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Oldies 03/10/2003

RETRO: The Pretenders

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Gillingham, Kent, UK (By Mikey)

The 80s revival continues with one of the influential bands of the late 70s and early 80s, which survived 4 decades of pure hell, were The Pretenders. This band was totally disregarded as an icon in the early 80s only to be heard now, again in our ever-changing music Industry. The band releases their new single next Monday called The Losing. Let's go down memory lane, and delve deeper into the lives and tragedies of the Pretenders, helm by Chrissie Hynde and her ever-changing line-up of the band. With a forthcoming UK Tour over October, and appearing over the European continent, in early 2004.

The Making Of A Band
The Pretenders formed in 1978 as a rock quartet featuring Chrissie Hynde as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. The band has seen numerous changes in members due to deaths and conflicts, yet Chrissie has remained the focal point and the backbone of the group. Her distinctive vocals and cavalier charm have established her as one of the premier singers of rock and alternative music. Chrissie's provocative and often personal song writing skills and singing presentation showed the world that she not only can sing with the big boys of rock, but often surpass their abilities. Chrissie may be the first 'chick rocker." Although Chrissie hails from Akron, Ohio, she made her musical move in England in the early 70s. Before the Pretenders, Chrissie played with a few other bands including Jack Rabbit and the Berk Brothers.

After kicking around the US, UK and France for over a decade, Chrissie Hynde finally wound up on the path that would eventually lead her to the Pretenders. Towards the end of 1977, while living in squats around London, she met Tony Secunda, onetime band manager of such acts as Steeleye Span and The Move. Chrissie, with Fred Berk (Johnny Moped) on bass and Nigel Pegrum (Steeleye Span) on drums, recorded a few demos including The Phone Call.

In March 1978, Tony arranged a meeting with Anchor Records' Dave Hill, who was setting up a new label, Real Records, in the UK. The day before the meeting was to take place, Chrissie was on the phone with Secunda, "said something really stupid," and he hung up on her. She phoned Dave to tell him she no longer had a manager and wouldn't be able to make the meeting. He told her to come around anyway and signed her up as the first artist on Real Records. Hill introduced Hynde to a studio drummer, Gas Wild. Gas had recently returned to London from a trip to his hometown of Hereford. While in Hereford, Gas bumped into an old friend, Pete Farndon.

Pete had just returned from Australia where he'd been in a folk group, The Bushwackers. Gas phoned Pete the following week to tell him about the band he was in with an American, and to ask him if he was interested in coming to London to join them. Pete jumped at the chance to again escape Hereford and give rock 'n' roll another shot. Pete met Chrissie in a pub. She said hello, then turned around and ignored him for an hour. Later, Chrissie took Pete to her rehearsal space, which he said was "the scummiest basement I've ever been in my life". The first song they played was Groove Me by King Floyd, followed by a few of her songs - Tequila, The Phone Call, and I Can't Help Myself. Pete was impressed and began the task of working out the odd time signatures in her other songs.

It was soon apparent that Gas was not right for the band and they dismissed him. Chrissie had her mind set on Phil Taylor, Motorhead's drummer. To get Phil Taylor in the band, Chrissie and Pete came up with a plan to try to lure him away from Motorhead - they'd ask him to sit in on drums while they auditioned guitarists. To make this plan seem valid, they had to get a decent guitarist for the "audition". Pete had a guitarist-friend in Hereford whom he decided to call. James Honeyman-Scott agreed to go to London for the session.

Phil would not be swayed, and stayed with Motorhead. Hynde and Farndon, however, were very impressed with Jim. Honeyman-Scott was less impressed and went back home to Hereford. About this time Gerry Mackleduff came along and, while never officially joining the band, drummed for them as a session player, receiving 10 each time. In need of a guitarist for recording demos, Pete once again phoned Jim to see if he was interested in the job. He agreed and was paid for the session with "100 and a load of speed". Included on this demo were I Can't Control Myself, Precious, The Phone Call, and Stop Your Sobbing.

On The Road To Success
It was summer, 1978, and once again, Jim happily returned to Hereford. This time, however, Chrissie and Pete were determined to have him in the band. Chrissie knew Jim loved Rockpile and Nick Lowe, so she took the demo to Lowe, an old friend of hers, and asked him to listen to it to see if he would be interested in producing them. He liked what he heard and told her he would produce the single for them. Chrissie then phoned Jim and told him who was going to produce their record. He immediately joined the band. So Jim, Chrissie, Pete and Gerry went into the studio and recorded Stop Your Sobbing and its b-side, The Wait.

A permanent drummer was needed as Gerry was still being paid by the session and not considered to be the right person for the job. Pete and Jim wondered what had become of a fellow they knew from, not surprisingly, Hereford - Martin Chambers. As it turned out, Martin was living within a mile of Pete's place in Tufnel Park. They invited Martin for a rehearsal, and finally everything clicked. Pete broke the news to Gerry and the Pretenders had a real drummer. By the time Stop Your Sobbing was released, Martin was in the band and Gerry was not. This is the reason Martin's picture appears on the back cover (in applicable countries of release - not including the US) of Stop Your Sobbing.

Two Tragedies and One Hit Single

In 1980, their first album was number one in the UK, as was Brass in Pocket their third UK single. The original line-up released two albums, Pretenders and Pretenders II; a North American EP, Extended Play; and a handful of singles. By the end of 1981, Pete had caused increasingly strained relations within the band due to his heroin use. They finished their world tour in Bangkok in April 1982. After a rest, Chrissie, Martin and Jim got together and decided Pete would no longer be a member of the band as he had become increasingly unreliable due to his drug addiction. Two days after Pete was told the news in June 1982, Jim Honeyman-Scott died in his sleep at the home of a friend. His death was due to heart failure caused by cocaine intolerance.

The following month, Chrissie and Martin went into the studio to record Back On The Chain Gang, a song they'd been working out during soundchecks. Tony Butler (Big Country) filled in on bass and Billy Bremner (Rockpile) took over the lead guitar duties. A number of guitarists were auditioned before Chrissie and Martin remembered someone Jim had wanted to bring into the band as an additional member. They called Robbie McIntosh and he came for an audition. He also brought along a bass player he knew named Malcolm Foster. Before the Pretenders were finished recording their new album, Pete died. He'd shot up while in the bath, passed out and drowned.

The Ever-changing Line-up The new line-up made the Learning To Crawl album in 1984, and with Rupert Black on keyboards, launched an extremely successful worldwide tour. The Pretenders appeared at Live Aid in 1985, and Chrissie could be heard on a cover version of I Got Your Babe with U.B.40, which they released as a single and shot right to the top, at No.1. A benefit concert that was held in the UK and the US simultaneously and broadcast throughout the world. This was the last show this particular line up would perform together. During the recording sessions for the Get Close album, Chrissie started working with other musicians. Although it was rumoured, it was not until 1994 that the fact that Martin had actually been fired came out. Although the cover shows Chrissie, Robbie, Blair Cunningham, and T. M. Stevens, various musicians played on the album.

This line-up began a US tour in 1987 and included Bernie Worrell on keyboards. Only a few weeks into the tour, Bernie and T. M. were fired. Malcolm and Rupert were brought back in to finish the tour. By the time they'd reached South America, Robbie quit and Johnny Marr came in to replace him. In June 1988, U.B.40 re-recorded Breakfast in Bed originally sang by Sheila Hylton, and asked Chrissie to collaborate on the single, which she did, and the single was an instant Top 10 hit. In 1990, Chrissie, now the only Pretender left, began recording Packed! Again using various musicians. During this time, there were several line-up changes. The Hynde / Marr / Eller / Hood line-up seems to be the most valid, even though they never toured, and recorded only a few tracks together.

Re-building A Band In 1993, Chrissie finally began to rebuild the Pretenders. She kept bassist Andy Hobson from the days of Packed! (He does not appear on the album, but can be seen in the video for Sense Of Purpose) and netted Adam Seymour just after the Katydids broke up. The recording for Last Of The Independents was already underway when Chrissie asked Martin to rejoin the band. He did.

In 1994, the band toured Europe and the US in support of Independents. In March 1995, Chrissie joined Cher, Neneh Cherry with Eric Clapton to perform Love Can Build A Bridge. Proceeds of the single were donated to the Comic Relief Appeal Fund; the song spent a week at No.1. Over two nights in May of 1995, they recorded two live acoustic-type shows with the Duke String Quartet. These recordings became The Isle Of View LP. They were asked and agreed to perform at the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio in 1995. The Pretenders received tremendous praise for their performances of My City Was Gone and Neil Young's Needle And The Damage Done. In the US, Viva El Amor was freed into the open arms of critical acclaim on June 22, 1999. The band joined up with Lilith Fair for a month of US Summer dates, and then returned to Europe to tour in support of the new album.

Loose In L.A., the Pretenders DVD filmed (mostly) at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on February 27 of this year, is scheduled to be released in Europe on September 29, and in the US on October 13.

Tentative track listing is:
1. Lie To Me
2. Time
3. Message Of Love
4. My Baby
5. Talk Of The Town
6. You Know Who Your Friends Are
7. Time The Avenger
8. The Homecoming
9. Up The Neck
10. Fools Must Die
11. My City Was Gone
12. The Losing
13. Biker
14. Complex Person
15. Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
16. Back On The Chain Gang
17. Don't Get Me Wrong
18. Kid
19. Rebel Rock Me
20. Night In My Veins
21. Tattoed Love Boys
22. Precious
23. I'll Stand By You
24. Middle Of The Road
25. Mystery Achievement
26. Brass In Pocket
The Pretenders Discography

10 February 1979 Stop Your Sobbing - Chart Position No.34, 9 weeks on chart
14 July 1979 Kid - Chart Position No.33, 7 weeks on chart
17 November 1979 Brass In Pocket - Chart Position No.1, 17 weeks on chart*
05 April 1980 Talk of the Town - Chart Position No.8, 8 weeks on chart*
14 February 1981 Message of Love - Chart Position No.11, 7 weeks on chart
12 September 1981 Day After Day - Chart Position No.45, 4 weeks on chart
14 November 1981 I Go To Sleep - Chart Position No.7, 10 weeks on chart*
02 October 1982 Back On The Chain Gang - Chart Position No.17, 9 weeks on chart
26 November 1983 2000 Miles - Chart Position No.15, 9 weeks on chart
09 June 1984 Thin Line Between Love and Hate - Chart Position No.49, 3 weeks on chart
11 October 1986 Don't get Me Wrong - Chart Position No.10, 9 weeks on chart*
13 December 1986 Hymn To Her - Chart Position No.8, 12 weeks on chart*
02 July 1987 I'll Stand By You - Chart Position No.10, 10 weeks on chart*
02 July 1994 Night In My Veins - Chart Position No.25, 5 weeks on chart
15 October 1994 977 - Chart Position No.66, 2 weeks on chart
14 October 1995 Kid (re-recording) - Chart Position No.73, 1 week on chart
15 May 1999 Human - Chart Position No.33, 3 weeks on chart
(*) Top 10 Single

1980 Pretenders
1981 Extended Play (5 track EP Album)
1981 Pretenders II
1984 Learning To Crawl
1986 Get Close
1987 The Singles
1990 Packed!
1994 Last of the Independents
1995 The Isle of View
1999 Viva El Amor
2000 Greatest Hits
2002 Loose Screw

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