September 7, 1951– Chrissie Hynde:
“I can’t remember having sexual fantasies about actually getting it on with one of my rock-star heroes. I wanted to be them, not do them.”
In 1979, I fell deeply in love with a talented artist/set designer, who would become my boyfriend and eventually my husband. I also fell deeply in love, that same year, with the sound of Chrissie Hynde’s voice. Second only to Annie Lennox, Hynde’s amazing alto really speaks to me. If I was to “flip” for a woman, this is what I would have in mind, because if I am going to be with a woman, I would want her to be butch top.
I have loved the music of The Pretenders from their start and I have followed them and collected their music for 38 years. My favorite album is the beautiful and haunting The Isle Of View (a pun on “I Love You”, get it?). It’s a collection of The Pretenders songs performed with a string quartet in front of a live studio audience in concert. The songs serve as impossibly beautiful art songs and as always with Hynde, the lyrics are crystal clear.
Hynde’s bad attitude has always been refreshing. She has no patience for celebrity. When I listen to her sing, she barely even seems to be giving me the time of day. I find that intriguing.
“My only advice is never get on a plane with anyone who’s more famous than you or else you’ll come under the bit that says, ‘Also killed was…'”
Like me, Hynde is a long-time vegetarian, and her concern for animals endears me to her. And, isn’t she just the coolest looking woman? Her voice, her look and her ennui are perfectly suited to my sensibilities.
Her very readable, but perplexing memoir Reckless (2015) is as carefully constructed as Hynde’s stage persona. In life and in art, she pushes against the parts of fame that are the most unsettling to her. Reckless is the literary equivalent of a long set of bangs, obscuring heavily mascaraed eyes. Hynde is a very cool enigma and her memoir is a story of a messily lived life.
One of my favorite anecdotes is about when she moved from Akron to London and gets a job working at SEX, Vivienne Westwood’s and Malcolm McLaren’s Punk boutique. This is where Hynde gets an education in the look and style of Rock ’N’ Roll.
“Nobody I knew thought about fashion. Designer labels didn’t exist, not to people like us, anyway. Gucci? That was for someone’s sad auntie. But being around Malcolm and Vivian, I started to understand the meaning of glamour, that how you present yourself to your fellow man is a way of communicating ideas. The idea of trying to be sexy was repellent to me. Something I’d never deliberately do.”
She recounts a story of the time she made an exception to her sexiness rule. She purchased a rubber bondage skirt from SEX and was wearing it out to go see bands. Hynde passed out in a club’s bathroom after too many shots of Southern Comfort, hugging the toilet bowl, her skirt around her waist, one leg sticking out into the next stall. Eventually a cleaning woman found her, and after some effort, managed to pull the skirt back down over Hynde’s sweaty body.
“How embarrassing. Painful too. I never tried to dress sexy after that. Fuck that. Over-the-knee boots was the limit.”
Reckless has stories that might make most people feel especially vulnerable: Being beaten by a boyfriend while at work, getting sexually assaulted, being robbed, and being kidnapped by a stranger while hitchhiking and living to tell, but somehow, it’s that rubber skirt story that I always think about when I think about Hynde.
The memoir brought mass outrage sparked by the section where she writes about the sexual assault by a bunch of bikers when she was 21-years-old, and taking “full responsibility” for it. Hynde:
“I was so stoned. I didn’t even care. That’s what I was talking about, I was talking about the drugs more than anything, and how fucked up we were. And how it impaired our judgment to the point where it just had gotten off the scale.”
I know the section in the book is provocative, but she does describe it as traumatic and vicious assault. I do realize that writing about how women can be to blame for being sexually assaulted is wrong and upsetting to many victims, but Hynde took such a beating in social media for it that she now says that she feels bullied for writing about it at all. I think she had no idea how provocative her story would be. In her mid-60s, she’s maybe not as informed about sexual assault as younger social-media savvy people. She seems genuinely shocked at the reaction. Hynde is not contrite, but I sort of admire that in this age of outrage, she did not apologize and then go into rehab.
Her latest album is Alone (2016). It’s her the tenth studio album and it’s a collaboration with fellow Akron resident Daniel Auerbach, vocalist for the Black Keys. Hynde released it as a The Pretenders album, although her band doesn’t play on it. Such is her way. It’s very good, by the way.
I admire her lack of sentimentality and her disregard for the flattery, praise and awards that come with such a long, successful career:
“I fucking loathe the Grammy Awards with a vengeance. The whole idea of it, I don’t understand it, I don’t respect it, I don’t get it at all. I think it’s bullshit. And the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is the Rock and Roll Hall of Shit. It’s everything that Rock ’N’ Roll isn’t. It sort of desecrates the name of Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
I just love Hynde’s cool reserved voice, solo or with one of the incarnations of her crackerjack band, The Pretenders. Only a brilliant, ballsy, brave songwriter would know that her hard-hitting rock songs could be delivered with such grace and dignity.
“I’ll make music as long as I can sing and stand up and hold a guitar and I feel like doing this.”