The Pretenders

Smash Hits check out the great Pretenders

Thirty five feet above London’s Floral Street – where Pan’s People used to rehearse – the Great Pretender, Chrissie Hynde, is checking out her more off-beat fan letters.

“A really good record,” says one fan, in a spidery scrawl completely devoid of punctuation, “it’s s good song and it has a really good beat . . . “

Chrissie winces and mutters a curse when the fan tells her that she has “lovely eyes”, that her lips are “nice” and that, in his opinion, she has “tender hands”.

More to the point: “I like very much the tight fitting black trousers you wore, they were so nice, so neat, you dress neatly. I think you’re really nice and a sexy today girl.”

Interesting – the observation about tight fitting black trousers. Ms Hynde does plan her wardrobe carefully. (She is wearing these same black trousers today. They are plastic and split about the knees.)

Her stage ‘costume’ reflects her fascination with jockeys. (As a kid, Chrissie was horse mad and still dreams of getting her own horse somebody.)

“I always thought jockeys had a certain style,” she explains. “They just look great, they dress real good. So I like, chose some colours and traditional designs and had them made up into jockey shirts . . . “

Her stage outfit also includes the jockey cap – the removal of which, part way through The Pretenders set, reveals an attractive head of hair which Chrissie always cuts herself.

“I just wash my hair and leave it,” she says. “I don’t even dry it with a dryer. The other guys do, though!”

Pete Farndon, the bass player, even uses an iron when out on the road – or so he claims!

Chrissie, however, is the only one in the band who wears make-up: “Just the bare minimum, ya know – even when going down the postbox!”

The Pretenders had just completed the fourth date on their current British tour; audiences so far – at that point they had only played the North – have been small but delirious. Chrissie relishes relating particular incidents.

“I tried to kick him in the head”

“One gig we played, I had this guy ‘gobbing’ – or, as I prefer to call it, ‘spitting’ – at me. I asked him to stop it, but he didn’t so I tried to kick him in the head. He grabbed me by the boot and pulled me into the audience . . .

“But I kept playing on – I didn’t stop playing.

“I eventually made my way back up on stage and we finished the set; he was removed from the premises after Pete had jumped off stage and given him a few wacks with his bass.”

Farndon, who’d just rolled up on his Triumph Bonneville motorbike, entered and, pulling up a chair, added dryly: “I went walkabout in the audience!”

Ah! Life on the road.

Backstage after a show the fans are pretty shy when they get to meet the band face to face.

“Most of the time we have to think of things to say to get any conversation going,” Farndon explains, adding that, to date, in the way of presents, he has received a pint of beer; “while on stage it was thrown all over me.”

Meanwhile Chrissie got given a whole bottle of vodka the other night – not to mention a book on The Kinks!

“Also I met a girl the other day who came backstage, she told me her brother was a jockey and also that she would send me her rosettes from showjumping which she had won.” Chrissie was obviously pleased by this so I hope she gets those rosettes!

When they’re travelling between gigs – in a Transit minibus – the band have a kind of running battle about who gets to play what on the cassette machine. Chrissie herself doesn’t care much either way – preferring to close herself off behind a detective novel.

James Honeyman-Scott, the guitarist, listens to Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds non-stop, while Pete Farndon opts for his own compilation cassettes of old singles so that he can pretend he’s listening to the radio and fall asleep dreaming he’s back in 1964!

Time for a little ‘background’ though. Pete Farndon (bass), James Honeyman-Scott (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Martin Chambers (drums) are all from Hereford.

Chrissie Hynde, on the other hand, is American. She hails from Akron, Ohio – home of Devo, Rachel Sweet and the American rubber industry.

She came here in 1974 and, after working as a rock journalist for a while, became involved in a series of short-lived bands with folks like Mick Jones of The Clash, some of The Damned, and, it has been claimed elsewhere, the Pistols . . . having decided upon a musical career at the tender age of three.

She subsequently helped out as a backup vocalist on sessions for Chris (“Motor Bikin”) Spedding and Johnny Thunders (of Heartbreakers fame.)

Originally, back in 1974, Nick Lowe had wanted to take her out on tour with him as an extra guitarist and backup vocalist, but she’d been unable to do so because of an earlier contract.

Instead, Lowe ended up producing The Pretenders’ debut hit single “Stop Your Sobbing” – a 1964 Ray Davies (of The Kinks) composition.

The current single, “Kid” (a Chrissie Hynde composition) and a forthcoming album are produced by Roxy Music and Pistols maestro Chris Thomas.

Despite Cliff White’s somewhat sour review of “Kid”, we at Smash Hits add our good wishes to those of the aforementioned ‘tight trouser’ fan:

“I wish you good luck with your future records and dates.”

Even though, with The Pretenders’ talent and sharp wits, we don’t reckon they’ll be needing it much.

Smash Hits, August 1979

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