KT Tunstall's Five Essential Pretenders Songs
KT Tunstall (photo courtesy of the artist)
Scottish singer and songwriter KT Tunstall was just four years old when the Pretenders released their eponymous debut album, but the Brit Award winner (and Mercury Prize and Grammy nominee) has long admired Chrissie Hynde's tough and tender vocals. In fact, Tunstall, who is readying her fifth album for release later this year, covered "2000 Miles" on her own holiday EP back in 2007 and lists Hynde as one of her foremost influences on her Facebook page.
Despite her hectic tour and album prep schedule, Tunstall, who has visited WFUV many times in the past, happily found the time to round up her Five Essential Pretenders Songs and discuss why some of the band's significant singles were so meaningful to her.
KT Tunstall's Five Essential Pretenders Songs:
"Stop Your Sobbing"
This song is a good place to start as it's the first single the band ever released. I always like it when different artists work together, imagining what the atmosphere was like at the time, how excited they were about it, or if they were just mates making music together. Nick Lowe produced the song which is, of course, written by Ray Davies of the Kinks.
Like a lot of Pretenders songs, it nods to retro sounds and vibes, but is still so rock and roll—Chrissie Hynde sounds so young on the track, and you can really hear how her vocal style and tone deepens and changes over time. It's particularly cool when this song is flipped around to be sung by a woman: there's so much sass. I also love that this song resulted in a new human being existing in the world—Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies's kid, Natalie Ray.
I'm so into the full-on 1950s throwback sound in this song— the Link Wray and The Byrds guitar sound, amazing vocal harmonies in the verses, and whimsical chords. Then the B section slams in and brings you right into 1979. I love that you can hear in this song that Chrissie never feels the need to push her vocals; other singers might have tried to ramp it up more, but she stays where she is, keeping it emotional and honest.
I am highly allergic to most Christmas music, and this song has always been a salve to me during those difficult months of audio assault! It's such a beautiful vocal, maybe my favorite of hers. The Pretenders are so good at mixing a cool, garage band sound and energy with really emotional melody and chord changes. They basically make you want to wear skin-tight jeans, lurk moodily in corners, party, and cry like you're 15, all at the same time. It also says a lot about the calibre of a band when this is a B-side.
"Back On The Chain Gang"
The story of this song is so crazy. It was recorded a few weeks after James Honeyman-Scott, the original guitarist, had died [of drug-related causes] at 25. Chrissie, who was pregnant at the time, wrote the the song in his memory. They had also fired Pete Harndon, the bass player, due to drug addiction, and had only two original players left, but it was still this amazingly uplifting song and went on to become their biggest US single. If you didn't know about the tragedy behind it, I'm not sure you would guess. Sonically, the song managed to override the sadness.
"Brass In Pocket"
I know Chrissie Hynde would kick me for choosing this, as she didn't really like the song, but it's such a cool and fun song about sexual prowess and confidence. I love the line, "Gonna use my sidestep." It makes me think of the games you play when you first meet someone hot and the chemistry between you has you strutting around. I also read that it was the first number one of the '80s, which is a pretty great accolade.