The Pretenders

The Pretenders are an English New Wave/rock band, formed in London in 1978 by American-expat Chrissie Hynde. In 1979, the band released three singles on WEA-subsidiary Real Records, followed in January 1980 by a self-titled album on Real/Sire. One further album was made by the original lineup before the death of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott in June 1982. With two new members, the band came back with the 1983 release Learning to Crawl. Further albums appeared at lengthier intervals during the subsequent three decades.

Members: Chrissie Hynde (guitar, vocals), Martin Chambers (drums, vocals, 1979-85, 1993-present), Pete Farndon (bass, vocals, 1979-82), James Honeyman-Scott (guitar, keyboards, vocals, 1979-82), Robbie McIntosh (guitar, vocals, 1983-87), Malcolm Foster (bass, vocals, 1983-85, 1987), Rupert Black (keyboards, 1983-85, 1987), T.M. Stevens (bass, 1986-87), Blair Cunningham (drums, 1986-90), Bernie Worrell (keyboards, 1987), Johnny Marr (guitar, 1987-90), Adam Seymour (guitar, vocals, harmonium, 1993-2005), Andy Hobson (bass, 1993-2005)

The Pretenders were formed in London by American expat singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, born Christine Ellen Hynde in Akron, Ohio, on September 7, 1951. As a teenager, she became enchanted with the rock bands of the British Invasion, particularly The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Withdrawn from her classmates and preoccupied with concert-going, she dreamed of one day fronting such a band herself.

In 1970, she attended Kent State University, where she played in a band called Sat. Sun. Mat. with art student Mark Mothersbaugh. On May 4, she and classmate Gerald Casale ran for cover across campus grounds as National Guardsmen opened fire on a student antiwar protest. Their friend, Jeffrey Miller, was among four students killed that day. In response to the event, Mothersbaugh and Casale developed the theory of de-evolution, the basis for their future band Devo.

In 1973, Hynde moved to London, where she soon took up with rock journalist Nick Kent of the New Music Express, which employed her as a columnist. Dissatisfied with the experience, she found work at SEX, an S&M boutique at Worlds End on King’s Road, Chelsea, ran by designer Vivienne Westwood and impresario Malcolm McLaren. It was here that Hynde befriended 19-year-old shop-regular John Lydon, an enthusiast of Captain Beefheart, Hawkwind, and Van der Graaf Generator.

Around the same time (mid-1975), McLaren took garage-rockers The Strand under his managerial wing. That band, which featured SEX clerk Glen Matlock on bass, underwent a lineup overhaul that left them without a frontman. After miming to “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, green-haired Lydon was hired by the band, which proceeded to crash the local club and college circuit under a new name, The Sex Pistols. In search of her own band, Hynde went to France, where she briefly played with garage-rockers The Frenchies before heading back to England to scope the London scene.

During the first half of 1976, as the Pistols developed a cult around their exclusive aesthetic, McLaren, hoping to spearhead a musical movement, oversaw the formation of similar bands. Hynde got involved in Masters of the Backside, one of multiple outgrowths of Pistols rehearsal-mates London SS, which also spawned The Clash and Generation X. MotB featured Hynde on guitar alongside singer Dave Vanian, bassist Captain Sensible, and London SS alumni Brian James (guitar) and Rat Scabies (drums). After management switched over to SEX accountant Andy Czezowski, they renamed themselves The Damned at the exclusion of Hynde.

Later that year, Hynde answered a musicians-wanted ad in Melody Maker placed by ex-Kilburn & the High Roads guitarist/singer Nick Cash. She, along with fellow respondent and future Edge/Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, were denied spots in Cash’s new band, 999.

In 1977, Hynde played briefly with pub-punks Johnny Moped but grew despondent over her inability to land a permanent gig. Undeterred, she demoed her own material and sang backing vocals on the album Hurt by guitarist Chris Spedding.

Early the following year, she partook in The Moors Murderers, a rehearsal band assembled by scenester and future-Visage frontman Steve Strange. As an American, Hynde was unaware of the 1965 Moors case and its gripping effect on the British public. Moving on, she sang background vocals on albums by Mick Farren (Vampires Stole My Lunch Money) and Johnny Thunders (So Alone).

In early 1978, Hynde took a demo of her song “The Phone Call” to Dave Hill, the head of WEA-subsidiary Real Records. Hill became Hynde’s manager while she rehearsed with Motörhead drummer Phil Taylor. That spring, she found musical chemistry with bassist Peter Farndon, drummer Martin Chambers, and guitarist James Honeymoon Scott. They named their band The Pretenders, inspired by Sam Cooke’s version of “The Great Pretender,” a 1950s doo wop classic first made famous by The Platters.

Farndon hailed from the unrecorded folk-rock combo Cold River Lady and cut the 1977 album Murrumbidgee with Aussie folksters The Bushwackers Band. Chambers drummed with garage-punks The Vacants on the 1977 album Punk.Rock, issued exclusively in France on Disques Festival. He also drummed on the 1978 album Guitar Star by Ron Warren Ganderto’s Sound Ceremony. Honeymoon-Scott notched one prior credit (as Jim Scott) on Fall of Hyperion, the 1974 album by keyboardist, composer, and future Enid founder Robert John Godfrey.

The Pretenders cut multiple demos — including “Precious,” “The Wait,” and a cover of the 1964 Kinks deep-cut “Stop Your Sobbing” — that Hill handed to musician Nick Lowe, who’d recently produced albums for The Damned, Elvis Costello, Dr. Feelgood, and Graham Parker & the Rumour. Lowe produced their first single, “Stop Your Sobbing” (b/w “The Wait”), released in January 1979 (UK #34). It was followed that June by the Hynde original “Kid” (UK #33, b/w “Tattooed Love Boys”), which started a longtime association with Pistols/Roxy Music producer Chris Thomas.

Concurrently, Farndon and Honeymoon-Scott played on the Paul Rodgers-produced album Place Your Bets by fellow Real Records recording artist Tommy Morrison. Meanwhile, Hynde sang backing vocals on “Nite Club” by The Specials, included on their Costello-produced debut album.

On November 12, 1979, The Pretenders issued their third single “Brass In Pocket” (b/w “Swinging London” and “Nervous But Shy”). With its slick jangle-funk arrangement and rising “I’m special” refrain, the song reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1980 — the inaugural chart-topper of the new decade — just as the band released their self-titled debut album.


The Pretenders released their self-titled debut album on January 19, 1980, on Sire.

1. “Precious” (3:36)
2. “The Phone Call” (2:29)
3. “Up the Neck” (4:27)
4. “Tattooed Love Boys” (2:59)
5. “Space Invader” Pete FarndonJames Honeyman-Scott (3:26)
6. “The Wait” Chrissie HyndeFarndon (3:35)
7. “Stop Your Sobbing” Ray Davies (3:26)

8. “Kid” (3:06)
9. “Private Life” (6:25)
10. “Brass in Pocket” Honeyman-ScottHynde (3:04)
11. “Lovers of Today” (5:51)
12. “Mystery Achievement” (5:22)

Recorded 1978–1979
Studio Wessex and AIR (London, England)
Producer Chris ThomasNick Lowe

The Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde – lead vocals, rhythm guitars, backing vocals (except CD1, track 5)
Martin Chambers – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Pete Farndon – bass guitar, backing vocals
James Honeyman-Scott – lead and rhythm guitars, keyboards, backing vocals

Additional musicians
Fred Berk – bass guitar on CD2, track 3
Geoff Bryant – French horn
Nick Lowe – production on CD1, track 7
Henry Lowther – trumpet
Gerry Mackelduff – drums on CD1, track 7 and CD2, tracks 4, 5, 7, 9, 10
Chris Mercer – saxophone
Nigel Pegrum – drums on CD2, track 3
Chris Thomas – keyboards, sound effects, production
Jim Wilson – trumpet

Bill Price – engineer
Kevin Hughes – design
Chalkie Davies – front cover photography

“Stop Your Sobbing”
Released: January 1979

Released: June 1979

“Brass in Pocket”
Released: November 9, 1979
Released: 1980

UK Albums (OCC)[32] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[29] 2
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[31] 2
Australia (Kent Music Report)[27] 6
US Billboard 200[33] 9
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[28] 14
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[30] 24 

Pretenders II

The Pretenders released their second album, Pretenders II, on August 7, 1981 on Sire.

1. “The Adultress” (3:55)
2. “Bad Boys Get Spanked” (4:04)
3. “Message of Love” (3:26)
4. “I Go to Sleep” Ray Davies (2:55)
5. “Birds of Paradise” (4:14)
6. “Talk of the Town” (edit of the 3:13 single) 2:45)

7. “Pack It Up” Chrissie HyndeJames Honeyman-Scott (3:50)
8. “Waste Not Want Not” (3:43)
9. “Day After Day” HyndeHoneyman-Scott (3:45)
10. “Jealous Dogs” (5:36)
11. “The English Roses” (4:28)
12. “Louie Louie” (3:30)

Recorded 1980–81
Studio Wessex Studios (London, England) Pathe Marconi Studios (Paris, France)
Length 46:11
Label Sire
Producer Chris Thomas

The Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde – lead vocals, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
James Honeyman-Scott – lead and rhythm guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Pete Farndon – bass guitar, backing vocals
Martin Chambers – drums, backing vocals

Additional personnel
Chris Mercer – tenor saxophone
Henry Lowther, Jim Wilson – trumpets
Jeff Bryant – French horn
Chris Thomas – sound effects
Bill Price – recording
Gavin Cochrane – front cover photography

“Talk of the Town”
Released: April 1980

“Message of Love”
Released: February 1981

“Day After Day”
Released: August 1981 (UK)
“Louie, Louie”
Released: August 1981 (US)

“I Go to Sleep”
Released: November 1981

Australia (Kent Music Report)[22] 18
UK Albums Chart[23] 7
US Billboard 200[24] 10 

Learning to Crawl

The Pretenders released their third album, Learning to Crawl, on January 13, 1984, on Sire.

1. “Middle of the Road” – 4:08
2. “Back on the Chain Gang” – 3:44
3. “Time the Avenger” – 4:47
4. “Watching the Clothes” – 2:46
5. “Show Me” – 4:00
6. “Thumbelina” – 3:12
7. “My City Was Gone” – 5:14
8. “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” (Richard Poindexter, Robert Poindexter, Jackie Members) – 3:33
9. “I Hurt You” – 4:27
10. “2000 Miles” – 3:30

Recorded Mid-1982 to late 1983
Studio AIR Studios, London
Length 39:21
Label Sire

Producer Chris Thomas

Chrissie Hynde – lead vocals (all but “Fast or Slow” and “Ramblin’ Rob”), rhythm guitars, harmonica [uncredited], backing vocals
Robbie McIntosh – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Malcolm Foster – bass guitar, backing vocals
Martin Chambers – drums, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Fast or Slow”, percussion

Hynde noted in the booklet for the expanded edition of Learning to Crawl that guitarist Robbie McIntosh came up with the opening guitar riff for “2000 Miles”. She stated that she probably should have credited McIntosh as co-writer of the song.

Additional personnel
Billy Bremner – lead guitars on “Back on the Chain Gang” and “My City Was Gone”, rhythm guitar and backing vocals on “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”
Tony Butler – bass guitar on “Back on the Chain Gang” and “My City Was Gone”
Andrew Bodnar – bass guitar and backing vocals on “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”
Paul Carrack – piano and backing vocals on “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”
Steve Churchyard – engineer
Peter Barrett – art direction
Paul Cox – front cover photography

“Back on the Chain Gang”/”My City Was Gone”
Released: 17 September 1982[2]

“2000 Miles”
Released: November 1983 (UK)

“Middle of the Road”
Released: November 1983 (US), February 1984 (UK)
“Show Me”
Released: March 1984 (US)

“Thin Line Between Love and Hate”/”Time the Avenger”
Released: May 1984

Australia (Kent Music Report)[15] 18
UK Albums Chart[16] 11
Billboard 200[17] 5
United Kingdom (BPI)[18] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[19] Platinum 1,000,000

Get Close

The Pretenders released their fourth album, Get Close, on October 20, 1986, on Sire.

1. “My Baby” (4:07)
2. “When I Change My Life” (3:38)
3. “Light of the Moon” (Carlos Alomar, Genevieve Gazon, Wayne Ragland) (3:57)
4. “Dance!” (6:46)
5. “Tradition of Love” (5:27)
6. “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (3:46)
7. “I Remember You” (2:38)
8. “How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?” (3:48)
9. “Chill Factor” (3:27)
10. “Hymn to Her” (Meg Keene) (4:58)
11. “Room Full of Mirrors” (Jimi Hendrix) (4:44)

AIR (London)
Power Station (New York City)
Bearsville (Bearsville, New York)
Right Track Recording (New York City)
Polar (Stockholm)
Producer Bob ClearmountainJimmy IovineSteve Lillywhite

The Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde – vocals, rhythm guitar
Robbie McIntosh – guitars
T. M. Stevens – bass guitar (3, 4, 6–9)
Blair Cunningham – drums (3, 4, 7–9), percussion (4)

Additional personnel
Bernie Worrell – organ, synthesizer (tracks 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 11)
Martin Chambers – drums (track 11)
Rupert Black – keyboards
Carlos Alomar – percussion (track 11)
Bruce Brody – organ
Mel Gaynor – drums (track 1)
Steve Jordan – drums, percussion (track 6)
Tommy Mandel – synthesizer
John McKenzie – bass
Chucho Merchán – bass (tracks 2, 4, 6, 10)
Simon Phillips – drums (tracks 2, 5, 10)
Patrick Seymour – synthesizer
L. Shankar – violin (track 5)
Bruce Thomas – bass
Paul Wickens – synthesizer, piano
Malcolm Foster – bass

Bruce Lampcov – engineer
Helen Backhouse – design
Richard Haughton – cover photography

“Don’t Get Me Wrong”
Released: August 1986
“Hymn to Her”
Released: November 1986
“My Baby”
Released: March 1987

Icelandic Albums (Tónlist)[16] 2
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[19] 6
UK Albums (OCC)[21] 6
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[14] 7
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[11] 9
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[10] 12
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[17] 13
European Albums (Music & Media)[13] 17
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[18] 18 


  • Pretenders (1980)
  • Pretenders II (1981)
  • Learning to Crawl (1983)
  • Get Close (1986)
  • Packed! (1990)
  • Last of the Independents (1994)
  • ¡Viva el Amor! (1999)


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