“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness,” quipped Oscar Wilde, and if the same can be said of rock bands, the Pretenders are careless indeed. The English-American rock band that was founded in 1978 in Hereford, England brought us such classics as “Brass in Pocket” and “Talk of the Town” before losing two original members, bassist Pete Farndon, whom Hynde fired for drug abuse in June 1982 (and who died from drug-related causes in 1983), and lead guitarist James Honeyman Scott, who died two days after Farndon’ firing, also due to drug-related causes.
The original line-up had recorded two celebrated LPs and one excellent EP, and anybody but tough-as-nails vocalist/rhythm guitarist and guiding force Chrissie Hynde might have taken the deaths of two integral band members as bad juju, and put the Pretenders (who took their name from the Platter’s “The Great Pretender”) to bed before somebody else kicked the bucket.
Instead Hynde, the band’ chief songwriter, regrouped. She kept on Martin Chambers as drummer, and recruited Robbie McIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass to play on LP #3, but only after recording several tracks (“Back on the Cain Gang” an “My City Was Gone”) with guitarist Billy Bremner and bassists Tony Butler, while bassist and Paul Carrack of Squeeze played on “Thin Line Between Love and Hate.” And as it turned out the two-year hiatus proved only that Hynde had been right to keep the Pretenders alive, because the resulting album, 1984’s Learning to Crawl, is a tour de force; perhaps not as sensational as the band’ debut, but a Wunderkind nonetheless.