Brass in Pocket

"Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)" is a song by English–American rock band the Pretenders, released in 1979 as the third single from their self-titled debut album. It was written by Chrissie Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott, and produced by Chris Thomas. Originating as a guitar lick written by Honeyman-Scott, the song features a lyric that Hynde explained to be about the cockiness that one needs to effectively perform. The song's title derives from a phrase she overheard after a show.

"Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)"
Brass in Pocket by Pretenders UK vinyl single.jpg
Artwork for vinyl releases in the UK, some European countries, and Australia
Single by The Pretenders
from the album Pretenders
  • "Swinging London"
  • "Nervous But Shy"
Released9 November 1979[1]
Producer(s)Chris Thomas
The Pretenders singles chronology
"Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)"
Music video
"Brass in Pocket" on YouTube
Back cover
Back sleeve for UK single
Back sleeve for UK single

"Brass in Pocket" became the band's biggest hit to that point, reaching number one in the UK and number 14 in the US. Its music video was the seventh video aired on MTV on its launch on 1 August 1981.[4]


"Brass in Pocket" originated as a guitar line that James Honeyman-Scott played for Chrissie Hynde. Hynde then recorded the part with a tape recorder and wrote the song's lyric. Musically, Hynde described the song as "trying to be a Motown song, but it didn't quite get it."[5]

Hynde got the idea for the song's title when, during an after-show dinner, she overheard someone enquiring if anyone had "Picked up dry cleaning? Any brass in pocket?"[6] Of the song's reference to "bottle," Hynde explained, "Bottle is Cockney rhyming slang. It means bottle and glass. The way Cockney rhyming slang works is the word you're really saying rhymes with the second word. So bottle and glass rhymes with ass. In England, to say somebody has a lot of ass they have a lot of funk. So you say, 'That guy has a lot of bottle.'"[5] Of the song's meaning, Hynde stated:

The tradition of ["Brass in Pocket"] is that you're supposed to be kind of cocky and sure of yourself. You're not supposed to go on stage and say, "I'm small and I have no confidence and think I'm a shit." Because you just can't do that on stage. You're not supposed to, and probably you don't have much confidence, and you do think you're a little piece of shit or else you wouldn't have gotten a rock band together in the first place.[5]

During an interview with The Observer in 2004, she revealed she was initially reluctant to have the song released: "When we recorded the song I wasn't very happy with it and told my producer that he could release it over my dead body."[7] Hynde later reflected, "Now I like that song because it's one of those songs that served me well. I didn't like my voice on it. I was kind of a new singer, and listening to my voice made me kind of cringe."[5]

Music and lyricEdit

The lyric describes the female singer about to have her first sexual encounter with a particular person, and is expressing her confidence that the experience will be successful.[8][9] According to Rolling Stone magazine critic Ken Tucker, the song uses "an iron fist as a metaphor for [Hynde's] sexual clout."[10] The Rolling Stone Album Guide critic J. D. Considine describes the song as "sassy" and credits the band for "putting bounce in each step" of it.[11] Author Simon Reynolds similarly describes Hynde's vocal as "pure sass" and "a feline narcissism," noting particularly her "lingering languorously" over the words "I'm special".[9]

According to AllMusic critic Steve Huey, the backbeat "meshes very nicely with Hynde's unshakable confidence, and the song never gets aggressive enough to break its charming spell or make her self-assurance seem implausibly idealized."[8] Huey also points out a harmonic shift in the music for the portion of the song where the singer lists the various attractive qualities she will use to make the encounter a success.[8] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Bryan Wawzenek rated it one of drummer Martin Chambers' top 10 Pretenders songs, praising the relaxed groove and saying that "The beat is weighty but soft, and it allows plenty of room for Chrissie Hynde to side-step her way through the single."[12]

Dave Thompson suggests that the song is actually about the Pretenders' first live concert rather than a sexual experience.[13]

Cash Box said the song shows why Hynde was "quickly emerging as one of the bright new singer/stylists of 1980," highlighting "her sly, sexy warbling and tremendous control."[14] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Matt Wardlaw rated it the Pretenders best song, saying that it is the song "all of the elements really came together – a cool groove and an especially sultry vocal from Hynde."[15]

"Brass" is a Northern English expression for money, harking back to the days when non-silver coins, or "coppers", were worth something. The reference for the term "Detroit leaning" in the lyric is unclear.[16]


"Brass in Pocket" was released as the band's third single. It was their first big success, scoring number one on the UK Singles Chart for two weeks in January 1980 (making it the first new number-one single of the 1980s), number two in Australia during May 1980 (for three weeks),[17] and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was listed at No. 389 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2021.[18]

In the video for the song Hynde plays a lonely waitress in a backstreet cafe. The rest of the band arrive in a large pink American car driven by Pete Farndon. The three men peruse the menus but are soon joined by their female partners. All six then leave the restaurant. Hynde commented on the ending of the video, "The 'Brass in Pocket' video got hijacked by the director, because the idea of that was that these guys were going to break in on motorcycles and I was going to get on the back and ride out of there. And he had different ideas, and he left me in there crying. That wasn't my script."[19]

The video was filmed in the North Kensington area (north of Notting Hill district and south of Kensal Green area). The cafe's location was at the intersection of Middle Row and Southern Row, but the cafe has since been replaced with a four-story residential building (50 Middle Row).

Chart performanceEdit


Region Certification Certified units/sales
New Zealand (RMNZ)[43] Gold 10,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.


The song has been covered by Suede for NME's charity compilation Ruby Trax.[44] It also features in its expanded debut album edition released in 2018.[45]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Pretenders - Brass in Pocket".
  2. ^ Phares, Heather. "Various Artists – Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Women". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Pretenders - biografia, recensioni, streaming, discografia, foto".
  4. ^ "MTV's first 10 music videos". Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Zollo, Paul (2020). "Behind the Song: "Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders". American Songwriter. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  6. ^ Hynde, Chrissie (2015). Reckless. Ebury Press. p. 256. ISBN 9781785031441.
  7. ^ Van Rheenen, Erik (17 February 2016). "10 Artists Who Hate Their Biggest Hit". Mental Floss. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Brass in Pocket – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  9. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (1996). The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll. Harvard University Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-6748-0273-5.
  10. ^ Tucker, Ken (17 April 1980). "Pretenders: The Pretenders". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 29 April 2007.
  11. ^ Considine, J.D. (1992). DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (eds.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Straight Arrow Publishers. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-679-73729-4.
  12. ^ Wawzenek, Bryan (4 September 2013). "Top 10 Martin Chambers Pretenders songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  13. ^ Thompson, Dave (2011). 1000 Songs That Rock Your World. Krause. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4402-1422-6.
  14. ^ "Singles Reviews > Feature Picks" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XLI, no. 39. 9 February 1980. p. 17. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  15. ^ Wardlaw, Matt (7 September 2011). "Top 10 Pretenders songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  16. ^ "What is the 'Detroit Leaning' Referred to in the Pretenders' 'Brass in Pocket'?".
  17. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 238. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  19. ^ Parker, Lyndsey (12 November 2021). "The great Pretender: Chrissie Hynde talks Dylan documentary and why her badass image is 'all a bluff'". Yahoo!. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  20. ^ "The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  21. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0194a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "The Pretenders" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  23. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Brass In Pocket". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  24. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 12, 1980" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  25. ^ "The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  26. ^ "The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  27. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (P)". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  28. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  29. ^ "The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  30. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  31. ^ a b "Pretenders – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  32. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MAY 31, 1980". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012.
  33. ^ "Song artist 387 – The Pretenders". TsorT. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  34. ^ "National Top 100 Singles for 1980". Kent Music Report. 5 January 1981. Retrieved 17 January 2022 – via Imgur.
  35. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  36. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1980" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  37. ^ "Top 100 Singles". RPM. Vol. 34, no. 6. 20 December 1980. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  38. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1980" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  39. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1980" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  40. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1980". Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  41. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1980". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  42. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1980". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012.
  43. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  44. ^ Barnett, David (2003). "Biog for 2003". Anglo Platinum. Archived from the original on 22 October 2003.
  45. ^ Sinclair, Paul (25 January 2018). "Suede 25th anniversary box set". Super Deluxe Edition. Retrieved 21 November 2019.