Shout-Out to the Spouse: The Pretenders, “Thumbelina” (1984)

What a blessing is a spouse! A spouse is obliged to do three things:

1. Look after you when you’re sick.

2. Share your child care responsibility.

3. Go over what you’ve written.

My own excellent spouse has gone over a large percentage of my Hooks writing and has helped me especially with my attempts to explain musical effects to people who aren’t already students of music. Of course, my ability is limited and she could only do so much.

Also, it was her idea to give the date for every featured piece. Historical order is important, don’t you agree?

Thank you, Elise.

In your honor I want to identify the greatest Spousal Hook. This will be (even more than usual) an intensely personal choice. It can’t be some hokey “You’re Still The One” kind of thing. The direct sentimental approach always falls short. What pierces to the root is the prospect of loss. I’m struck in this way most purely and tellingly at the end of “Thumbelina” by The Pretenders (1984), a song about a woman driving with her little girl to Arizona in exodus from a failed marriage:

“Thumbelina” end

Hush little baby
My poor little thing
You’ve been shuffled about
Like a pawned wedding ring
It must seem strange
Love was here then gone
And the Oklahoma sunrise
Becomes the Amarillo dawn
What’s important
In this life
Ask the man
Who’s lost his wife

On that last word, what an unexpected, emotionally overwhelming use of rockabilly rambunction!


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Passions & Attitudes, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shout-Out to the Spouse: The Pretenders, “Thumbelina” (1984)

  1. Steve Smith says:

    I drew your compliment to her attention.

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