Song of the Day: The Pretenders, “Talk of the Town” (1980)

Chrissie Hynde is one of my greatest heroes. I adore her songwriting, I love her attitude, I love the way she carried herself, her unique ideas about the world… “Talk of the Town” is the way my fascination with her started for me. I was already familiar with this song but it was only about two years ago that I finally realized it was nothing short of a masterpiece. I adore this song so much that it is very easy for me to get carried away while talking about it but I will try to keep focused and my thoughts in check.

Firstly, the song was partly inspired by a fan Hynde met during the first tour of The Pretenders, who used to stand outside during all their soundchecks. She was profoundly touched by his devotion and wrote the song for him, and other fans like him. I adore this type of Kierkegaardian relationship between people and the fact that she too is sensitive to it (here and in other songs), whether she knows it or not, is part of the reason why I feel her songs so close to me.

What is extraordinary about this song is the non-linear way in which it can be read. Here, she sings the part of a woman who hopes to rekindle with an old flame. Whether they were actually together or not seems a grey area that allows one’s mind to wonder. But her interpretation is so wonderful that it almost reveals deeper to each one of the song’s lines. For example, the part where she sings “You’ve changed your place in this world,” and the way she emphasized the first part of the line, makes it seem like she is saying, “How dare you have changed your place in this world?”

I must end this before it gets out of hand. My fascination for “Talk of the Town” is absurd. But an honorable mention should go to the simple beauty of the music itself. The driving bassline, that little memorable guitar riff, the start-stop technique… It all falls into place, it’s all so simple and so real…

“It’s not my place to know what you feel. I’d like to know but why should I? Who were you then, who are you now? Common laborer by night, by day highbrow.”

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