Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The #97 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Learning To Crawl" by the Pretenders

This great album was the third in the career of the Pretenders.  That it was done at such high quality following the deaths of both lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon is remarkable.  It was released on January 17, 1984 by Sire Records, a division of Warner Brothers/Elektra/Asylum--WEA International).

The album reached as high as #5 and registered 42 weeks on the album chart.  It has one of the lowest sales figures of the Top 100 (1 million copies sold) but generated strong airplay statistics and an outstanding Track Rating.  No less than five hit singles emerged from the album, led by "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Middle of the Road".  "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate", "2000 Miles" and "Show Me" were the other singles.  In addition, three other tracks from the album--"My City Was Gone", "Thumbelina" and "Time the Avenger" received considerable airplay on rock stations.  That's eight out of ten songs on the album that were popular with the public, a figure that is tough to beat for most other albums.  Add in a Track Rating of 9.25 and for your money, you're getting nearly a home-run record.  

Both the songwriting and the singing of Chrissie Hynde had matured considerably.  She had a daughter (Natalie) who was learning to crawl at the time of the album (hence its title) and Honeyman-Scott was her boyfriend.  His death was devastating to her and the rest of the band, but she emerged stronger as a person and more polished as an artist.  Still, it is hard to believe that she could put out such an incredible performance under such difficult circumstances.

1.    "Middle of the Road" (Chrissie Hynde) – 4:08
2.    "Back on the Chain Gang" (Chrissie Hynde) – 3:44
3.    "Time the Avenger" (Chrissie Hynde) – 4:47
4.    "Watching the Clothes" (Chrissie Hynde) – 2:46
5.    "Show Me" (Chrissie Hynde) – 4:00
6.    "Thumbelina" (Chrissie Hynde) – 3:12
7.    "My City Was Gone" (Chrissie Hynde) – 5:14
8.    "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" (Richard Poindexter, Robert Poindexter & Jackie Members) – 3:33
9.    "I Hurt You" (Chrissie Hynde) – 4:27
10.    "2000 Miles" (Chrissie Hynde) – 3:30

 Learning to Crawl was recorded from 1982-1983 at Air studios in London.  It was produced by Chris Thomas and engineered by Steve Churchyard.  Billy Bremner played lead guitar on "Back on the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone".  Tony Butler helps out with bass guitar.  Andrew Bodnar played bass and Paul Carrack (formerly of Ace, Squeeze and Roxy Music and later Mike and the Mechanics) played piano on the song "Thin Line Between Love and Hate". 

The album is a testament of overcoming tragedy to endure and, in fact, achieve greatness.  At #97, the Pretenders and Learning To Crawl.

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