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2023/4 Albums Thing 277 - Pretenders “Pretenders”

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I bought this album almost in its first week of release and I still don’t really know why. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the Pretenders, I’ve only ever bought one more of their records (the single “2000 Miles”). At the time I don’t remember being particularly enamoured with their singles “Brass In Pocket”, “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Kid” so I didn’t buy this because they are all on here. But over the years it’s become a big favourite of mine. It’s a record you can pick up for less than a tenner in most 2nd hand record shops and I’d advise you to do just that. 

Chrissie Hynde had quite the connection with the Punk scene in London having worked in Vivienne Westwood’s Kings Road emporium SEX. Originally from Akron, Ohio she had moved to London in 1973, lost the job she came here for, met journalist Nick Kent and ended up at the NME writing what she called "half-baked philosophical drivel and nonsensical tirades”. After a while spent back in the USA she returned to London where she auditioned for a band that eventually became 999 and tried to form another band with The Clash’s Mick Jones. By 1978 she had found herself a manager and The Pretenders started to come together around the Spring of that year. Hynde, Pete Farndon (Bass), James Honeyman-Scott (guitar) and Martin Chambers (drums) recorded a demo tape, Hynde handed that to her friend Nick Lowe who offered to produce a single. They played their first gig in Paris and the single (“Stop Your Sobbing”) was released in January 1979 and reached #33 in the UK charts…PHEW!

This album is a strange mix of Post-Punk and the pop band they would become known as. Opening song “Precious” hurtles along at a fair old trap with Chrissie being very American, and she swears! TWICE !! One of them the F word !!! This ain’t the “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Kid” Pretenders this is an altogether tougher proposition. And it continues in much the same vein throughout the rest of Side 1 with “Up the Neck” even featuring some Keith Levene/PiL style guitar mangling from guitarist James Honeyman Scott.

It’s only on Side 2 that they reveal those 3 pop tunes they were best known for around this time and which gave them 2 top 40 singles and a #1 with “Brass In Pocket”. Here’s where you’ll also find the original version of “Private Life” which Grace Jones took to #17 in the UK singles chart when she covered it later in 1980.

As “Brass In Pocket” had already been a #1 when this album was released it debuted at #1 in the album charts. It’s another of those albums where I wonder what the pop singles buyers made of things like “Precious” and “Space Invaders”, which are honestly nothing like those jangly, shiny pop singles. 

Precious - https://youtu.be/OAn65_5x1kw?si=li7znUlppk3xa0YB

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