This rock and roll love song is unlike any other, with no gooey clichés but a heartfelt appreciation for how a loving relationship can strengthen both sides. It was written by Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde, who has a rather pragmatic view of love. A self-sufficient leader, her bandmates were always men but never her love interests - she didn't start a band to meet guys. Her message of love is one of support:
Now the reason we're here
Every man, every woman
Is to help each other
Stand by each other
At the time, Hynde was dating Ray Davies of The Kinks; they had a daughter together in 1983 but split up soon after and never married. Hynde got married twice, first to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in 1984, then to the artist Lucho Brieva in 1997 - neither worked out. "Relationships are not the be-all and end-all," she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015. "You have to be happy within yourself first. No man can give you that."
The Pretenders knocked it out of the park with their self-titled debut album, which was released in 1979 and scored them a #1 UK hit with "Brass In Pocket
." After an extensive tour, they were put right back to work, sent to the Pathe-Marconi studio in Paris to record songs for their next album. "Message Of Love" is one of the songs they recorded there, and it became the lead single from their next album, Pretenders II
Musically, this song is built on a two-chord, one-up one-down guitar riff popular in punk rock. It's unconventional, with no chorus, just instrumental breaks after the verses, and big key change on the bridge after Hynde sings the "over and over and over" part. The song title shows up just once, in the third verse.
Released in early February 1981 to tie in with Valentine's Day, "Message Of Love" entered the UK chart on February 14 at #28 and reached its peak position of #11 a week later.
Brigitte Bardot gets a mention in the lyric:
Oh it's good, good, good
Like Brigitte Bardot
The French actress was an early animal rights activist, and a big influence on Hynde.
The Pretenders had an American frontwoman (Chrissie Hynde), but the rest of the band was from England, which is where they were based. Most American acts didn't make music videos at the time, but British acts did because variety shows and talk shows across Europe aired them. "Message Of Love" got a bare-bones video showing the band performing the song in a studio. Despite the lack of production value, it was exactly what MTV needed when they launched in August 1981: a recently released rock song by a popular band with an American lead singer. It was the 19th video the network played when they went on the air, but not the first Pretenders song on MTV - "Brass In Pocket" was the 7th video they showed.