Learning to Crawl

Learning to Crawl is the third studio album by the rock band The Pretenders. It was released in January 1984 after a hiatus during which band members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon died of drug overdoses.

Learning to Crawl
Studio album by
Released11 January 1984
RecordedMid-1982 to late 1983
StudioAIR Studios, London
GenreNew wave, alternative rock
ProducerChris Thomas
The Pretenders chronology
Pretenders II
Learning to Crawl
Get Close
Singles from Learning to Crawl
  1. "Back on the Chain Gang" / "My City Was Gone"
    Released: October 1982
  2. "2000 Miles"
    Released: November 1983 (UK)
  3. "Middle of the Road"
    Released: November 1983 (US), February 1984 (UK)
  4. "Show Me"
    Released: March 1984 (US)
  5. "Thin Line Between Love and Hate / Time the Avenger"
    Released: May 1984
Professional ratings
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[2]
Chicago Tribune[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[4]
Rolling Stone[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[6]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[7]
The Village VoiceA−[8]

After Farndon's dismissal from the band and Honeyman-Scott's death, Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers initially recruited Rockpile's Billy Bremner and Big Country's Tony Butler to fill in a caretaker line-up of the band in 1982. Bremner played guitar and Butler played bass on the band's September 1982 single "Back on the Chain Gang/My City Was Gone", both sides of which were later included on Learning to Crawl. As the album sessions got under way, Bremner, Graham Parker's bass player Andrew Bodnar, and Paul Carrack (formerly of Squeeze, Ace and Roxy Music) played guitar, bass and piano respectively for the track "Thin Line Between Love and Hate".

Finally, Robbie McIntosh (guitar) and Malcolm Foster (bass) were recruited to join Hynde and Chambers, and the band was now officially a quartet. It was this line-up that recorded the rest of the tracks featured on Learning to Crawl.

The November 1983 single "2000 Miles/Fast or Slow (The Law's the Law)" was the newly reconstituted foursome's first release, followed shortly by the full Learning to Crawl album in January 1984.

The album's title of "Learning to Crawl" was given in honor of Chrissie Hynde's then-infant daughter, Natalie Rae Hynde. She was learning to crawl at the time that Chrissie was trying to determine a name for the album.

Song origins

Hynde noted in the booklet for the expanded edition of Learning to Crawl that guitarist Robbie McIntosh came up with the opening guitar riff for "2000 Miles". She stated that she probably should have credited McIntosh as co-writer of the song for providing the opening to the song.[9]

"2000 Miles" became a popular Christmas song in the UK. Often interpreted as a tale of two lovers apart during the holidays, it is a song written by Hynde for her former bandmate James Honeyman-Scott after he died prior to beginning work on the band's third album.

"My City Was Gone" is largely an autobiographical song written about the changes that she observed when she went back to her native city of Akron, Ohio.[9] The instrumental introduction of the song would later be adopted as the theme of the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

"Watching the Clothes" was an older song written before the band's début album. Hynde was inspired to write the song after a close friend had died.[9]

Track listing

All songs written by Chrissie Hynde, except where noted.

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

Bonus tracks (2007 Re-release)

  1. "Fast or Slow (The Law's the Law)" (Martin Chambers) – 3:15
  2. "Tequila" – 3:35
  3. "I Hurt You" (Denmark Street demo, August 1982) – 4:06
  4. "When I Change My Life" (Denmark Street demo, August 1982) – 4:43
  5. "Ramblin' Rob" (Denmark Street demo, August 1982) (Robbie McIntosh) – 3:32
  6. "My City Was Gone" (Live) – 4:53
  7. "Money (That's What I Want)" (Live at US Festival, May 1983) (Berry Gordy Jr., Janie Bradford) – 4:39


The Pretenders
  • Chrissie Hynde – lead vocals (all but 11 & 15), rhythm guitar, harmonica
  • Robbie McIntosh – lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Malcolm Foster – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Martin Chambers – drums, backing vocals, lead vocals (11), percussion
Additional personnel
  • Billy Bremner – lead guitar on "Back on the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone", rhythm guitar and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"
  • Tony Butler – bass guitar on "Back on the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone"
  • Andrew Bodnar – bass guitar and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"
  • Paul Carrack – piano and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"
  • Steve Churchyard – engineer
  • Peter Barrett – art direction
  • Paul Cox – front cover photography


Weekly charts

Year Chart Position
1984 The Billboard 200 5


Year Single Chart Position
1983 "Back on the Chain Gang" Billboard Mainstream Rock 4
1983 "Back on the Chain Gang" Billboard Pop Singles 5
1983 "Middle of the Road" Billboard Hot 100 19
1983 "My City Was Gone" Billboard Mainstream Rock 11
1983 "Middle of the Road" Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play 43
1984 "Show Me" Billboard Hot 100 28
1984 "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" Billboard Hot 100 83


Region CertificationCertified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[10] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[11] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. Deming, Mark. "Learning to Crawl – Pretenders". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 March 2006.
  2. Caligiuri, Jim (15 June 2007). "Reissues: Pretenders". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  3. Kot, Greg (12 August 1990). "The Best Of The Pretenders". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  4. Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  5. Loder, Kurt (16 February 1984). "Pretenders: Learning To Crawl". Rolling Stone (415). Archived from the original on 6 November 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2006.
  6. Considine, J. D.; Skanse, Richard (2004). "The Pretenders". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 653–54. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  7. Weisband, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide (1st ed.). Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  8. Christgau, Robert (21 February 1984). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  9. CD booklet, "Learning to Crawl" expanded edition, 2007, Rhino Records
  10. "British album certifications – The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 13 December 2018. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Learning to Crawl in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  11. "American album certifications – The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 13 December 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
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