I was a monster Pretenders fan back in the day. Their first album, Pretenders, is in the running for the greatest debut album ever. Its great rock and roll, with brilliant songwriting, sly and lovely melodies, ALL belied by the raucous punk production. It was the first album I ever saw that had the words PLAY LOUD on the cover. Now that’s a recording ethos I can get into.
If you have even the slightest doubt that their under-rated melody was the secret sauce of the Pretenders, check out the live acoustic album Isle of View recorded with a string quarter backing the Hynde instead of electric guitars and bass. Its just brilliant.
Yeah, I had a crush on her — I loved her rawness, the way she moaned Hmmmm, how she spat out lyrics, both plaintive (No, I’ll never feel Like a man in a man’s world) and nasty (I shot my mouth off, and you showed me what that hole was for). The power trio behind her was killer, and they could play soft if they wanted to (See Lovers of Today, or their cover of Ray Davie’s Stob Your Sobbing, both on the debut album). Hynde’s voice could range from tough as nails to crushingly vulnerable; her unique phrasing perfectly fit the music she crafted. Musically, everything about The Pretenders just worked.
I’ve always wanted to see a bio pic of the Pretenders, with Gina Gershon cast as Chrissie Hynde. Not me, baby, I’m too precious, I had to fuck off.
Soundcloud has two full songs, plus Chrissie discussing how the album came about (below).
You or No One
Her website is at Chrissiehynde.com
Stream full album at Soundcloud
Review of Stockholm by The Guardian
Chrissie Hynde, Minus the Pretenders (NYT)
From Sterogum‘s 10 Best Pretenders songs:
“If there had never been such a thing as Chrissie Hynde someone would certainly have needed to invent her: The Ohio born singer-songwriter and frontwoman of the Pretenders emerged from the teeming hothouse of late 1970′s London like Athena cracked forcefully from the skull of Zeus. Hynde the writer and performer was fully formed and completely wonderful — a distinctly feminine (and feminist) counterpoint to the nearly overwhelming crush of alpha-male performers ranging from Elvis Costello to Joe Strummer to Nick Lowe to the still-looming presence of ex-Pistol John Lydon, beginning the first stages of rebuilding his caustic social critique as Public Image Limited. Into this fraternity strode Hynde and her Pretenders, every bit as tough and self-possessed as their peers and taking a backseat to no one in terms of talent. On the heels of her fantastic Lowe-produced cover of the Kinks’ classic “Stop Your Sobbing” (released as a single), Hynde proceeded to issue Pretenders, which remains to this date one of the most audacious and fascinating debuts in rock music history. That album established Hynde’s bonafides as a staggeringly artful tunesmith with a remarkable gift for pulling indelible choruses seemingly out of thin air, as well as burnishing an intelligent, pugnacious and utterly fearless “fuck with me at your peril” persona. Her lyrics were tough, funny, and intelligent, co-mingling the personal and political in a manner both deeply coded and highly sophisticated. A central tension in her writing emerged: Hynde did not gladly suffer fools, but the music industry was awash in a sea of capricious idiocy.
Then there is the matter of Hynde’s singing. Gifted with a keening alto and a uniquely brilliant flare for phrasing, she might not have even needed to be a great songwriter to be a great success. Hynde’s capacity to persuasively run the gamut from nails tough to crushingly vulnerable, sometimes in the span of a few seconds, places her in rarefied company amongst vocalists in the rock tradition. One could argue the list goes: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Alex Chilton, Chrissie Hynde, and everyone else.”
-Timothy Bracy And Elizabeth Bracy, Sterogum