Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) is 70

“The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls”

Chrissie HyndeOne 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 

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I Go To Sleep

The Pretenders released I Go To Sleep as the fifth single from their second studio album Pretenders II

clock_sleepI’d written this really LONG blog post, so long that it ended up in two parts, and it was emotionally exhausting. So I took a nap. Napping is not something I do well. Often, waking up, I feel more tired, or disoriented.

This time, though, I was feeling reflective when I awoke. I got to think about this song by the Pretenders called I Go to Sleep. So when I woke up fully, I started to find various versions of the song.

The Kinks (1965): Ray Davies wrote the song, as any obsessive/compulsive liner note/LP label reader would know. But I didn’t even realize this version existed. It’s a demo, and it sounds like it, but it’s sweet, though too fast, with choppy vocals, compared with the version I knew best. It was included, I learned, as “a bonus track on the reissue of their second studio album Kinda Kinks.”

The Applejacks (1965 single). Has this metal clanging throughout, which I found really annoying.

Cher (1965, on her debut album All I Really Want to Do.) She sings it OK, but the arrangement messes with the major/minor chordal structure in the bridge, not to its benefit.

Peggy Lee (1965, from the album, Then Was Then, Now Is Now.) I love Peggy Lee, but not this, which seemed oddly parochial.

Marion (1967, released as a single in Germany and the U.K.) Marion Maerz was a German singer of the ’60s. This was apparently a significant version, as it got a special section in Wikipedia. It is string-heavy on the bridge, and thereafter. The background vocals do not particularly enhance.

The Pretenders (1981, released as the fifth single from their second studio album Pretenders II) The gold standard, three minutes of perfection.

Sia (2008: Sia Furler, on her album Some People Have Real Problems. Sia’s cover charted at number thirty-two on the Australian Singles Chart.) This is about the same length as the Pretenders’ version, yet feels rushed, somehow. However, this Sia version, at 3:30, and with a harmony vocal, is very nice.

Works Progress Administration (2009, on their self-titled debut album WPA). I rather like this one, with the harmony on the bridge.

Anika (2010, on her debut album Anika.) I was reading the YouTube comments. Some people don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t like this. But I’m in the other camp that found the beat very annoying, with the voice somewhat of a monotone. I did like the idea of what’s being attempted here more than the execution.

Rasputina (2011: on their collector’s album “Great American Gingerbread: Rasputina Rarities & Neglected Items”), This is live, with two cellos, and despite a clunky note or two, I rather enjoyed it.

Other versions:
2011: Camilla Kerslake on her second album Moments
2011: Kraus
2013: Rachael Leahcar on her second album Romantique

Here are the lyrics to I Go To Sleep.
Going to Sleep [New Timelapse Video].

Arthur is sleepy.

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