Classic Album Review — The Pretenders (1979)


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.

17 thoughts on “Classic Album Review — The Pretenders (1979)”

  1. Great work, free. I have been kicking some ideas around for this feature and am glad to see someone got it started.

    I've never given the Pretenders a fair shake. They always seemed like one of those bands to be that were a real "time and place band" that get overlooked in the big picture of rock and roll's history. It seems a lot of late 70's/early 80's bands fall into this trap (The Feelies, the dB's, Game Theory).

    I will make it a point to pick this album up soon.

    1. Let me know of any reviews. I'm planning on doing a review the first Thursday of the month and have ideas for the next few months but if you write something, let me know.

    2. i have to admit to never really giving the pretenders a fair shake either. i think it had something to do with being forced to listen to cities 97 at work for multiple years and hearing the same few songs over and over again. some deeper cuts might be what the doctor ordered.

      1. The first two Pretenders LPs are stone cold classics. Learning to Crawl (their 3rd) has some nice (albeit overplayed) numbers, but it is a much mellower affair. Beyond that, it becomes a crap shoot.

        (FWIW, I don't think Chrissy was someone you'd take home to mom on a Sunday afternoon.)

        1. Heh, good thing your mom didn't see some of my dates in the mid-80's.

          Yeah and I have the first two Pretenders albums and not another song after that.

  2. On a whim, I got their Singles album a few years ago. In hindsight, it's one of the few impulse purchases that I was instantly proud of myself for making. I've probably mentioned it before, but I caught a concert in Hyde Park a few years ago and these folks were there. They were nowhere near top billing and it was hot as h*ll, but they still managed to rock out (as you can see here).


  3. I've been upset with Chrissie ever since she dumped Ray Davies for Jim Kerr.

  4. "Mystery Achievement" is one of my all time favorite album closers of all time. That bumping bass solo at the beginning, then the rhythm and lead guitars kick in then at the end a frantic free for all with all the instrument, pure awesomeness. "Kid" should be a classic rock/classic hits staple.

    "Stop Your Sobbing" is a Kinks cover, and I prefer The Pretenders version (although I like The Kinks version of "I Go to Sleep" which appears on Pretenders II)

    I bought this album a few years back. I dont know what drove me to buy it...maybe it was in the 6 doller bin on or something, but damn I am sure glad I made the purchase.

  5. I played the hell out of my cassette copy of Pretenders II when I got the LP in 1981, but I didn't backtrack to get the original (on CD) for some time.

    awesome, awesome band. The debut album is really good, but II remains one of my very favorite albums. Absolutely. No. Filler.

    1. Bad Boys Get Spanked from II got me in trouble more than once during my freshman year in college.

  6. When my (younger) sister moved to Alaska, she offered me to take whatever I was interested in from about 70% of her CD collection. The Pretenders' Singles was one of like five that I grabbed. I don't know if I've ever removed it from its case. I will dig it out and remedy that this weekend.

    Much like hungry joe, I think I lump them with the Cities 97 sound that I'm not too fond of, but per your review here, I'll put the singles off the first two albums on my iPod and see what I think.

    1. The problem with The Singles is that it doesn't have any of the rockers. If you listen to that collection you miss The Wait, Precious, Tattoed Love Boys and Mystery Achievement. Those are the high points of the album.

      1. Agreed. I once glanced at the tracklist on my little sister's copy. It was missing all the great guitar rock that made their first two records so special. Hence the Cities 97 tag, I guess. Proud to say, I've never intentionally listened to the station.

        (Essential tracks missing from II, "The Adultress", "Pack It Up", "Jealous Dogs", and "The English Roses". Oasis would have killed to have written the latter.)


        1. Essential tracks missing from II, "The Adultress", "Pack It Up", "Jealous Dogs", and "The English Roses

          And Bad Boys get Spanked!!!!

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