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Meet the Pretenders [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

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The Pretenders…NOW. (facebook/official site photo)

The Pretenders are an English and American rock band formed in Hereford England, in the spring of 1978. The original band lineup included founder and main songwriter Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), Pete Farndon (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Martin Chambers (drums, backing vocals, percussion). 

Christine Ellen Hynde was born September 7, 1951, in Akron Ohio. After studying art at Kent State University for a time, she took off for London, England in 1973. In London, she worked at a weekly music newspaper and a clothing store! Musically, Chrissie was involved in the “punk” scene, playing with early versions of The Clash, and in several short-lived bands.

What was to become the Pretenders formed in 1978, after Dave Hill at Anchor Records heard Hynde’s music demos. He booked a rehearsal studio, where a 3-piece band consisting of Hynde, Mal Hart on bass, and Phil Taylor (of Motorhead) on drums, played Hynde’s original songs. A new demo tape was cut, and while Dave Hill felt that it needed more work, he had seen and heard enough “star potential” to suggest that Hynde form a more permanent band to record for his new label, Real Records.

Hynde then formed a band composed of Pete Farndon (later linked romantically with Hynde) on bass, James Honeyman-Scott on guitar, and Gerry Mcilduff on drums. This new, unnamed band then recorded five tracks at Regents Park Studio in July 1978, including “Stop Your Sobbing.” Soon, Gerry Mcilduff was replaced on drums by Martin Chambers, and Hynde named the band:

“Pretenders” came from the Platters smash hit: “The Great Pretender” (#1/1955).

The band’s first single, a cover version of the Kinks’ song “Stop Your Sobbing”

(as mentioned above, and produced by Nick Lowe of “Cruel To Be Kind” fame) was released in England in January 1979, to good reviews. When the song came ‘across the pond,’ it caused a few ripples, landing at #65 (1980).

In January 1980, the Pretenders got to #1 in England with “Brass In Pocket.”

“Brass In Pocket,” one of Jersey’s Favorite Hits, reached #14 on the charts across America.

The band’s self-titled debut album (“Pretenders”) hit record store shelves at the end of December 1979, and was a critic’s favorite, and achieved commercial success in both England and the U.S.

In the years to follow, “Pretenders” has been  named one of the best albums of all time by VH-1 (album #52), and Rolling Stone (album #155).

During March 1981, the EP “Extended Play” was released.

The second full-length album, “Pretenders II” was released during August 1981. It included the “Extended Play” singles, the MTV video favorite “Day After Day,” and several album rock hits.

Sadly, over the years, the Pretenders have had their share of drug-related tragedies…

Chrissie Hynde fired Pete Farndon on June 14, 1982. Two days later, James Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure as a result of cocaine use. Farndon was found dead April 14, 1983. After taking heroin and passing out, Farndon drowned in his bathtub…leaving the Pretenders with two living members.

Hynde continued with the band…and from here on out, the lineup would fluctuate wildly.

During July 1982, just weeks after Honeyman-Scott’s death,  Hynde, Chambers, and temporary backup players assembled to record the single “Back On The Chain Gang.”

The song was released in October, becoming their biggest success in the US, staying at No. 5 for three consecutive weeks (#5/1983).

Hynde then changed the lineup, keeping Chambers and adding professional musicians Robbie McIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass. The band’s first album with this lineup, “Learning To Crawl” debuted in January 1984.

“Middle Of The Road” was this line-up’s first single, released in the US in November 1983 and reached the Top 20 (#19/1983). Meanwhile, Hynde had had a daughter (Natalie) with Ray Davies (“Kinks”) during January 1983… the “kid” mentioned in the song… (she also has a daughter, Yasmin, with former husband Jim Kerr, of “Simple Minds).

Middle Of The Road’s 45-rpm flip-side song, “2000 Miles” was released as a single in England!

You can hear it on New Jersey 101.5, each December, as it is one of “Jersey’s Holiday Favorites & Christmas Classics.”

The 1985 Live Aid concert proved to be the last public appearance for this version of the Pretenders…

Soon after recording sessions for the next album had begun and one track had been completed, Hynde declared that Chambers was no longer playing well and dismissed both him and Foster. The revised Pretenders team: Hynde, McIntosh, bassist T.M. Stevens, and former “Haircut One Hundred” drummer Blair Cunningham.

The new album, “Get Close” was released in 1986.

It featured “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (#10/1986)

The “Get Close” tour (1987) would see band members come and go…

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“The Singles” Best Of CD, 1987. (Craig Allen photo)

…a “Best Of” compilation CD, called “The Singles” was released in 1987…

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Check out all the “singles!” (Craig Allen photo)

…and then the Pretenders would go on “hiatus” until 1990.

The 1990 album “Packed,” with Hynde and session musicians didn’t fare well. The single “Never Do That” was ignored in the U.S. and England…but was a minor hit in Canada.

By 1993, Hynde had teamed with guitarist Adam Seymour to form a new version of the Pretenders. The team of Hynde and Seymour then hired a number of session musicians to record “Last Of The Independents.” The new Pretenders included: ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, bassist Andy Hobson, and drummer/writer/producer James “Fred” Hood. But by the end of the album sessions (and for the resulting tour) the official band line-up was Hynde, Seymour, Hobson, and returning drummer Martin Chambers.

All these changes are hard to keep track of…right?!

The good news is that this line-up would last for well over a decade, with no changes.

When “Last Of The Independents” was released in 1994, it had reasonable overall commercial success, being rated gold in the US. The first single, “Night In My Veins” was a minor success in the US (#71/1994), a mid-chart success in the UK, and a top 10 success in Canada.

The second single was the ballad “I’ll Stand By You.”

The song was a top 10 success in the U.S (#16/1994). and UK, and top 20 in Canada!

During the 1990′s, Chrissie Hynde became increasingly concerned with political activism, vocally supporting the environmental movement and vegetarianism.

The Pretenders would round out the decade by contributing songs to several movie soundtracks.

Pretenders “Greatest Hits” compilations followed in 2000 and 2009.

In March 2005, the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, with only Hynde and Chambers attending the ceremony. However, in her acceptance speech, Hynde named and thanked ALL the replacement members of the group!

Subsequently, the Pretenders, with (once again) fluctuating lineups, have recorded in-studio albums, toured, and released ‘live-on-tour’ dvds.

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Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders in Hong Kong, September 2012  (facebook/official site photo)

Most recently, in September 2012, The Pretenders re-grouped as part of the entertainment lineup for…

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Singapore, September 22, 2012. (Facebook/official site photo)

…the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix.

What are the Pretenders up to now? Visit their official facebook site by clicking here!

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