Imagination Is the Boss: The Pretenders, “Brass In Pocket” (1979)

What a style.  She’s so special.  Her tone and phrasing a provocative mix of soaring thrush and stepped-on cat, Chrissie Hynde is certainly going to have some of our attention.  I fix on the moment in “Brass in Pocket” when Hynde’s imagination comes out.  She’s going to use everything she’s got, arms, legs, style, sidestep, fingers, but climactically “my—my—my—imagination,” the first syllable of “imagination” depressed like a shy ducking of the head on coming through a doorway of uncertain size.

“Brass In Pocket”

(She almost says “ ‘magination,” which would be an Apostrophe Hook!)  Who said we could talk about imagination in a song like this?  The artist said so.[1] The persona of the needy girl singing these words becomes transparent to the ambitious Chrissie Hynde.


[1] Compare the sad lack of imagination charged to the rainbow in Paul Simon’s “My Little Town”—the opposite way to assert the artist’s authority.


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
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2 Responses to Imagination Is the Boss: The Pretenders, “Brass In Pocket” (1979)

  1. Matt says:

    Mmmagination. Eliding the ‘i’ lets us wallow in the deliciousness of fantasy, and nudges us in the direction of ‘magic.’ The Temptations did it, subtly but beautifully, I think, in ‘Just My Imagination.’

  2. Morgan Jones says:

    Phrasing is the most essential part of rock and roll. Seriously. How many classic bands have writers who are capable of finding that elusive, perfect pattern of delivery? Harry Nilsson’s “1941” comes to mind. “Well in 1941 a happy fathUUHH had a son.”

    Also the opening of Roy Orbison’s “Working For The Man.”

    As far as “Brass In Pocket” goes, I think the more striking moment comes near the end, when Chrissie (yeah, we’re on a first name basis) delivers the last “give it to me.” By that point in the song, she is demanding it, and it’s made perfect by sliding down from that B to F-sharp, that slide that Stevie Wonder does so well.

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