Few kids of the ’80s will ever forget seeing Chrissie Hynde for the first time—wearing a waitress uniform, primping her ratted-up hair, and flirting with her band at a rinky dink English diner. It was love at first sight.
The Ohio-born Hynde who fled to the UK in 1973, was a striking lead singer—as well as rhythm guitarist and founder of the band—and was unlike any other female on the music scene. Joan Jett was great—but a little scary—and Pat Benatar rocked, but popped a little more often. Hynde was different: she had nothing to prove, no image to sell, and seemed as raw, honest and straight forward as her songs. She also had a distinctive voice—breathy, bedroomy and often with a slight cry breaking through.
“Brass In Pocket” went to number one in 1979 (and “Mystery Achievement” was nestled permanently in the hearts of fans), and The Pretenders subsequent EP kicked “Message of Love” and “Talk of the Town” to the top of the charts. While their second full-length album may have been a disappointment to critics, fans stuck by Hynde and the tumultuous group as members battled drugs and the band went through foundational lineup changes. Through it all, Hynde kept it together and in 1982 came back strong with “Back on the Chain Gang,” following it up a few years later with “Don’t Get Me Wrong.”
Over the last few decades, the love and respect Hynde received from critics and fans only grew stronger, and in 1994, after a hiatus from the charts, Hynde, now the only member of The Pretenders, returned with the classic “Night in My Veins”—though her second release, the commercially-driven “I’ll Stand By You” landed her back on top of the pop charts (and we forgive her, because a gal’s gotta pay the bills after all!).
A few years ago Hynde regrouped with original drummer Martin Chambers, and in 2008 The Pretenders released their critically-acclaimed, rockabilly-inspired, Americana-tinged, Break Up the Concrete—with the first single “Boots of Chinese Plastic” roping in a whole new generation of fans. So go jump around like the teenager you feel like inside at Pala this weekend, and fall in love with Chrissie Hynde all over again. (Stacy Davies)
The Pretenders at Pala Casino, 11154 Hwy 76, Pala, (877) 946-7252; www.palacasino.com. Fri., March 6, 8PM. $57-$77