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There is a lot of British slang in the lyrics:
"Got Bottle" - Have courage.
"Skank" - Move your body side to side.
"Reet" - Righteous
"Brass" is a Northern English expression for money, harking back to the days when non-silver coins, or "Coppers" were worth something.
The song's title came about after The Pretenders first ever UK gig, when they were in the communal dressing room with The Strangeways, who they were supporting. Chrissie Hynde wanted to know whose trousers were sprawled over the back of a chair. One of The Strangeways Ada Wilson said: "I'll have them if there's any brass in the pockets." When Chrissie inquired what he meant by brass, it was explained to her that brass is a northern slang term for money. Chrissie fell in love with the expression and was inspired to write the song.
In the video, lead singer Chrissie Hynde was a waitress, implying the "brass" was the change she got from tips. Hynde worked as a waitress in the US before she moved to London in 1973.
Note in the video when James Honeymoon-Scott points to the daily special tag on the cafe menu he is holding, at the same point the lyrics of the song hit "I'm special, so special." Pure corn... but funny. (thanks, Hugh - Kansas City, MO)
In an interview with the Observer newspaper from December 12, 2004, Hynde said, "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, but they eventually persuaded me. So I remember feeling a bit sheepish when it went to #1." In a VH1 interview, Chrissy Hynde openly admitted to loathing the song, and admitted that since so many fans love the song, she continues to play it. (thanks, Thomas - Marion, IN)
The Pretenders came to producer Chris Thomas' attention when he saw them at The Marquee Club in London. He recalls in 1000 UK #1 Hits
by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: "I especially liked 'Brass In Pocket.' I went backstage to tell Chrissie. However Chrissie told me she didn't really like it. I insisted it was going to be a hit and if she didn't want to record it she should send it over to the producer Willie Mitchell and it would make her a fortune." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 3)
In the 2003 film Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson's character (Charlotte) sings this song, seemingly to Bill Murray's character (Bob), in a Japanese karaoke bar. (thanks, Tony - Sunshine Coast, Qld, Australia)
Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."
Mike Watt - "History Lesson, Pt. 2"
Mike Watt of the Minutemen tells the story of the song that became an Indie Rock touchstone. It's also the story of what Mike calls "The Movement."
When Judd Apatow needed under-appreciated rockers for his Knocked Up
sequel, he immediately thought of Parker, who just happened to be getting his band The Rumour back together.