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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 318
Thurs, Nov 29, 2012

“2000 Miles”
The Pretenders

1983

“♫ In this
frozen and
silent nights/
Some times in
a dream/ you
appear
♫”

If you love X-mas music, it has to be your most wonderful time of the year. Did you know that The Pretenders most famous holiday song wasn’t inspired by Christmas but the passing of guitarist Jimmy Honeyman-Scott? Scott died before the recording of Learning to Crawl as Chrissie Hynde explained when she said, “In 1983, when Jimmy Scott my original guitar player died we were booked to go into the studio, two weeks after he died. In fact, we had just sacked my bass player. He had a lot of drug problems and we found it hard to work with him. The drummer [Martin Chambers] and I decided we could either we could not go in the studio to record “Back on The Chain Gang” or just go in to the studio. We were going to be miserable either way so we decided we might as well be miserable into the studio. So we just carried on. I had a delayed reaction to the trauma about losing these guys.”

Engineer Steve Churchyard who helmed the boards during the Learning To Crawl and “2000 Miles” recording sessions described what Jimmy Honeyman-Scott’s guitar sound meant to The Pretenders when he said, “Invariably, when we’d get to guitars everything would be layered. That’s the classic Pretenders sound. It’s a sound that Jimmy [Honeyman-Scott] had created, along with the great live feel of Martin’s drums and having Chrissie’s vocal really loud in the mix, leaving no doubt that she’s in control of the song.

Chrissie Hynde talked about trying to continue with the sound that was created by Jimmy Honeyman-Scott when she explained, “I’ve tried to keep the music going in tradition of the sound. People now say it’s just you now isn’t it? I supposed to be honest in many ways I write the songs, it’s my voice and I’m determining the sound. But, I still feel the Pretenders sound is very much in the tradition of the sound that was invented by the original band. And I’ve tried to keep that sound.”

“I still have this thing. See, the thing about rock is there’s rules but there’s no rules. There’s a kind of tradition, like Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ “the purpose of a man is to love a woman.” So I wrote “Message of Love,” and I took the title “Message of Love” from Jimi Hendrix. Like “2000 Miles” come from Otis Redding. I always want to pay tribute to my heroes.”

You see, it wasn’t just somber memories of former band members that inspired “2000 Miles” as Chrissie discussed when she said, “[“2000 Miles’] was influenced by an Otis Redding song called ‘Thousand Miles Away.’ another reference I thought everyone would pick up on, but of course later it seemed no one even knew the song. We were sitting in Air Studios above Oxford Circus, looking down on the Christmas lights in Oxford Street. That year they had these little twinkling white lights in all the trees, and ‘2000 Miles’ sounds exactly how that Christmas looked. Cheers, Chris Thomas!”

What makes “2000 Miles” a classic that’s more than just a traditional X-mas is the tug on the acoustic heartstrings tribute to former guitarist and creator of The Pretenders sound James Honeyman-Scott. Engineer Steve Churchyard said it best when he explained, “If you check the song out, there’s this really high guitar part that runs throughout, played by Robbie McIntosh. By that point he was playing all the lead guitar. He was a great guitarist and a lot of his solos were done in just one take. In 1983, the Pretenders went out on the road a little and got to know each other and learned to be a band again.” So let Robbie McIntire’s vintage Learning to Crawl guitar licks reign for “2000 Miles.” The holiday song that saved The Pretenders relive it again in all Chrissie Hynde’s glory. If you hear the people singing “2000 Miles,” then it must be Christmas time.

My favorite version acoustic with strings from The Pretenders 1995 unplugged album, Isle of View:

And here’s the original classic version of “2000 Miles”:

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