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 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.