THE ORIGINAL: The Pretenders (1980)

This is from the Pretenders’ amazing debut album. Bandleader Chrissie Hynde did a decent job writing this reggae-style song, which has a loud bass line, short scrapes on the lead guitar, a lilting rhythm guitar part in the background that might be a keyboard part, the standard drumstick on the rim, thumping bass drum and occasional tom hits and rolls.

The accusatory backing vocals and chorus are high and menacing in a way. There are other flourishes and loud “rock” guitar solos, but this song is spare and pretty straightforward. As fir the lyrics, you need to read them. She is serving it to someone for 6:23!

THE COVER: Grace Jones (1980)

This cover by Grace Jones basically follows the original arrangement. It has the usual prominent bass, but with keyboards and synthesizers doing the leads and rhythm instead of the guitar, although there is a rock guitar solo for the bridge.

The drums are basically the same as the original, but this version has more feel, because the legendary Sly & Robbie produced it. Grace’s interpretation of the lyrics? Super menacing, because she’s doing a reading — she only sings the chorus with doubled vocals — and it sounds like she’s holding the person she’s talking to by their throat.

She means business here for 5:11, and you know it!

WHO DOES IT BETTER?

I remember reading the liner notes in Grace’s Compass Point Sessions, where Chrissie was asked about this cover and she said something like, “that’s how it’s supposed to sound,” and she’s right.

Sly & Robbie can not be beat, and with Grace’s vocal? Her cover is the clear winner here…like when Aretha covered “Respect” and when Otis heard it he said, “That girl stole my song!”

NOW YOU DECIDE!

About Author

Crystal C Durant

Crystal is today's black Renaissance woman. She lives in Harlem, is always up for a new experience, is a magnet for all kinds of crazy, and smells like fresh flowers.

3 Comments

  1. Good analysis. Both performances are brilliant in their own way. Chrissie’s tough-as-nails stance is effective paired with her use of the teardrop vibrato, while Grace is just ready to set you on fire.

  2. Love ya but I have to disagree. They’re two completely different songs that just share a musical mom. Chrissie’s read is detatched and clinical, like she’s dissecting someone she is just completely done with.

    Grace’s performance is so much more sultry and yet like a priestess of some otherworldly cult, and the instrumentals are so very reggae.

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