Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Pretenders

Brass in Pocket-The Pretenders

Talk Of The Town

The Big 80’s would not be as big without an entry for The Pretenders.

The Pretenders are an Anglo-American rock band. The original band consisted of group founder, songwriter, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde, lead and rhythm guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers. The band was fractured by drug-related deaths and numerous subsequent personnel changes have taken place over the years, with Hynde as the sole constant.

Hynde originally was from Akron, Ohio. And attended Firestone High School and then Kent State University at the time of the Kent State shootings. Hynde moved to London in 1973, dated the major UK rock critic Nick Kent, and from there began writing for the weekly music paper, New Musical Express. After several years of false starts, including the bands Masters of the Backside and The Moors Murderers, she moved definitively from writing to performing.
The Pretenders formed during the tail end of the original English punk movement, in 1978. Hynde's eventual band comprised a set of acquaintances from Hereford, near the Welsh border — young players with a pop aesthetic who had missed out on the punk explosion of 1976, but were eager to catch up.

Farndon (who was romantically linked with Hynde) was the first to join Hynde's band, following a medium-noteworthy run with the Bushwackers, an Australian folk-rock ensemble. Farndon then recruited guitarist Honeyman-Scott, at the time working in the guitar room at Buzz Music in Hereford. However, The Pretenders had no official drummer even as late as the recording session for their first single ("Stop Your Sobbing"), which featured drumming by session player Gerry Mackleduff. Finally, Honeyman-Scott recruited Chambers, who was at the time working as a driving instructor only a few blocks from where Hynde was living.

Original band (1978–1982)
Following their 1978 signing to Real Records on the basis of a demo of the song "The Phone Call", the band quickly rose to critical attention with the January 1979 single, "Stop Your Sobbing" written in 1964 by Ray Davies and produced by Nick Lowe. It was followed in quick succession that year by the popular singles "Kid" in June and "Brass in Pocket" in November — the last regarded as a somewhat tame and commercial song compared to the rest of the band's early output, which nonetheless cracked the U.S. market for the band (reaching #14 on the Billboard Hot 100).

The album, Pretenders, was released in January 1980, and was a great success in both the United Kingdom and the U.S., both critically and with chart-topping sales. (Pretenders was subsequently named one of the best albums of all time by VH1 (#52) and Rolling Stone (#155).) The band played the entire album at the noted Heatwave festival in August 1980 near Toronto.
That The Pretenders were led by a hard-rocking woman was no small factor in their early breakthrough. With her trademark dark bangs, dark eyeliner, and dark jeans, Hynde appealed to both genders. And due to, as the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide would say, "her sheer authenticity as a three-dimensional woman whose sexuality is completely in sync with a superb rock sensibility," she was able to escape many of the clichéd roles of women in rock music.
Hynde's girl group-influenced vocals were also crucial to the band's success, although the early group was very much an ensemble, adept at playing interlocking musical parts, shifting mood and tempo on cue, and responding to subtle signals from one another. Their recordings were mostly performed live in the studio, with only lead guitar and vocal overdubs. (Among the interesting features of the first two albums are casual shifts into odd time signatures, as in the 15/8-time "Tattooed Love Boys"). Another major element of the band's early success was producer Chris Thomas (famed, with engineer Bill Price, for the sound achieved on the Sex Pistols' album, Never Mind the Bollocks). Fans familiar with the band's U.S. chart singles are often unaware of how loud and aggressive the early Pretenders could be, and how loose and experimental some of their early recordings were.

In March 1981 the EP Extended Play was released, a holding action containing the UK and U.S. hits "Message of Love" and "Talk of the Town" and a live version of "Precious".

The second full-length album, Pretenders II, was released in August 1981. Most critics at the time called it disappointing, although it is now generally considered a great album. Pretenders II is more spread-out than the debut, and included the Extended Play hit singles, the MTV video hit, "Day After Day", and popular album-radio tracks "The Adulteress", "Birds of Paradise", and "The English Roses". According to some critics, the above video "Talk of the Town" is an unrequited-love song about Hynde's old friend John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten.

At this early peak of the band's success and potential, Hynde kicked ex-lover Pete Farndon out of the group for ongoing drug problems. Two days later, 16 June 1982, Honeyman-Scott was dead of a cocaine overdose. While the band tried to regroup in the following year, Farndon overdosed on heroin and died on 14 April 1983. Honeyman-Scott is now regarded as an important rock guitarist, while Farndon is widely admired as a rock bassist.

Pretenders carry on (1982–1987)
Hynde's subsequent attempts at continuing The Pretenders never recaptured the Herefordshire band's original intensity, although the first comeback single, the death-haunted "Back on the Chain Gang", marked a new level of musical sophistication for the band. Featuring a 'caretaker line-up' of Hynde, Chambers, Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner and Big Country bassist Tony Butler, it was recorded in July 1982, shortly after Honeyman-Scott's death, and released that October. The single's flip-side, "My City Was Gone", in which Hynde expressed dismay at industrial pollution and rampant commercial development in her home state, was equally strong.

Hynde then reformed the Pretenders with professional musicians Robbie McIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass. The band's first album with this lineup, Learning to Crawl, was released to respectful critical acclaim in January 1984.

"Middle of the Road" was this lineup's first single, released in December 1983. Recapturing some of the group's earlier hard-edged sound, the song dealt with, among other things, Hynde's new motherhood (Hynde had a daughter with Ray Davies in January 1983), the pressures of stardom, and the indifference of wealthy nations to the plight of the world's poor. The flip-side, "2000 Miles", was a melancholy Christmas song that was especially popular in the UK. The rest of the album alternated between angry rockers ("Time the Avenger") and hopeful ballads ("Show Me") and included an effective cover of The Persuaders' "Thin Line Between Love and Hate". The subsequent tour (with an added keyboard player) successfully showcased a tight band centered around Martin Chambers's forceful drumming. 1985's Live Aid was the last concert for this lineup.

Shortly after recording sessions for the next album ("Get Close") began and one track had been completed, Hynde declared that Chambers was no longer playing well and dismissed him -- allegedly by booking new recording time without telling Chambers about it. Foster was also let go, and after an appropriate interval the newly-revised Pretenders lineup was officially announced as Hynde, McIntosh, bassist T.M. Stevens and drummer Blair Cunningham. In reality, though, the Get Close album was largely the work of Hynde, McIntosh and a bevy of session musicians.

Get Close was released in 1986; the disc included the singles "Don't Get Me Wrong" (helped by a popular video homage to the television series The Avengers) and "Hymn To Her" (a hit in the UK). The song "Where Has Everybody Gone" was later released on the soundtrack of the Bond film The Living Daylights, and was instrumentally used by John Barry in several fight scenes.
The lineup for the Get Close tour was then expanded to include keyboardist Bernie Worrell, but this incarnation of the band went through many difficulties. Two players were fired, McIntosh eventually quit, and ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joined for a final brief period in 1987. By this time, it was evident that The Pretenders were a band in name only, the name merely serving as a vehicle for Chrissie Hynde.

There was a hiatus in musical activity for Hynde until 1990, when Hynde hired still more session players (including one-time Pretenders Billy Bremner and Blair Cunningham) and released Packed! to a generally dismal reception. The closest thing to a hit from the album was "Sense of Purpose".

Subsequently, the band toured in small venues around the U.S., sometimes including a string quartet, with Hynde wistfully noting that a certain violin part "was a fine transcription of James Honeyman-Scott's guitar solo." Some of these arrangements are preserved on the 1995 The Isle of View live album and DVD, made at London's Jacob Street Studios, which sometimes revealed an approach more sophisticated and subtle than perhaps was shown by the original albums..
Over time, Hynde had become increasingly focused on political activism, vocally supporting the environmental movement and vegetarianism, and her social and political views were woven into more than one of the band's successful releases. Hynde was also given to interrupting shows with diatribes on her favorite causes, sometimes insulting the audience, to the chagrin of her bandmates onstage. "All you hamburger-eating motherfuckers are gonna die!" was the peak of one such rant, delivered in front of a Boston audience in 1995, and reported unfavorably in the local music press.

In March of 2005, the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Only Hynde and Chambers were at the ceremony. In her acceptance speech, Hynde named and thanked all the replacement members of the group, then said:

"I know that The Pretenders have looked like a tribute band for the last 20 years. ... And we’re paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we wouldn’t be here. And on the other hand, without us, they might have been here, but that’s the way it works in rock 'n' roll."

1980 – Pretenders (UK #1) (US #9)
1981 – Extended Play (US #27)
1981 – Pretenders II (UK #7) (US #10)
1984 – Learning to Crawl (UK #11) (US #5)
1986 – Get Close (UK #6) (US #25)
1987 – The Singles (UK #6) (US #69)
1990 – Packed! (UK #19) (US #48)
1994 – Last of the Independents (UK #8) (US #41)
1995 – The Isle of View (UK #23) (US #100)
1999 – Viva el Amor (UK #32) (US #158)
2000 – Greatest Hits (UK #21)
2002 – Loose Screw (UK #55) (US #179)
2006 – Pirate Radio (4 CD/1 DVD Box Set)

1979 - "Stop Your Sobbing"
1979 - "Kid"
1980 - "Brass in Pocket"
1980 - "Talk of the Town"
1981 - "Message Of Love"
1981 - "Day After Day"
1981 - "The Adultress"
1981 - "I Go To Sleep"
1983 - "Back on the Chain Gang"
1983 - "My City Was Gone"
1983 - "2000 Miles"
1983 - "Middle of the Road"
1984 - "Show Me"
1984 - "Thin Line Between Love And Hate"
1986 - "Don't Get Me Wrong"
1986 - "Hymn To Her"
1987 - "My Baby"
1987 - "Room Full Of Mirrors"
1987 - "Where Has Everybody Gone?"
1988 - "Windows of the World"
1990 - "Never Do That"
1990 - "Hold a Candle to This"
1990 - "Sense of Purpose"
1994 - "Night In My Veins"
1994 - "I'll Stand by You"


"The Wait" is featured on No Thanks!: The 70s Punk Rebellion.

External links
Fan website

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