In 2002, some 24 years after Ohio-born rock vocalist Chrissie Hynde formed her classic new wave band in London and 22 years after its still best known hit “Brass in Pocket,” The Pretenders released their eighth studio album and first independent release since leaving Warner Records after two decades. Loose Screw earned positive reviews, with Hynde recapturing the magic she shared with original band guitarist James Honeyman-Scott via her association with Adam Seymour. Hynde also collaborated on songs with the hit team of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who worked with her to create the mid-90s comeback single “I’ll Stand By You.”
The classic Pretenders lineup included Scott, bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers, who were signed to Real Records, which was soon picked up by Sire. In light of Hynde’s later love affair with her idol Ray Davies (the two had a child together in 1983), it was fitting that the band’s debut single was a Nick Lowe produced cover of the Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing.” The band’s first UK #1 and U.S. breakthrough hit “Brass in Pocket” was assisted by a pre-MTV video, with Hynde portrayed as a waitress. The band’s unforgettable 1980 self titled debut remains The Pretenders’ most important work and ensured their legendary status among pop ensembles of the time.
Released in 1982, Pretenders II was another new wave inspired hit which paralleled Hynde’s own enthusiasm for her newfound relationship with Davies, whom she met and fell in love with Stateside. The album featured another classic from the Kinks’ frontman, “I Go To Sleep,” first recorded by the Applejacks in 1964. Despite the release’s success, this turned out to be a tragic year for the band, as Farndon was fired for drug use two days before Honeyman-Scott was found dead from a deadly concoction of heroin and cocaine. Months later, Hynde’s joy over the birth of her daughter with Davies was tempered by Farndon’s drug overdose.
Hynde carried on with a newly formed lineup featuring Robbie McIntosh on lead guitar and bass player Malcolm Foster. They began work on a new album and ended the year with the hit “2000 Miles,” which preceded the release of the “comeback” hit Learning to Crawl. This Top 5 disc was most notable for “Back on the Chain Gang,” an emotional tribute to Scott which became the band’s first U.S. Top Ten single.
Hynde created more drama of her own in May 1984, when she had a whirlwind affair and married Jim Kerr of Simple Minds. The Pretenders appeared at Live AID at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, and she enjoyed success under her own name, duetting with UB40 on the UK charttopping hit remake of “I Got You Babe.” After giving birth to Kerr’s daughter, Hynde retired from the Pretenders for a few years before she added some new temporary group members for the Jimmy Iovine produced Get Close (1987). More band squabbles followed, and Hynde performed solo with UB40 at the Nelson Mandela Concert in 1988 before another duet “Breakfast In Bed” achieved similar success in the UK. Although her marriage to Kerr failed, Hynde kept her creative groove going, scoring the hit album Packed! (1990) with an all new backing band.
Between “comebacks,” Hynde spent much of her time working for animal rights and environmental issues. Last of the Independents found her reunited with Martin Chambers, and included new guitarist Adam Seymour, who would become a mainstay. In 1995, she joined Cher, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton for the charity single “Love Can Build a Bridge,” and that same year she released a live set of Pretenders classics featuring a string quartet (The Isle of View). The band ended the millennium with 1999’s Viva El Amor, which was inspired by her ongoing commitment to her love for rock and roll.