BOOK’S JOOK: Pretenders’ “Message Of Love”

  • Book’s Jook is a column dedicated to placing a record within my dream jukebox, if I were to have one. The Seeburg jukebox shown below is similar to the one I have wanted since I was a kid. To read more on why I started this column, click here.

     photo PretendersMOL_45b_zpsb6196cb4.jpg
    When MTV premiered in Honolulu, with visuals but no sound, on December 24, 1981, I did not know how much this cable network would change not only my life, but tons of other people’s lives in general. I’m sure I had seen records by The Pretenders at stores but never heard them on the radio, or at least they were not a primary focus of pop radio back then. They weren’t, they may have been on the rock stations on the FM but definitely not AM. When videos such as “Brass In Pocket”, “Talk Of The Town”, and “Kid” started getting a lot of MTV airplay, that paved the way for them to gain a much bigger American audience, not bad for a band with a vocalist with Ohio roots.

    By the time The Pretenders hopped into my vision, the group had already released two albums (Pretenders and Pretenders II) and an EP (Extended Play) but again, I didn’t notice them because I wasn’t listening to FM stations. When I became aware of who they were and moved to FM radio, then I realized how popular they were with DJ’s and listeners. While I liked the group’s poppier songs, I always find an attraction to the harder stuff, or at least I felt “Tattooed Love Boys” was the harder of their material, with James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar work ripping things apart. Pete Farndon’s bass work, and Martin Chambers’ insisting drums. Eventually I came across “Message Of Love”, which sounded a bit aggressive as well compared to “Brass In Pocket” and “Kid”. It’s hard to say even today what made me like this song at first: Chambers’ drum pattern, Honeyman-Scott’s strutting guitar, or when Farndom comes in to punch himself into the song. Yet what I also loved was Chrissie Hynde’s singing and lyrics. The song may have been about love, something I wasn’t concerned about yet, age 11, but who didn’t want to hear a love song? Maybe it was the lyric “look ’round the room/everybody stand up”, as if it was some calling to people at a concert hall, bringing in people and wanting to keep them revved up. Whatever the reason was, I fell in love with the song as deeply as the song’s romantic lyrics and I became a fan of theirs.

    (Odd Pretenders factoid: I was familiar with Grace Jones’ “Private Life” when I entered the Froggy’s store in Honolulu when the store played The Pretenders doing the same song. I knew it was Hynde but I thought “wow, this is a horrible verson, not realizing at the time that The Pretenders wrote and performed it first. I hear it differently now but it showed the power of what Jones could do with powerful material, a bit like her rendition of Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug”.)

    While “Message Of Love” and “Tattooed Love Boys” was not released back to back in any country, if I had a dream jukebox, I definitely would make a custom pressing of it and ave both of those songs on one 45. They are my favorite Pretenders songs and deserve to be with one another so for not, I’ll place “Message Of Love” within and make the jukebox happy.

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