With girl-group-influenced vocals, teenage love ballads, and just enough edge to remain a favorite within the post-punk-enthusiast crowd, the Pretenders have glamorized New Wave rock for over the past 30 years.
Formed by Chrissie Hynde's towards the end of the original British punk movement in 1978, the Pretenders snagged a record deal for themselves that same year solely because of their demo song, "The Phone Call." With the release of their first album, the self-titled Pretenders (1979), Hynde, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, drummer Martin Chambers (who didn't join the lineup until after the recording of the Pretenders' first single, "Stop Your Sobbing"), and her romantic interest and bassist Pete Farndon gained much critical acclaim only a year after their formation. Featuring hits like "Kid," "Brass in Pocket," and a cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing," Pretenders broke the charts reaching #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #155 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." The album defined the Pretenders' sound and sentiments towards rock 'n' roll with their unconventional time signatures, emotional vulnerability, and Hynde's ability to escape any clichés of female musicians in rock. With her pouted lips, teased 'do', and powerful lyrics, Chrissie Hynde was one of the few women able to channel her sexual demeanor and intellectual capacity into a favorite for men and women and critics and crowds.
After reveling in their newfound fame for a year-and-a-half, the Pretenders put forth another commercial hit with the release of their second album, Pretenders II (1981). Considered "more spread-out than the debut," Pretenders II failed to unleash the same raw emotion and edge that Pretenders established for the group. While tracks like "Talk of the Town," "Message of Love," and "The Adultress" received much airplay on MTV (the listed track having the advantage of being released months before the LP as it was released in their EP earlier that year, Extended Play), the rest of the album hardly resonated the same progressive and rough sound. But Pretenders II continues to be a fan favorite as it would be the last recorded Pretenders album with the original lineup Hynde, Honeyman-Scott, Farndon, and Chambers.
Before the Pretenders became synonymous with the one-woman band Hynde, an event occurred following the release of their second album that would be the catalyst of a never-ending series of bandmate replacements: Drug fever. It's a problem that haunts many rock 'n' roll group but few have had as much difficulty finding a new chemistry that works as the Pretenders have. As the Pretenders were on the verge of becoming the early '80s favorite band, Chrissie Hynde gave bassist and, then, lover, Peter Farndon, the boot for substance abuse. Two days after she kicked out Farndon, they discovered that guitarist Honeyman-Scott had overdosed on cocaine. Following these unfortunate events, Hynde and Chambers tried to propel the Pretenders' name, putting out Learning to Crawl in 1984, which was released to critical acclaim.
Learning to Crawl would be the last commercially and critically successful album for the Pretenders, who—after the release of their third album—was visibly just Chrissie Hynde. Hynde continued to record and release music with a rotating ensemble of musicians, still working under the name the Pretenders, up until 2008. But after Hynde crafted Packed! (1990), Last of the Independents (1994), Isle of View (1995), Viva El Amour (1999), and Loose Screw (2002), Hynde and Chambers reunited in 2008 with the additions of bassist Nick Wilkinson and guitarist James Walbourne to release Break Up the Concrete. Embarking on a "Break Up the Concrete Tour" in mid-January of 2008, the Pretenders still rock hard today.