#OPS Book Reviews: Chrissie Hynde's "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender"

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Why Pretenders?

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Look, no matter what anybody says, I love the Pretenders (especially the original lineup).

Chrissie Hynde is one of the only people left alive who really has seen it all and done most of it too. She is one of the remaining true icons of rock, punk, and whatever you want to call everything in the genre soup that followed. 

So, what I am saying is that I was pretty excited to sit down with Reckless. Ms. Hynde's autobiography. Given that Chrissie just released a new album under the Pretenders moniker, this seems like a good time to talk about her book.

A warning in advance, only about 70 pages are literally about the band the Pretenders. 

Some of the Many Astounding Things that I learned about Chrissie Hynde by Reading Reckless

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* Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron Ohio a birthplace (or near birthplace) shared by Pere Ubu and the original members of the incomparable DEVO. In fact, Mark Mothersbaugh and Chrissie's brother were friends. She mentions that he asked her to sing in his pre-Devo band Sat Sun Mat.

* Chrissie didn't just attend Kent State, she was literally on campus when the National Guard opened fire and one of her friends was one of the casualties of the Kent State massacre.

* A young Ms. Hynde took David Bowie to dinner driving him in her Mom's station wagon after a Hunky Dory tour stop in Cleveland.

* After she first moved to London, she was a music critic for the NME a British publication that still exists today.

* During her first go-round living in London she briefly worked at what later became the infamous "Sex" clothing store owned Malcolm Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood. At the time the store was called "Craft Must Have Clothes But Truth Loves To Go Naked."

* Chrissie was friends with the members of the Sex Pistols (including Sid), The Damned, The Clash, Don Letts, and pretty much everyone else important to the advent of Punk in the UK. She also knew Johnny Thunders and was, and is, very close friends with Iggy Pop. She personally took some of the iconic pictures of Sid (and she, like everyone else, hated Nancy).

I don't want to expose all of the secrets in the book, so I am stopping there, but Chrissie Hynde is like a real-world Zelig only with a TON of actual talent (beyond being at the right place at the right time).

One Truly Disturbing Part of Reckless

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I think Chrissie Hynde is a really gifted songwriter. 

Yes, I am certain she is right that James "Honeyman" Scott (RIP) helped make many of her song ideas special. But, she has written enough songs after his unfortunate passing (and the passing of original bassist and former paramour Pete Farndon) to convince me her songwriting chops were massive.

I also have always loved drummer Martin Chambers, even if it always confused the hell out of me why he had two of his cymbals set up like ten feet above his drum throne in the old days. I am sure that there was a point, but as a drummer, it just seemed counterintuitive.

But, I digress.

Probably because I have to talk about something pretty upsetting here. The song "Tattooed Love Boys."

My favorite song by the Pretenders has always been "Tattooed Love Boys." It is just a great song. But, I never understood why the lyrics were so bizarre and seemingly anti-feminist (and certainly out of step with the rest of her lyrics).

I kind of wish that I had never found out the reason.

Before Chrissie left Ohio for London (and one of the reasons that she left) was that she was sexually assaulted by a group of bikers from the "Heavy Bikers" gang she sometimes hung out with. The lyrics to the song are the terrible things they said to her during the assault.

On the one hand, It is pretty impressive that for decades, Chrissie has screamed out the lyrics to a song about her own assault turning the words they used against her into an anthem of her own power.

On the other hand, it makes the song a much more disturbing listen. 

You have to admire her courage and strength either way. She has immortalized them as assholes for all time in one of the great songs of the 80's (and yes, I know TLB is on "Pretenders" and not "Pretenders II").

Wrapping Up

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I found Reckless to be an almost endlessly fascinating trip through the history of some of my all-time favorite music. She can be a testy writer at times, as I suspect she might be in person, but wow has she seen it all.

I can't really think of many people I would like to just sit and talk about the history of music with. She went to see the Detroit Wheels as a kid, saw Bowie, Iggy, the Pistols, was friends with all of them and on top of that she wrote a TON of amazing songs herself.

Great book, it is an incredible trip through music history, and you learn a great deal about one of the great songwriters and frontwomen of our time.

Enjoy!