a Sunday morning!

John Hiatt/Shredding the Document

The more I listen to John Hiatt, the more I dig the man! While Hiatt has written songs for 50-plus years and recorded close to 30 albums, his tunes oftentimes became hits for other artists. Perhaps the most prominent examples are Thing Called Love and Have a Little Faith in Me, which became hits for Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker, respectively. Hiatt’s songs have also been covered by an impressive and diverse array of other artists like B.B. KingBob DylanBuddy GuyEmmylou HarrisJoan BaezLinda RonstadtThe Nitty Gritty Dirt Band  and Willy DeVille. Shredding the Document, penned by Hiatt, is from Walk On, an album released in October 1995. Peaking at no. 48 on the Billboard 200, it ranks among his better performing records on the U.S. mainstream chart. Walk On did best in Belgium and Sweden, where it climbed to no. 10 and no. 13, respectively.

James Brown/The Boss

Next, let’s get funky with James Brown and The Boss, a tune from Black Cesar, the soundtrack album for the blaxploitation crime drama motion picture of the same name. The Boss was co-written by Brown, Charles Bobbit and Fred Wesley. The album and the film were released in February 1973. While reactions were mixed among music critics, Black Cesar peaked at no. 31 on the Billboard 200, making it Brown’s second highest-charting album on the U.S. pop chart in the ’70s. I love the guitar work on this tune. The lush horns give it a true ’70s feel.

Yes/Owner of a Lonely Heart

On to the ’80s and the biggest hit by English progressive rock band Yes: Owner of a Lonely Heart. After the group had disbanded in 1981, original co-founder Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) who had joined Yes in 1972 formed Cinema in January 1982, together with guitarist and singer-songwriter Trevor Rabin and original Yes keyboarder Tony Kaye. In November 1982, they started work on an album with a more pop-oriented sound. During the mixing stage, former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson joined Cinema, which subsequently became the new line-up of Yes. The album was titled 90125, after its catalog number of record label Atco. Owner of a Lonely Heart, written primarily by Rabin with contributions from Anderson, Squire and producer Trevor Horn, topped the Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere, it climbed to no. 2 in The Netherlands, no. 14 in Australia, no. 28 in the UK and no. 30 in Ireland. 90125 became the group’s best-selling album, reaching 3x Platinum certification in the U.S., 2X Platinum in Canada, Platinum in Germany and Gold in the UK and France. Today, Yes (featuring longtime guitarist Steve Howe) are embarking on a U.S. tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their fifth studio album Close to the Edge. While Owner of a Lonely Heart has a commercial ’80s sound, it’s an awesome tune!

Pretenders/Alone

I trust the English-American rock band The Pretenders (known as Pretenders since 1990) don’t need much of an introduction. The group was formed in March 1978 and originally included Chrissie Hynde (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), Pete Farndon (bass, backing vocals) and Martin Chambers (drums, backing vocals, percussion). By the time the 10th album Alone was released in October 2016, Hynde was literally alone as the only remaining member. She relied on session musicians to record the album, essentially mirroring the same approach Hynde took once before, in 1990 for Packed!, the fifth album that appeared under the band’s name – the first released as Pretenders. Today, the group has a full line-up, with Chambers back in the fold. Here’s the defiant title track of Alone – I love Hynde’s feisty lyrics, which are a perfect match for the raw sound!

The Fuzztones/Barking Up the Wrong Tree

And once again we’ve arrived at our final destination, which takes us back to the present. This past April, American garage rock revival band The Fuzztones put out their latest studio release. Encore is “a collection of unreleased tracks packaged together as a way to say thank you to the faithful who have followed and supported the band through the years,” Tinnitist reported at the time. The Fuzztones were originally formed by singer and guitarist Rudi Protrudi in New York in 1982, who remains the only original member. Since their 1985 debut Lysergic Emanations, they have released eight additional albums including Encore. Barking Up The Wrong Tree, written by Protrudi, is the only original song. The other six tracks are covers of tunes by Rare Earth, The Wildwood and others. Fuzzy garage rock – I love that sound!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete with a Spotify playlist of the above songs. Hope there’s something you dig.

Sources: Wikipedia; Yes website; Tinnitist; YouTube; Spotify