Lex Neon on Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)

(A quick one for Chrissie Hynde, who celebrates a September 7th birthday.)

Recently, I discovered an ancient cassette tape that was recorded sometime during the summer of 1980.  On the tape is 11 year-old me, along with my sister and two aunts (ages 12 and 14), singing songs that were in the Top 10 during that time.  One of the songs is “Brass In Pocket (I’m Special)” by the Pretenders.  (Note: at some point during our vocal excursions, the lyric was changed to “Ass In Bucket.” Apologies to you, Chrissie.)

At the time, the Pretenders was the “new” rock.  It was no longer the 70s, and young upstarts from England and New York were starting to rule the roost.  The kids in my family were pretty much fed up with Top 40 radio, which hardly ever offered anything new or exciting.  The Pretenders were taking music in a direction that didn’t quite jibe with the long album rock of FM, or the short bursts of absurdest Top 40 fare like Olivia Newton -John, Diana Ross, and Kenny Rogers.

At some point during the winter of ’79, my aunt Ava (7 months older than me, and an uncanny knack for spotting quality rock acts way before fame hit) purchased an imported copy the Pretenders’ debut album.  She’d heard other songs from the album (“Kid” and “Tattooed Love Boys”) and had to have it.  As usual, we “shared” our music, and she loaned me the album.

I would never be the same again.

Pretenders was an eclectic album full of pop, hard rock, new wave, and punk.  The album kicked of with “Precious,” which snarled and bit my head off.  There was something ironic about Chrissie’s soft vocal and the fury in the band’s playing.  It was also the first time I ever heard anyone on vinyl say the phrase “fuck off.”  I made sure that my mother never heard this song playing on the stereo, of course.  “Kid” and “Stop Your Sobbing,” their cover of a Kinks tune, made the Pretenders more accessible to the melodic side of my brain.

The song that wore down the diamond tip of my stereo stylus was “Mystery Achievement.”  The hypnotic beat that winds its way through the song would be imitated by hundreds of bands for years to come (dig “I Am The Resurrection” by the Stone Roses).  There would be more albums to follow by the Pretenders, some more even than others.  Pretenders II would bring “Message Of Love,” Talk of the Town,” and “Louie Louie,” which I would re-write (over and over and over and over) for one of my first bands.

Over the years, Chrissie Hynde’s songwriting took on more depth.  “Back On The Chain Gang,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” and “Middle Of The Road” are still classic examples of Chrissie’s rock and roll pen.  “2000 Miles” seems to get a good workout every December.  “Night In My Veins” showed that even into the 90s, this girl was still getting her “rock and roll” groove on.  I have a clip from Saturday Night Live of the Pretenders jamming their way through “Veins,” and I get goosebumps.

Chrissie’s music helped chart a new, more energetic course in rock.  Her music demanded something from both writers and listeners; to be open to new sounds and raw emotion.

Happy birthday, Chrissie.  Thanks for the great music, and for helping us to find a new direction.  We’re still with you and so glad that with so many gone, you’re still with us!  I love you, and when you’re in Vegas, stop by.  I’d love to chat over tea and ask you to play rhythm guitar on a new Poppertrack!

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

Please note: The original American release date is January, 1980

Currently listening :
The Pretenders
By The Pretenders
Release date: By 2006-10-03

~ by Poppermost on September 9, 2008.

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