One of my all-time favorite debut albums is Pretenders, released in 1980. It was by a group I thought was British. In fact, the lead singer. and primary songwriter was Chrissie Hynde, originally from Akron, Ohio.
She bounced around in the London and Paris music scenes for half a decade before the Pretenders were formed in 1978 with Pete Farndon (bass). James Honeyman-Scott (guitar, vocals, keyboards), and Martin Chambers (drums, vocals, percussion).
The second album, the less-than-inspired titled Pretenders II (1981) was solid. But then, Farndon was fired from the band in June 1982 and died less than a year later. “On 16 June 1982, Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure as a result of cocaine intolerance.”
After that, there was an ever-changing lineup, with Chrissie the only constant. When the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, only the original quartet was selected.
The band now has 11 albums, but I’ve heard only the first four. Still, Chrissie has remained a busy working musician with collaborations with Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, and Brazilian musician Moreno Veloso, among many others.
The chart refers to the Billboard pop charts. Songs leading to my favorite.
Brass in Pocket, #14 in 1980 – I enjoy this, at least in part, because she initially didn’t like her performance. “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… Now I like that song because it’s one of those songs that served me well.”
Jealous Dogs – featuring barking, always appreciated
I’ve Got You, Babe, #28 in 1985 – this cover of the Sonny and Cher classic is actually a Chrissie song with UB40, though it appears on the Pretenders: The Singles
Pack It Up – something about “your insipid record collection” always cracked me up
Back On The Chain Gang, #5 in 1983 – essentially Hynde, Chambers, and a pickup band of lead guitarist Billy Bremner of Rockpile, guitarist Robbie McIntosh, and bassist Tony Butler. It was used in the movie The King of Comedy, starring Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis. Love the clanging metal sound.
I Go To Sleep – written by Ray Davies, as was Stop Your Sobbing. Sleep was recorded by the Applejacks and Marion, but not officially by The Kinks. Davies is the father of Hynde’s daughter Eva.
Don’t Get Me Wrong, #10 in 1986 – I like the “jangly” guitar sound
Cuban Slide – part of the Extended Play EP between the first two albums
Mystery Achievement – last song of the first album
God Only Knows – the 2014 BBC all-star version of the Beach Boys classic features Chrissie
Middle of the Road, #19 in 1984 – she had said that the song refers to Tao Te Ching, which she interprets as “the middle way”
Precious – the first song on the first album. Howard the Duck is namechecked, the revered 1970s comic book, not the reviled 1980s movie
My City Was Gone, B-side of Chain Gang – “I went back to Ohio.” Great social commentary with a killer bass line.
Ultimate Classic Rock’s Pretenders list