We had never met anyone in rock music quite like The Pretenders bandleader Chrissie Hynde, and honestly in the forty-plus years since The Pretenders debut, I still haven’t. And if anyone tried to tell her story, you would swear it was some punk rock fairy tale dreamed up by a screenwriter with an over-active imagination. That’s why I have Ms. Hynde here to speak for herself In the Studio about The Pretenders/ Pretenders II, one of rock’s most important one-two Post-punk punches.
I’ll never forget my first two encounters with The Pretenders singer/songwriter. The first was my live radio interview on ROCK 103 while in Memphis during their first U.S. tour April 4, 1980. Although the band had been there less than 24 hours, Chrissie had already spent the night in a Memphis jail, but not before she kicked out the rear window of a police cruiser which had been called to escort her away in handcuffs from the local TGI Friday’s restaurant. To say that our initial live interview was tense the next day is an understatement. In the course of discussing “Precious”,”Mystery Achievement”, The Pretenders’ cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing”, and Chrissie’s authentic portrayal of a greasy spoon diner waitress in the video to “Brass in Pocket”, I must admit that I was intimidated by how this supposed rock rookie took control of the conversation, and bristled indignantly at any perceived slight by the interviewer.
Nevertheless, she and original members guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bass player Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers quickly followed up the impressive debut with an Extended Play mini-album containing two of my personal Pretenders favorites, “Message of Love” and the brilliant, surprisingly mature “Talk of the Town”. The subsequent full album Pretenders II would peak at #7 UK, #10 in Billboard, but sadly it would be the final effort of the original band, the reasons Chrissie Hynde delves into quite frankly in this classic rock interview.
My next encounter with Ms.Hynde was five years later, backstage at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia on July 13 1985, where I was interviewing rock’s biggest stars including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Tom Petty, Ozzy Osbourne, Bryan Adams, even movie stars Tim Robbins & Jack Nicholson. I spotted Chrissie Hynde standing in the doorway of her dressing room trailer, looking very sharp in a tailored sky-blue suit, with red henna highlights in her hair. As I approached her with my microphone in hand, suddenly I became aware of her steely stare & what felt to be an invisible force-field that projected about five feet in front of her that announced, “Do NOT put that thing in my face unless you want it embedded in your ear.”
I decided to go talk to Jack Nicholson instead , much less intimidating!
But another 13 years later it seemed that motherhood & maturity allowed Chrissie to “wear it well”, & as you will hear, I found her to be frank, thoughtful, & gracious in recounting her very beginnings from growing up in Akron, Ohio to eventually coming full circle…literally… to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just an Uber ride north in Cleveland. –Redbeard