Music News & Reviews

Chrissie Hynde discusses the inevitable end of rock ’n’ roll

Chrissie Hynde performs last month during the Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold Tour.
Chrissie Hynde performs last month during the Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold Tour. The Associated Press

Chrissie Hynde, famously born and raised in Akron, Ohio, formed the Pretenders in England in March 1978. The original band consisted of Hynde, who wrote and sang most of the songs, lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers.

The band’s seminal first album “Pretenders” was released in January 1980 and debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. Including the songs “Precious,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Kid” and “Brass in Pocket,” the album is one of Rolling Stone’s “Greatest of All Time.”

Scott and Farndon both suffered drug-related deaths in 1982, but the group has persevered. Hynde’s distinctive voice, writing and tough-minded attitude have made her an influential presence in rock music and one of the most important women of all time in rock music. The Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Hynde published a memoir “Reckless: My Life as a Pretender” in 2015 (Doubleday, $27, 336 pages), and in October the Pretenders released “Alone,” their first album in eight years.

She talked with The Bee before the Pretenders’ Dec. 13 appearance at the Golden 1 Center where the group opened for Stevie Nicks.

Q. I read you said one of the motivations to write the memoir was to make sure your original band mates got the credit they deserve.

A. We certainly had enough attention at the time. The band was very well received, but because they died young, I think it was matter of paying tribute to them a little bit; that was all.

Q. Did you downplay their deaths at the time as a matter of self-survival?

A. I don’t think that I downplayed it, but I’m not really into sensationalizing my personal details. … When they died I didn’t make a big stink of it in the press, and I just tried to let them have their dignity. I don’t really participate in this confessional public therapy mode. The only thing I really offer the public is the music. … My message has been “Don’t kill and eat animals” for the last 45 years. It really is a whole message with environmental awareness. … Other than that, really nothing about me is on offer to the public. I don’t participate in celebrity culture, I never have.

Q. Was it difficult to write a book about yourself – not wanting to exploit yourself?

A. No, it was kind of fun really. I went about it kind of like I was making a record. I wanted it to be a real easy read. I kept it light; I didn’t get into any dark s---. It wasn’t a kiss-and-tell; I just told what I had to, to move the story along. Somehow I managed to not really say anything bad about anyone; I could’ve. It was the light version of my story. I think writing it was more of a way of turning the page on the past and moving forward. That’s something anyone wants to do at a certain point, and if you’re in a public capacity, you get more of any opportunity to do that unless you’re just a … great writer, which I’m not. I just had a story to tell, and I got away with it because I’m not really a writer.

I just wanted to get out of my system and also over the years I’ve been asked a lot of questions and that gets kind of tedious so I thought if I spill this I won’t have to talk about it anymore, which obviously hasn’t worked.

Q. The idea of mortality seems very present with us now. Do you think about it much?

A. I call this time we’re in now “the-end-of-an-era era.” We grew up with rock-and-roll that started in the ’50s, it really came into its own in the ’60s, and that was the most fertile time when it all exploded. Then it got derailed with all the drugs and then it limped along. And then there was a lot of money in it, and that changed everything and everyone got excited again and kept doing it even though it was s---. It certainly has gone through some different cycles.

The inevitable cycle – if something’s been around for 50 years – is death. It’s inevitable and certainly if you look at the great jazz musicians, there’s always this quest to discover why we’re here. That’s what anyone in any of the arts is trying to figure out, any human being is trying to figure out if they’re conscious. That doesn’t end.

The challenging aspect of that is that we’re not going to be here. We’re going to die. Our mortality has to be an inevitability and a predominant theme of any form of the arts because everything’s temporary, and that’s something we have to try to understand. To not think about that would be churlish, I think. It’s a hell of denial if you’re not thinking about it. I don’t find it depressing; I think it’s fascinating.

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

What: Pretenders/Stevie Nicks

Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento

Time: Tuesday, December 13, 7 PM

Tickets: $149.50, $89.50, $69.50 and $49.50


Reckless: My Life as a Pretender

By Chrissie Hynde

Doubleday, $27, 336 pages