|Chrissie Hynde and the
Following recent tours by rock royalty Debbie
Harry and Patti Smith, Tokyo now gets a chance to get reacquainted
with another princess of the punk and New Wave era when Chrissie
Hynde brings her Pretenders back to Japan for their first
visit in 17 years.
The tour finds the 52-year-old PETA activist in a comfortable
place, on tour for the band's latest album, Loose Screw,
for a series of dates that included North American gigs with
the Rolling Stones. Loose Screw also marked the end of a nearly
20-year association with Warner as the Pretenders signed with
independent imprint Artemis Records.
The band's eighth album saw a turn towards one of Hynde's
early musical loves, with many of the tracks incorporating
reggae rhythms. The singer, who previously worked with UK
reggae group UB40 on the memorable songs "Breakfast
in Bed" and "I Got You Babe," explained
on her website the pull of reggae in the early days of her
career. "In the London punk scene in '76 and
'77, reggae was the only music any of us listened to,
and that was a big influence on me, just as much as the influence
of the English bands was when I was a kid."
A mainstay of the UK punk scene who wrote for NME and befriended
Sid Vicious in the '70s, the Akron, Ohio, native formed
the Pretenders in 1978 with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott,
bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers. If Debbie
Harry was New Wave's femme fatale and Patti Smith punk's
poet-priestess, Hynde represented a sort of middle ground,
donning seductive black leather like Harry but also unafraid
to bare her ego-if not going so far as to burn her
bra a la Smith. And Hynde possessed one gift neither had:
she could really sing.
Debuting with their self-titled album in 1980, the Pretenders'
rise to stardom was nothing short of meteoric. Songs like
"Kid" and "Brass in Pocket" had
a New Wave edge and punk toughness to them, but also belonged
firmly in a rock tradition that made them accessible to large
swaths of listeners on both sides of the Atlantic.
Pretenders II followed in 1981, but the success was to be
short-lived. Honeyman-Scott and Farndon succumbed to drug
overdoses in rapid succession. Shaken but undeterred, Hynde-who
was also at this time ending a marriage to the Kinks'
Ray Davies and beginning one with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds-reformed
the Pretenders in 1984 for Learning to Crawl, with Robbie
MacIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass.
Recent years have seen Hynde settling into the role of elder
stateswoman of rock, unable to repeat the highs of the early
'80s but still a formidable presence. "It's
an interesting age to be," she said in an online interview
in 1999, as she neared 50. "You burn out all your neuroses.
You get rid of your addictions and you begin to get used to
yourself. By the time you're in your 40s, you are either
a fucked-up, twisted old mess nobody wants to know or you're
the happy, well-humored guru more comfortable in your own
The Pretenders play Shibuya Kokkaido
on February 3-4. See concert listings for details.
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