Women Who Rock: Chrissie Hynde
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Chrissie Hynde [/lastfm](born September 7, 1951 in Akron, Ohio) is a rock musician, best known as the leader of the band The Pretenders. She is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and the only member of the band to remain constant.
[pullquote quote="For me, knowing that Brian Jones was out there, and later that Iggy Pop was out there, made it kind of hard for me to get too interested in the guys that were around me."]Daughter of a part-time secretary and a telephone company worker, Hynde graduated from Firestone High School, admitting “I was never too interested in high school. I mean, I never went to a dance, I never went out on a date, I never went steady. It became pretty awful for me. Except, of course, I could go see bands, and that was the kick. I used to go to Cleveland just to see any band. So I was in love a lot of the time, but mostly with guys in bands that I had never met. For me, knowing that Brian Jones was out there, and later that Iggy Pop was out there, made it kind of hard for me to get too interested in the guys that were around me. I had, uh, bigger things in mind.”
[photogallerylink id=36038]Those “things” included Hynde’s experimentation with hippie counterculture, psychotropic drugs, eastern mysticism, vegetarianism and of course, joining or starting a band. Soon enough, Hynde joined a band called Sat. Sun. Mat. (which included Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo) while attending Kent State University’s Art School for three years. Hynde was on the campus during the infamous “Kent State shootings”.
Hynde also developed an interest in NME when she wasn’t waitressing or working various other jobs to support herself, eventually saving enough money for the move from Ohio to London in 1973. With her art background, Hynde landed a job in an architectural firm but left after eight months. It was then that Hynde met rock journalist Nick Kent and landed a writing position at NME. However, it was a short gig among many as Hynde soon found herself working at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then-unknown clothing store, SEX, where Hynde was summarily fired for a fight with a customer in which Hynde was hit with a bell from the store. Hynde then made a fruitless attempt to start a band in France before her return to Cleveland in 1975. (Scroll down to continue)
Hardly discouraged, Hynde resurfaced in France in 1976 for another stab at forming a band. Finding her way to London in the midst of the punk movement, Hynde tried to start a group with Mick Jones from The Clash. After the band failed to take off, Malcolm McLaren placed her as a guitarist in Masters of the Backside. But Chrissie was booted just as the band became The Damned. By that time, Mick Jones had invited Hynde to join his band on their initial riotous tour of Britain. Chrissie’s recollection of that period: “It was great, but my heart was breaking. I wanted to be in a band so bad. And to go to all the gigs, to see it so close up, to be living in it and not to have a band was devastating to me. When I left, I said, ‘Thanks a lot for lettin’ me come along,’ and I went back and went weeping on the underground throughout London. All the people I knew in town, they were all in bands. And there I was, like the real loser, you know? Really the loser.”
But Hynde’s luck soon changed. A demo tape of hers found its way to Dave Hill, owner of the label Real Records. Hill stepped in to manage her career, and began by paying off the back rent owed on her rehearsal room in Covent Garden. Hill also advised Chrissie to take her time and get a band together. In the spring of 1978, Hynde met bassist Pete Farndon through a mutual friend at a bar in Portobello Road. The meeting led to her rehearsal room (described by Farndon as “the scummiest basement I’d ever been in in my life”) where they started playing “Groove Me”, by King Floyd, followed by two of Hynde’s tunes: “Tequila” and “The Phone Call”. Hynde and Farndon then hooked up with James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers, put the name Pretenders on the group, — inspired by the song “The Great Pretender” — recorded a demo tape (including “Precious”, “The Wait” and a Kinks’ cover, “Stop Your Sobbing”), handed it to Hynde’s friend Nick Lowe, produced a single (“Stop Your Sobbing/The Wait”) and performed their first gigs ever in a club in Paris. The single was released in January 1979 and quickly hit the Top Thirty in UK. The band’s precocious success was followed by their first gigs in Britain where the band earned wide critical acclaim. In the same spring (1978), The Pretenders recorded their eponymous first album and hit the charts in UK and US with the song “Brass In Pocket”. (Scroll down to continue)
The Pretenders lineup would change over the years as a result of numerous deaths and internal conflicts. However, Hynde endured, a solid anchor who became the band’s eventual leader although Chambers later returned. Her guitar of choice is a Fender Telecaster.
As the rare, successful female bandleader and style-setter in the early days of punk and new wave, Hynde’s impact was pervasive & substantial. Her edginess, punk sensibilities (she gave Sid Vicious his trademark lock necklace), musical vision, lyrical candor & truthfulness in interviews earned the respect of fans, musicians and critics alike, inspiring multitudes of young women to follow. Among many collaborations, Hynde’s recordings with UB40 (a cover version of “I Got You Babe”) and Cheap Trick (“Walk Away”) have also registered popular success.
Chrissie Hynde had a daughter Natalie Ray in 1983 with Ray Davies of The Kinks. A cover version of the Davies song “Stop Your Sobbing” had been an early hit for the Pretenders, although Hynde met Davies several years later — a meeting which bloomed into a long-term relationship. She then married musician Jim Kerr of the band Simple Minds in 1984, and had a daughter Yasmin with him in 1985. They divorced in 1990. She married artist Lucho Brieva in 1997 and lived with him in London until they separated in 2002.