. . .
I guess that Sire Records decided to lead off Extended Play with “Message of Love” because it was the most recent single in the U.K., or maybe because it was both the most recent single and a bit more of an uptempo song than “Talk of the Town.” In any event, way back in 1981, “Message of Love” was the first thing I’d heard by Pretenders after the debut, and it pretty much slayed me.
And why not? “Message of Love” is a big glam-rock stomper, featuring a massive tom-laden drum beat from Martin Chambers, and an arrangement that was cooked up in the studio rather than brought to the band by Hynde. And, of course, the lyrics are great.
Now the reason we’re here
As man and woman
Is to love each other
Take care of each other
When love walks in the room
Everybody stand up
Oh it’s good, good, good
Like Brigitte Bardot!
The way that Hynde just tosses out “Like Brigitte Bardot!” is amazing, like she’d literally just thought of it at that moment, and was incredibly pleased with herself for the pull. It also kinda takes the piss out of the seriousness of the rest of the verse, to boot. Also good, good, good: the way that the guitars of Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott are having their own dialog at the same time.
Now look at the people
In the streets, in the bars
We are all of us in the gutter
But some of us are looking at the stars
Look round the room
Life is unkind
We fall but we keep gettin’ up
Over and over and over and over and over and over…
Back in early 1981, 18-year-old Jim hadn’t yet read Oscar Wilde, so he didn’t know the provenance of the most striking couplet in that verse, but it didn’t even matter, not with the way she sang it. Also appreciated, the fading out and back in of “over and over and over and over” just prior the chorus, at which point “Message of Love” transmogrifies from glam-rock to glam-pop just by Hynde and Honeyman-Scott switching from massive chords to churning strums.
Me and you, every night, every day
We’ll be together always this way
Your eyes are blue like the heavens above
Talk to me darlin’ with a message of love
Following that is a relatively low-key guitar solo from Honeyman-Scott while the guitars still in strum-churn mode and then back to the big glam-rock guitars for the third verse (basically the) same as the first. And one last chorus. Only it really isn’t. They go back into the glam-pop strummy strummy mode, but all Chrissie Hynde sings is some backing “ooooooo-hoos” and a couple of passes of “Talk to me, darling” as “Message of Love” hits its fade.
But that’s all they needed. In the U.K., “Message of Love” just narrowly missed the top ten, and while it wasn’t released as a commercial single here in the U.S. — I guess Sire wanted to push the full EP — it at least got serviced to radio stations, and got a shitton of radio play. As well it should have.
“Message of Love”
“Message of Love” video (muddy sound)
“Message of Love” performed live on Fridays, 1981
“Message of Love” performed on Rockpalast, 1981
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