Years: 1978 - present
Styles: Alternative rock, Classic Rock, New Wave, Pop Rock, Punk Rock, Soft Rock
Chrissie Hynde - Backing vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Lead vocals, Rhythm guitar (in band: 1978 - 1987; 1990 - present)
James Honeyman-Scott - Backing vocals, Keyboards, Lead guitar (in band: 1978 - 1982)
Pete Farndon - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 1978 - 1982)
Martin Chambers - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1978 - 1985; 1993 - present)
Malcolm Foster - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 1982 - 1985; 1986 - 1987)
Robbie McIntosh - Backing vocals, Lead guitar (in band: 1982 - 1987)
Blair Cunningham - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1985 - 1987)
T. M. Stevens - Bass Guitar (in band: 1985 -1986)
Johnny Marr - Lead guitar (in band: 1987)
Andy Rourke - Bass Guitar (in band: 1993)
Adam Seymour - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Lead guitar (in band: 1993 - 2008)
Andy Hobson - Bass Guitar (in band: 1993 -2006)
Nick Wilkinson - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 2006 - present)
James Walbourne - Backing vocals, Lead guitar (in band: 2008 - present)
Eric Heywood - Pedal steel guitar (in band: 2008 - present)
The Pretenders are an English-American rock band formed in Hereford, England, in March 1978. The original band consisted of initiator and main songwriter Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), Pete Farndon (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Martin Chambers (drums, backing vocals, percussion). Following the drug-related deaths of Honeyman-Scott and Farndon, the band has experienced numerous subsequent personnel changes, with Hynde as the only consistent member, and Chambers returning after an absence of several years.
Hynde, originally from Akron, Ohio, moved to London in 1973, working at the weekly music paper NME and at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's clothes store. She was involved with early versions of the Clash and the Damned and played in short-lived bands such as Masters of the Backside (1976) and the Moors Murderers (1978 lineup). The Pretenders formed in 1978 after Dave Hill at Anchor Records heard some demos of Hynde's music. He arranged a rehearsal studio in Denmark Street, where a 3-piece band consisting of Hynde, Mal Hart on bass (he had played with Hynde and Steve Strange in the Moors Murderers), and Phil Taylor of Motörhead on drums played a selection of Hynde's original songs.
Dave Hill was impressed and arranged a day at Studio 51 to record another demo. Although it was rough, he felt he had seen and heard enough "star potential" to suggest that Hynde form a more permanent band to record for his new label, Real Records. Hynde then formed a band composed of Pete Farndon on bass, James Honeyman-Scott on guitar, and Gerry Mcilduff replacing Jon Adkin on drums. This band, then without a name, recorded five tracks at Regents Park Studio in July 1978, including "Stop Your Sobbing". Shortly thereafter Gerry Mcilduff was replaced on drums by Martin Chambers and Hynde named the band "The Pretenders" after the Platters song "The Great Pretender" which was the favourite song of one of her former boyfriends.
The band's first single, a cover of the Kinks song "Stop Your Sobbing" (produced by Nick Lowe and recorded at the July Regents Park sessions) was released in January 1979 and gained critical attention. It was followed in June with "Kid", and then in January 1980 the band got to No. 1 in the UK with "Brass in Pocket", which was also successful in the US, reaching No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders' eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude. Although Chrissie Hynde establishes herself as a forceful and distinctively feminine songwriter, the record isn't a singer/songwriter's tour de force -- it's a rock & roll album, powered by a unique and aggressive band.
Guitarist James Honeyman-Scott never plays conventional riffs or leads, and his phased, treated guitar gives new dimension to the pounding rhythms of "Precious," "Tattooed Love Boys," "Up the Neck," and "The Wait," as well as the more measured pop of "Kid," "Brass in Pocket," and "Mystery Achievement." He provides the perfect backing for Hynde and her tough, sexy swagger. Hynde doesn't fit into any conventional female rock stereotype, and neither do her songs, alternately displaying a steely exterior or a disarming emotional vulnerability. It's a deep, rewarding record, whose primary virtue is its sheer energy. Pretenders moves faster and harder than most rock records, delivering an endless series of melodies, hooks, and infectious rhythms in its 12 songs. Few albums, let alone debuts, are ever this astonishingly addictive.
The Pretenders' debut album was such a powerful, monumental record that its sequel was bound to be a bit of a disappointment, and "Pretenders II" is. Essentially, this album is an unabashed sequel, offering more of the same sound, attitude, and swagger, including titles that seem like rips on their predecessors and another Ray Davies cover. This gives the record a bit too much of a pat feeling, especially since the band seems to have a lost a bit of momentum -- they don't rock as hard, Chrissie Hynde's songwriting isn't as consistent, James Honeyman-Scott isn't as inventive or clever. These all are disappointments, yet this first incarnation of the Pretenders was a tremendous band, and even if they offer diminished returns, it's still diminished returns on good material, and much of "Pretenders II" is quite enjoyable. 
Yes, it's a little slicker and more stylized than its predecessor, and, yes, there's a little bit of filler, yet any album where rockers as tough as "Message of Love" and "The Adultress" are balanced by a pop tune as lovely as "Talk of the Town" is hard to resist. And when you realize that this fantastic band only recorded two albums, you take that second album, warts and all, because the teaming of Hynde and Honeyman-Scott was one of the great pairs, and it's utterly thrilling to hear them together, even when the material isn't quite up to the high standards they set the first time around. 
Farndon's drug abuse escalated and he was fired after a meeting between Hynde, Honeyman-Scott and Chambers, on 14 June 1982. Two days later, on 16 June 1982, James Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure as a result of cocaine intolerance. Farndon was in the midst of forming a new band with former Clash drummer Topper Headon (who was also a heroin addict and left the band, unable to cope), when he was found dead on 14 April 1983 by his wife. After taking heroin and passing out, Farndon drowned in his bathtub, leaving the Pretenders with two living members.
Hynde continued with the band. During July 1982, just weeks after Honeyman-Scott's death, a caretaker team of Hynde, Chambers, Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner and Big Country bassist Tony Butler was assembled to record the single "Back on the Chain Gang". The song was released in October and became their biggest success in the US, staying at No. 5 for three consecutive weeks. The single's B-side, "My City Was Gone" is now the theme music for The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Hynde then set up a more permanent lineup for the band, keeping Chambers and adding Robbie McIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass. "Middle of the Road" was this line-up's first single, released in the US in November 1983 and reaching the Top 20 there. The US B-side, "2000 Miles", was released as a single in the UK. The third Pretenders album "Learning to Crawl" (featuring the new lineup with Foster and McIntosh) was released in January 1984. As well as the three recent singles, the album included a cover version of the Persuaders' "Thin Line Between Love and Hate", which featured Paul Carrack on keyboards.
In 1985, the band played at Live Aid but further upheavals were to come. Soon after recording sessions for the next album began and one track had been completed, Hynde declared that Chambers was no longer playing well and dismissed him. Discouraged at the loss of his bandmate, Foster quit. Hynde and McIntosh recorded the rest of the album in various sessions in New York and Stockholm with assorted session musicians including Carlos Alomar, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk) and sometime Eurythmics bassist Chucho Merchan.
Towards the end of the sessions, Hynde hired two of the guest players - bassist T.M. Stevens and ex-Haircut One Hundred drummer Blair Cunningham - as the new Pretenders rhythm section. "The Get Close" album was released in 1986; the disc included the Top 10 singles "Don't Get Me Wrong" (helped by a popular video homage to the television series The Avengers) and "Hymn to Her" a No. 8 success in the UK. In the US, both "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "My Baby" reached #1 on Billboards Mainstream Rock chart. Two new non-album songs, "If There Was a Man" and "Where Has Everybody Gone?" were released on the soundtrack of the Bond film The Living Daylights and were used instrumentally by John Barry in several scenes.
Following the end of the Get Close tour in 1987, McIntosh quit the Pretenders and was replaced by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who played live with the band on a tour and appeared on the single "Windows of the World" b/w "1969". After arguments with Hynde, Marr also quit (moving on to The The). Exhausted by the upheavals of recent years, the band went into hiatus. Foster would go on to join Simple Minds while Cunningham returned to session work and Hynde took a three-year break from music. Later in 1987, the compilation "Pretenders - The Singles" was released featuring all fifteen UK and US singles from the last ten years and even Chrissie Hynde's duet with UB40 on the cover of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe."
In 1990 Hynde hired session players (including one-time Pretenders Bremner and Cunningham and bassist John Mckenzie) and recorded a new Pretenders album, "Packed!" Hynde was the only person pictured anywhere on the album, and was the only official member of the band. In Canada, the lead single "Never Do That" was a Top 40 success, peaking at No. 26 but it fared less well elsewhere.
It may be true that Chrissie Hynde's songs on "Packed!" are the weakest in her career, but they are not the sole reason why the album is such a bland, uninspiring affair. In the hands of producer Mitchell Froom, Hynde's stylistic retreads become even more unfocused and lackluster. Froom's production lacks any edge, making the pleasant but pedestrian songs bland and featureless. Only a cover of Hendrix's "May This Be Love" and "When Will I See You," a collaboration with guitarist Johnny Marr, stand out amid the number of undistinguished tracks on "Packed!".
Chrissie Hynde rebounds from the directionless "Packed!" with "Last of the Independents", a tough album that proves she can mature without losing her edge. Most of the record crackles with the lean power of "Learning to Crawl", occasionally stopping for a lushly produced number recalling "Get Close". Although the record goes on a little too long and there are a couple of weak songs, particularly the anthemic "I'm a Mother," "Last of the Independents" re-establishes Hynde as a powerful and insightful rocker.
Since "Packed!" (at least), each new record from the Pretenders has been hailed as Chrissie Hynde's return to form (praise that was thrown at "Learning to Crawl", by the way), and it's hard not to resist to say the same of "Viva el Amor!", the seventh studio album from the Pretenders. So, we won't say that, even though it may be true. At the very least, "Viva el Amor!" is a very appealing, focused album from Hynde and Martin Chambers, their most consistent album in years. It's not just that the songs are uniformly good (Hynde's writing is sharp again, without seeming bitter or jaded), it's that the record sounds excellent -- a clean, uncluttered production that enhances the muscular performances.
For the first time since "Get Close", there is a minimum of sentiment -- the ballads are never saccharine, even when the melody is lovely -- and Hynde resists her temptation for exaggerated metaphors or embarrassing phrases (even if her continuing fascination with bikers is puzzling). "Viva el Amor!" never provides a knock-out punch, even on the level of "Night in My Veins," but it never lags in momentum, as many Pretenders records do. Hynde sounds committed and convincing on each song, turning the album into one of the best the group has ever made.
During 2002 "Loose Screw" was released by Artemis Records. It was the first Pretenders record to be released by a company other than WEA. During March 2005, the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Only Hynde and Chambers attended the ceremony, but were joined onstage by then current members Adam Seymour and Andy Dobson to perform "Precious" and "Message of Love." During her acceptance speech, Hynde named and thanked all the replacement members of the group, then said:"I know that the Pretenders have looked like a tribute band for the last 20 years. ... And we're paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we wouldn't be here. And on the other hand, without us, they might have been here, but that's the way it works in rock 'n' roll."
After their Hall of Fame induction, Pretenders continued touring as a four-part team (Hynde, Seymour, Hobson and Chambers). During 2005, bassist Hobson left and was replaced by Nick Wilkinson, marking the band's first line-up change in thirteen years. That same year, Rhino Records released the four disc and DVD box set "Pirate Radio 1979-2005" which spanned the group's entire career. Two disc remastered versions of the first two albums also came out that year with bonus tracks. During 2007, Rhino remastered both "Learning To Crawl" and "Get Close" once again with bonus tracks. Not long after, guitarist Seymour left and was replaced by James Walbourne.
Pretenders' album "Break Up the Concrete" was released through Shangri-La Music on 7 October 2008. It was the band's first Top 40 album in the US in twenty two years, and its last to date. Tracks include "Boots of Chinese Plastic", "Don't Cut Your Hair", "Love's a Mystery", "The Last Ride" and "Almost Perfect". With Hynde was the guitarist James Walbourne, pedal steel player Eric Heywood, bassist Nick Wilkinson and drummer Jim Keltner (on the album only). Chambers returned to the drums on tour with the band.
Several one-off shows were performed during the closing months of 2008, including a couple of Christmas charity shows. The 'Break Up The Concrete Tour' began in mid-January and covered most of the United States, with shows until the end of March. It then continued in Europe, with gigs in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK during June and July, before returning for a new tour in Canada and the US during August and September 2009.
In September 2012, the Pretenders re-grouped (Hynde, Chambers, Heywood, Walbourne, Wilkinson) as part of the entertainment line-up for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix. The Pretenders did not play live between 2012 and 2016. Hynde issued her first solo album Stockholm in 2014.
On September 6, 2016 Stevie Nicks announced that the Pretenders would tour with her on a 27 city tour for the last three months of 2016.The live band consisted of Hynde, Chambers, Heywood, Walbourne, Wilkinson, as before.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pretenders
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 884-885, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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