There’s nary a wasted line on The Pretenders‘ Kid. Lean and low-fat yet packed full of melody and mood, it still sounds out-of-the-box fresh 41 years later. Riding along on a breeze of glistening, chiming, ringing guitars, it’s a heady amalgam of countryish punky jangle and street-sussed Chrissie Hynde sass. Listen as you read, won’t you?
The Pretenders – Kid
It’s the guitar riff that makes it, of course, James Honeyman-Scott taking his guitar for a twangin’ walk up and down the frets; bending, sliding, hammering on and pulling off one of new wave’s greatest guitar lines.
He takes a back seat during the singing, happy to answer Chrissie’s softly crooned, conversational vocals with lovely thick tremeloed chords between the gaps. First chance he gets though, and he’s back to a reprise of that riff. After the second verse there’s a crashing, tumbling middle eight before the whole band sets him up for the solo. And what a solo!
In just a dozen seconds, Honeyman-Scott fires off the perfect musical interlude. He’s further up the frets now, not too high – certainly not as high as those other uncultured guitar stranglers and string manglers who aim for the 15th fret and leap off from there – and his guitar rattles and rolls with a Mr Sheen-like Byrdsian jangle, all slurry pull-offs and bending 3rd strings, before finishing off on an audacious and perfectly executed pinging harmonic.
With little time to catch breath we’re back into the breakdown where the band drops out save for some thumping toms and accompanying bass. A high in the mix jud-jud-juddering Townshendesque acoustic chord signifies we’re on the run home. The jangle is free-form now, the band loosening their collective collar and undoing the top button of their super-tight jeans, relaxing into the multi-layered silvery mercurial brew they’ve created out of thin air as Chrissie reprises the chorus and Honeyman-Scott plays another sublime variation of the solo.
The engineer or producer or whoever it was who thought it was a good idea to fade him/them out needs their stoopid head examined, they really do. Three minutes of post-punk new wave pop joy undoubtedly deserved to stretch its skinny legs for a good half minute more, even if that meant taking it, like Chrissie’s fringe, to just about beyond the considered optimum length. I doubt anyone would’ve complained.
Flashy without being arrogant, the guitar playing on Kid is something that, given equal measures of practice and patience, any dedicated guitar player could work their way up to replicating. Just ask that other king o’ the six string, Johnny Marr…
14 thoughts on “Lookin’ At You, Kid”
The Johnny Marr monologue is the best. And that reminds me, trying to find a connection to the bigger picture. Pretenders + the Kinks = Stop Your Sobbing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTVqZNObw5o. I never knew the Kinks wrote this originally until YEARs after I saw the music video and listened to it on the radio. Gotta say this is in the category of covers that is equal to but unique from it’s original.
“even if that meant taking it, like Chrissie’s fringe, to just about beyond the considered optimum length”–brilliant!
Great bit of writing Craig. Always been my second favourite Pretenders song behind Stop Your Sobbing.
Check out “The Buzz” from the new Pretenders album ‘Hate for Sale.’ If this was another band’s song you would scream “robbery!” Since it’s Chrissie, you bob your head, smile and reminisce. Terrific post, Craig.
Thanks Brian. Still to hear the new album but I will now.
Thanks Drew. Add Brass In Pocket and you’ve got yourself an ever-changing top 3.
Thanks Tanya! I was quite pleased with myself when that rattled out of my fingers.
Great cover of a great song. That Johnny story is brilliant. Any excuse to share it.
(Cue Grandad) ….. “During the war”.
Back when we were all ‘record shop Managers’, there was always that period, every year around about October when the Best Of’s would start trickling in and bets would start to rise as to who would be in the Top 5 sellers for that year. There was always that comment along the lines of …….. “I’d forgotten how many great singles/hits they’d released” (see Squeeze). The Pretenders Greatest Hits/Singles/Best Of, whatever it was called – essential. Superb, Mista Callsta, as always. Keep On Keepin’ On.
I’ve just checked out ‘The Buzz’. Spot on, I was thinking ‘hang on , that’s …… ‘ and then realised she’s sampled her own song. Good shout.
Spot on, grandad.
Chrissie and the boys blew the roof off The Pavilion at Ayr in the Summer of ’79. The set kicked off with “Stop All Your Sobbing” and then they burst straight into “Kid”. Damned fine show. Still have my ticket stub somewhere..
Magic. Never knew they’d played the Piv.
Superb song, superb axemanship – and as always a superb slice of writing Mr Mc.
Loved JM’s hilarious monologue too.
For me that original line-up of The Pretenders is one of the greatest rock n’ roll groups of all-time. Scorching bad-ass brilliance.
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