Behind The Lyric: Chrissie Hynde, “Boots Of Chinese Plastic”

Written by January 10th, 2011 at 9:24 am

“It could happen really fast. Or it could take 30 years,” says Chrissie Hynde about songwriting in American Songwriter‘s recent interview with the lead singer and songwriter for The Pretenders. “Boots of Plastic Leather,” from The Pretenders’ 2008 Break Up The Concrete, was firmly of the latter group. Hynde says “Boots” started out like a Mose Allison song and one can only imagine how a quirky Mississippian’s take on jazz would have looked on The Pretenders. But, after 30 years later, “Boots” wound up in its final state and sounds like it could be an outtake from Dylan’s Modern Times, released just two years before Concrete. Dylan seems to serve as another muse for Hynde’s song, which seems to take its titular inspiration from Dylan’s “Boots Of Spanish Leather,” from 1964′s The Times They Are A-Changin’. “So take heed, take heed of the western wind/Take heed of the stormy weather/And yes, there’s something you can send back to me/Spanish boots of Spanish leather,” Dylan’s narrator tells his lost love in the song’s final verse, after previously refusing gifts. For Dylan, the boot is a final forlorn gesture and the narrator is spiteful and sad. On the other hand, Hynde’s lyric is a sassy come-on: “And by the way you look fantastic/In your boots of Chinese plastic.” For Hynde, it would seem that the boot is a symbol for the West’s taking advantage of the developing world’s manufacturing. But, she says, “No, I think they’re great because they’re not wearing leather. I guess I snuck that one in. It’s just part of my endless quest to find the nearest Payless. ‘Cause I don’t wear leather.” But underlying Hynde’s lyrics is also what, in his interview with the songwriter, Paul Zollo calls her ability to find “divinity even when it’s buried under concrete.” Hynde admits, “That will be the continuity in my songs – other than heartbreak and bad relationships and that kind of stuff. But I really roll with the punches in my life. I don’t get traumatized. It’s the philosophy that can keep you on your path. Otherwise, you’ve got nothing.”

“Boots Of Chinese Plastic”

(One, two, three, four)

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo Buddha, please
Can you help a little peasant that’s begging on her knees
Illusion fills my head like an empty can
Spent a million lifetimes loving the same man

Every drop that run through the vein
Always makes it’s way back to the heart again
And by the way you look fantastic
In your boots of Chinese plastic

Hare Krishna, Hare Rama too
Govinda, I am still in love with You
I see you in the birds and in the trees
That’s why they call me Krishna Mayee

Every drop that run through the vein
Always makes it’s way back to the heart again
And by the way you look fantastic
In your boots of Chinese plastic

Hofra told us we should tolerate
The people and the things that make me wanna hate
Oh, have a little mixed mercy on me
This seasoned beauty in this human pageantry

Jesus Christ came down here as a living man
If He can live a life of virtue then I hope I can
Unto others as you would have a turn
Back here and repeat until you learn, learn, learn

Every drop that run through the vein
Always makes it’s way back to the heart again
And every dog that lived his life on a chain
Knows what it’s like waiting for nothing
And by the way you look fantastic
In your boots of Chinese plastic

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