Chrissie Hynde, for nearly four decades the singer/songwriter/ undisputed leader of the Pretenders, is a justly legendary figure.
Few other rock stars have managed to combine her swagger, sexiness, stage presence, knack for putting words to music, gorgeous voice and just all-around kick-assedness into such a potent and alluring package. From “Tatooed Love Boys” and “Brass in Pocket” to “Talk of the Town” and “Back on the Chain Gang,” her signature songs project a unique mixture of toughness and vulnerability that millions of men and women have related to. A kind of one- woman secret tunnel linking punk and new wave to classic guitar rock, she is one of the great luminaries in rock history.
Now, in her no-holds-barred memoir Reckless, Chrissie Hynde tells, with all the fearless candor, sharp humor and depth of feeling we’ve come to expect, exactly where she came from and what her crooked, winding path to stardom entailed. Her All-American upbringing in Akron, Ohio, a child of postwar power and prosperity. Her soul capture, along with tens of millions of her generation, by the gods of sixties rock who came through Cleveland—Mitch Ryder, David Bowie, Jeff Back, Paul Butterfield and Iggy Pop among them. Her shocked witness in 1970 to the horrific shooting of student antiwar protestors at Kent State. Her weakness for the sorts of men she calls “the heavy bikers” and “the get-down boys.” Her flight from Ohio to London in 1973 essentially to escape the former and pursue the latter. Her scuffling years as a brash reviewer for New Musical Express, shop girl at the Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood boutique 'Craft Must Wear Clothes But The Truth Loves To Go Naked', first-hand witness to the birth of the punk movement, and serial band aspirant. And then ,at almost the last possible moment, her meeting of the three musicians who comprised the original line-up of The Pretenders, their work on the indelible first album “The Pretenders,” and the rocket ride to “Instant” stardom, with all the disorientation and hazards that involved. The it all comes crashing back down to earth with the deaths of lead guitarist James Honeyman Scott and bassist Peter Farndon, leaving her bruised and saddened, but far from beaten. Because Chrissie Hynde is, among other things, one of rock’s great survivors.
We are lucky to be living in a golden age of great rock memoirs. In the aptly titled Reckless, Chrissie Hynde has given us one of the very best we have. Her mesmerizing presence radiates from every line and page of this book.
For music fans, Hynde's autobiography has been a long-anticipated event. It's here at last, but unfortunately it's not quite worth the wait. The founder, guitarist, and lead singer and songwriter of the Pretenders, Hynde is rock royalty. In 1980, the band's eponymous debut album topped the charts, and Hynde's ascent from London's late-'70s punk scene to pop stardom became the stuff of legend. But the book meanders too slowly toward that legend. Hynde earnestly recalls her middle-class upbringing in Akron, Ohio, and how the alienation of suburban Midwestern life pushed her toward drugs, sex, bikers, and rock music (Iggy Pop especially). It also led to some terrible experiences (she was sexually assaulted by a biker gang while a student at Kent State, and her comments on it have drawn recent criticism in the media). Ultimately, Hynde fled for London, where she soon found herself writing reviews for the British magazine NME (New Music Express) and in the middle of a scene that included the Clash, the Sex Pistols, and Malcolm MacLaren. But her emergence in London doesn't come until almost 200 pages into the book. And, remarkably, the Pretenders don't take the stage until about 60 pages from book's end. Hynde writes briefly of the fatigue that quickly settled in--the infighting, the drugs and exhaustion, how "fissures had become cracks," and how, after just two albums, the band "just wanted it to be over." There are virtually no details about Hynde's relationship with the Kinks' Ray Davies (with whom she has a daughter) and her later life. Hynde's fans will recognize her lyrical voice in the writing, but will surely be disappointed with the lack of details about her life as a Pretender and beyond. Not unlike the original lineup of the Pretenders, Hynde's autobiography flames out just when it gets interesting.
A good read if you like Rock & Roll stories. How Chrissie Hynde started the Pretenders. The highs and lows of being in a band.
Chrissie is very eloquent in her writing.
A Fan Essential
A good, enjoyable read for any true fan of the Pretenders and the associated legendary time period; filled with plenty of interesting back stories. But often falls short in really delivering detailed, emotional depth and insight into Hynde's more personal self, instead sort of meandering from one rock and roll cliche to the next. You get the feeling that there is a lot missing and that the story could have been told in a more intimate way -- but hey, that's not Chrissie. Plenty of background on Hynde's coming up and the struggle leading up to the Pretenders' breakthrough, but then only a very hurried and cursory nod to everything thereafter -- hence not really a complete biography. Virtually nothing covered about all the years after the deaths of Farndon and JHS. Still, a worthwhile read for those who love the band and music.
I was a big fan of the Pretenders when I was younger, still am. I am not a big fan of biographies but when I saw Chriise Hynde wrote one I had to read it. I knew that she hated being a star and was uncomfortable with it. I also remember when James Honeyman Scott died. I also had no idea how she wound up in London, when I first saw them I thought she was British.
It was a good read if your a fan. There was a lot about her early childhood, so much so that I found my self skipping through to get to the part of how the Pretenders came about. I did enjoy the book, but it's not for everybody. If your a fan though it is a must read.