Friday, January 16, 2015


The Pretenders found the prestige and the glory with precious private life drama and blackmailed emotions on this mercy mission mystery achievement.    Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron and studied at Kent State during the unpleasantness, and even played in a band with future Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh:   “I just wanted to get the hell out of Ohio.  I always knew that, since I was in junior high school and this train used to go by. I know it sounds romantic, but it made me cry when I saw it. I just knew that I had to be on that train someday.”

She went to London where she worked in various jobs that included writing for the rock magazine New Musical Express, working in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's punk rock boutique SEX, and tried twice (with a trip back to Ohio inbetween) to put together her own band in France, before getting invited to go with the Clash on their first UK tour:   “It was great, but my heart was breaking. I wanted to be in a band so bad. And to go to all the gigs, to see it so close up, to be living in it and not to have a band was devastating to me. When I left, I said, ‘Thanks a lot for lettin’ me come along,’ and I went back and went weeping on the underground throughout London. All the people I knew in town, they were all in bands. And there I was, like the real loser, you know? Really the loser.”

In 1978, she met Real Records owner Dave Hill who became her manager, helped her pay the rent on her rehersal space, and encouraged her to take her time putting a band together.  It was around this time that a meeting was arranged with Pete Farndon:    “I walked into the pub and there was this American with a big mouth across the other side of the bar.  She said hi, and turned around and ignored me for about an hour. I thought, ‘Am I gonna be in a band with this cunt?'...As soon as we got down to her rehearsal room, which was the scummiest basement I’d ever been in in my life, the first thing we played was ‘Groove Me,’ by King Floyd. The second thing we played was this great country and western song of hers called ‘Tequila.’ I was lookin’ at this woman like . . . you know? Fuck, man, I’ll never forget it: we go in, we do a soul number, we do a country and western number, and then we did ‘The Phone Call,’ which is like the heaviest fuckin’ punk-rocker you could do in 5/4 time. Impressed? I was very impressed.”

Farndon called his hometown buddy James Honeyman-Scott in Hereford (also home to Mott the Hoople) to join the fledgling group:    "I was selling guitars for a living, for a shop in the Hereford. I did gardening too – that was great! And it was during that time – I was out in the garden, you see, digging away, and the radio was on. Nick Lowe came on with [sings] “and so it goes, so it goes,” that number – Elvis Costello’s “Red Shoes.” And they had this big, jangly guitar sound, which is what I’d been wanting to get into for a long while. All of a sudden the radio’s on and there’s this huge guitar sound coming out, like sending out a big Rickenbacker 12-string or something. And I thought, “Ah, my time is here.” So that’s what happened. And then I hooked up with the Pretenders ... I thought ‘money first.  They had to pay me in money and drugs to come down and work with ‘em.” Initially, he recalls, the band was “too bloody loud. But as soon as I cranked some powders up me nose I became interested, of course.”

They recorded some demos, which led to Nick Lowe producing their first single (with drummer Gerry Mackelduff) in early 1979.  Although it broke into the UK top forty, Lowe decided not to produce their debut album.  In the meantime, Honeyman-Scott invited another Hereford buddy Martin Chambers to try out for the band.  Chambers had been in progressive rock trio Karakorum;  17-piece dance band the Dave Stewart Orchestra; and Cheeks with Verden Allen, former Mott the Hoople organist:   "People think you're always having a great time, with Rolls-Royces, money, and so on. If they knew the truth, they'd be disillusioned. It's a lot more hard work than fun...But that work can be fun -- a lot more fun than working in a jam factory in Hereford, which is something I have done...I carried on working with Verden in various bands until '77-'78, when I got fed up with not getting anywhere... Then, when I ran into Jimmy and heard the Pretenders demos, it seemed like the answer to all those years of farting around...Our first LP was very special."

'Pretenders' was produced by Chris Thomas over six months at Wessex Studios and Air Studios and features Martin Chambers on drums and backing vocals;   Pete Farndon on bass guitar and backing vocals;    James Honeyman-Scott on lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals;   and Chrissie Hynde on rhythm guitar and lead vocals;   with Geoff Bryant on horn;  Henry Lowther and Jim Wilson  on trumpet;  Chris Mercer on saxophone;  and Chris Thomas on keyboards and sound effects.   

Honeyman-Scott:  "Well, we’d been rehearsing for quite a while – about a year, I’d imagine. Chrissie had had the material for a long while, and we just did lots and lots of rehearsing, seven days a week, all hours of the day and night. At first a lot of the licks were very heavy – like “Up the Neck” started off as a reggae song. I said, “Let’s speed it up,” and I put in that little guitar run, and that’s how it all really started to come together, by me putting in these little melodic runs that I like doing. Because my main influence is the Beach Boys. That’s how the melodic parts of numbers came about. And then Chrissie really started to like pop music. That’s why she started writing things like “Kid.” I love playing “Kid”!" 

'Pretenders' twenty-four in Norway;  nine in the US;  six in Australia;  five in Canada;  two in New Zealand and Sweden;  and made its debut at number one in the UK.  Hynde says:   "The band made my songs sound good.  I was just the ringleader."

"Stop Your Sobbing" went to sixty-five in the US, thirty-four in the UK, and twenty-five in New Zealand.

"Kid" found its way to ninety in Australia and thirty-three in the UK. Hynde reveals:   "That was about a kid who finds out his mother’s a prostitute."

"Brass in Pocket" hit fourteen in the US;  eleven in the Netherlands;  five in Canada;  two in Australia and New Zealand;  and number one in Sweden and the UK.    Hynde says:   "James [Honeyman-Scott] had that little riff. And I’d heard a guy from a band up north who had taken his suit to a dry cleaner, say, “Was there any brass in pocket?”   It’s in the rock tradition of being cocky and sure of yourself. You’re not supposed to go onstage and say, “Oh, I’m small and I have no confidence.” And probably you don’t have much confidence, or else you wouldn’t have gotten together a rock band in the first place. And so, hence, “Brass In Pocket” is, I guess, a big lie."

"Mystery Achievement"

full album:

All songs written by Chrissie Hynde unless otherwise indicated.

Side One:
1.) 0:00 Precious
2.) 3:36 The Phone Call
3.) 6:06 Up the Neck
4.) 10:34 Tattooed Love Boys
5.) 13:34 Space Invader  (Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott)
6,) 17:01 The Wait  (Hynde, Farndon)
7.) 20:37 Stop Your Sobbing  (Ray Davies)
Side Two:
1.) 23:18 Kid
2.) 26:25 Private Life
3.) 32:50 Brass in Pocket  (Honeyman-Scott, Hynde)
4.) 35:54 Lovers of Today
5.) 41:46 Mystery Achievement

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