Until she met three desperados from Hereford and made the first great rock debut of the 1980s.
In January 1980, with their single Brass In Pocket topping the charts, The Pretenders embarked on a 30-day British tour to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut album. It entered the UK charts at #1.
The album proved once and for all that the “mouthy yank” could pen more than just record reviews.
On tightly-wound tales of lust and loathing, choppy riffs met their match in Chrissie Hynde’s honeyed venom. The first half of the LP is vicious, with highlights including the exasperated “Baby, fuck off” in Precious, Honeyman-Scott’s tribute to his guitar heroes in the Tattooed Love Boys solo, and the baffling The Wait.
The second half of the album boasts the hit, Kid, the brooding Private Life (promptly co-opted by Grace Jones), the irresistible Brass In Pocket, and the nervy Mystery Achievement that previews 1981’s more terse Pretenders II album.
While touring the US in April, Chrissie Hynde met an old idol of hers in a New York nightclub; Ray Davies of The Kinks. Romance ensued.
Pete Farndon began using heroin as early as The Pretenders’ first US tour in 1980. Drug use was an acceptable part of the band’s camp back then, but while most of the excesses didn’t interfere with the band’s work, Farndon’s addiction did.
Heroin became his raison d’être and he drifted away from lifelong friends, became belligerent and argued constantly with the rest of the band.
By the time The Pretenders toured the Far East in the spring of 1982, the gap between Pete and the rest of the band was so great that Honeyman-Scott was adamant: He would quit the band if Pete wasn’t fired.
So on 14 June, the band’s manager, Dave Hill, told Farndon he was no longer a member of The Pretenders. Only two days later, 25-year-old James Honeyman-Scott was found dead in his bed – of heart failure from intolerance to cocaine, the coroner’s report would say.
Hynde and Chambers immediately recruited bassist Tony Butler and guitarist Billy Bremner (a rockabilly wizard best-known for being the member of the Rockpile frontline who wasn’t Dave Edmunds or Nick Lowe) to help them record Back On The Chain Gang. The single became The Pretenders’ first 45 to make the American Top 10.
Their first permanent replacement was 26-year-old guitarist Robbie McIntosh – a former pal of Jimmy’s, whose most notable experience had been with a band called Night (their song, Hot Summer Nights, had been a hit in America in 1979).
At McIntosh’s suggestion, they auditioned 28-year-old bassist Malcolm Foster, with whom Robbie had played in several bands. Foster got the gig and The Pretenders Mk II began laying down tracks for a new album.
The album took nearly a year to record – Chrissie took time off during the recording of the LP for the birth of her and Ray Davies’ baby daughter, Natalie. But Learning To Crawl was well worth the wait. It became one of those rare records that are successful both artistically and commercially.
On 14 April 1983, Dave Hill said one word to Chrissie; “Farndon”. That’s all he needed to say. Chrissie knew.
Pete Farndon’s body was found lying in a bathtub of cold water in his London flat. Being fired from the band had been a devastating blow, and according to reports, he had become irritated by his ex-lover’s romance with Ray Davies. Farndon’s mother asked The Pretenders not to attend his funeral.
Chrissie Hynde took the rock world by surprise when she married Jim Kerr, the vocalist from Simple Minds, on 5 May 1984 in New York City.
The wedding climaxed a four-month whirlwind courtship that began in Australia, where both bands performed at a festival. Ray Davies was unavailable for comment at the time . . .