"Back on the Chain Gang" is a song by the English-American band The Pretenders, released as single by Sire Records in November 1982. The song was also released on The King of Comedy soundtrack album in March 1983 and later included on The Pretenders' next album Learning to Crawl in January 1984. It reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 (becoming the band's only Top 5 hit in the U.S.), number four on Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number 17 in the UK Singles Chart.
The song was originally going to be about Ray Davies, leader of the band The Kinks. Lead vocalist/guitarist Chrissie 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." In 1995, the American singer Selena recorded a Spanish-language song with the same melody called "Fotos y recuerdos".
In an interview with Guitar Player in 1992, George Harrison claimed that "Back On The Chain Gang" utilizes a chord that he had "invented" and incorporated into the Beatles song "I Want to Tell You": "That's an E7 with an F on top and I'm really proud of that because I invented that chord… There's only been one other song, to my knowledge, where somebody copped that chord - Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders on 'Back On The Chain Gang'."
|U.S. BillboardMainstream Rock Tracks||4|
|U.S. BillboardHot 100||5|
|UK Singles Chart||17|