Although this album was released in 1979, I really didn’t hear it until 1981, however it came at a key point in my life. In 1981, popular music generally sucked and I was tired of the Journeys, Styx, and Bad Companys, etc., that ruled the airways. I had basically given up listening to what was popular at the time and was more interested in stuff from the 60’s. Then I heard Pretenders. For the first time I heard music that was really good but wasn’t being played on the radio or talked about a whole lot in popular culture. Hearing this album opened my ears (and my eyes) to a whole (what was then) new subculture of cool, cool music.
The album kicks off with Precious and right from the beginning you know you are in for a thrill ride. Crissie Hynde's tough-chick-in-a-red-leather-jacket spin on the whole Madonna-Whore thing is evident throughout the album but this song just oozes sexuality. Remember this is 1981 (for me) and girls didn’t sing in rock bands generally, and they sure as heck didn’t say "Not me baby, I'm too precious...ah F**k Off!" like Crissie Hynde does at the end of this song. Tattoed Love Boys and especially The Wait were also in-your-face, sexually-charged rockers. In fact The Wait still gives me goosebumps some 30 years later (although the single version is even rawer than the version found on the album – yes I have both versions).
The album wasn’t all just rockin’ guitars and drums as songs like Kid, Stop Your Sobbin’ and Brass in Pocket were all pretty good songs at a slower tempo. Stop Your Sobbin’ and Brass and Pocket were especially nice because the co-eds liked them too -- which is important when you’re in college trying to impress the ladies with your record collection.
Musically this album is pretty advanced for a debut. James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar work really anchors the album and his style is still being copied today but the star of the show was Crissie Hynde. She was tough and vulnerable: the kind of girl who would take your legs off on a Saturday night, but also someone you could bring home to your mother on a Sunday afternoon.
This album saved me musically and without it I’d probably be into the Dave Mathews Band or be excited about the fact that Genesis has a new box set. For that reason Pretenders gets to kick off my review of classic rock albums.