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No. 83: The Pretenders, ‘Brass In Pocket’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

The Pretenders
Sire Records

By the time Chrissie Hynde and her Pretenders released their seminal hit (and amazingly obvious Top 100 Classic Rock Songs inductee) ‘Brass In Pocket,’ the band was already on its third lineup… and that’s before they had any chart success. Their third single, ‘Brass’ was their first U.K. No. 1 and reached No. 14 on the Billboard charts.

The brass in the song’s titular pocket is meant to mean “money,” picked up from a bit of Yorkshire slang Hynde heard from a member of another band. Hynde’s vocal imbues that brass with a far greater meaning — it’s an emblem of confidence, a symbol of the certainty the singer feels when she considers what she wants and how she will achieve it.

Think about the role of women as band leaders and songwriters in rock up to the arrival of the Pretenders. There were many great female singers, and many great female songwriters, but precious few women who could lead a band and write songs with the same presence as a Dylan or Jagger.

Chrissie Hynde almost single-handedly changed all of that. While her contemporary Debbie Harry was putting her own spin on the idea of a female lead singer, Hynde instead proved that a central role in rock’s power and impact — the bandleader, the frontperson, the boss — could just as easily be filled by a woman as a man.

‘Brass In Pocket’ also stands as one of many great singles to emerge from a musical era awkwardly known as “new wave.” It’s awkward because the term inevitably conjures images of synth-drenched pop and Flock of Seagulls haircuts. More than anything else, this new wave was about a level of artistic integrity that vanished in the rock indulgences of the 1970s and was made possible by the deck-clearing ferocity of punk. New wave wasn’t about a sound; it was about a philosophy, and for the Pretenders — just as for XTC, Elvis Costello, Blondie, and countless others — that philosophy meant strong songwriting anchored by pure musicianship.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what ‘Brass In Pocket’ is really about. It’s a damn great song.

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Watch the Pretenders Perform ‘Brass In Pocket’

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