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Music / Pretenders
aka: The Pretenders

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The Pretenders' original lineup. L-R: Pete Farndon, Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers.

Got brass in pocket,
Got bottle I'm gonna use it,
Intention I feel inventive,
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice.
"Brass in Pocket"

Pretenders are an English-American Alternative Rock band that emerged during the New Wave scene, formed in 1978, and whose most famous lineup is made up of vocalist Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott on guitar, Pete Farndon on bass and Martin Chambers on drums. Their first Self-Titled Album, from 1980, is often considered one of the foundation bricks of Alternative Rock as we know it.

Despite losing their guitarist and bassist at the peak of their success, the remaining living members went on with the band and released some more albums, got more singles on the charts... While at the same time changing members like one would clothes.

The original lineup of the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Martin Chambers - drums, backing vocals (1978–86, 1993–present)
  • Blair Cunningham - drums, backing vocals (1986–93)
  • Carwyn Ellis - keyboards, guitar (2012, 2017–present)
  • Pete Farndon - bass, backing vocals (1978–82, died 1983)
  • Malcolm Foster - bass, backing vocals (1983–86, 1987)
  • Eric Heywood - pedal steel guitar, backing vocals (2008–present)
  • Andy Hobson - bass, backing vocals (1993–2005)
  • James Honeyman-Scott - lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1978–82, his death)
  • Chrissie Hynde - lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar (1978–present)
  • Johnny Marr - lead guitar (1987)
  • Robbie McIntosh - lead guitar, backing vocals (1983–87)
  • Adam Seymour - lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1993–2008)
  • T.M. Stevens - bass (1986–87)
  • James Walbourne - lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (2008–present)
  • Nick Wilkinson - bass, backing vocals (2005–present)


  • 1979 - Pretenders
  • 1981 - Pretenders II
  • 1984 - Learning to Crawl
  • 1986 - Get Close
  • 1990 - Packed!
  • 1994 - Last of the Independents
  • 1999 - Viva el Amor
  • 2002 - Loose Screw
  • 2008 - Break Up the Concrete
  • 2016 - Alone
  • 2020 - Hate for Sale

"Back on the Trope Gang":

  • Christmas Songs: "2000 Miles" from Learning to Crawl, as well as their cover of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on one of the Very Special Christmas charity compilations.
  • Cover Version: "Stop Your Sobbing" and "I Go To Sleep" by The Kinks, "Room Full of Mirrors" and "May This Be Love?" by Jimi Hendrix, "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan, "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" by The Persuaders, "Human" by The Divinyls.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Half of the original lineup died of drug overdoses within a year of each other.
  • Epic Rocking: "Private Life". "Up the Neck" also gets extended past the 6-minute mark in live shows.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: "I Hurt You":
    If you'd been in the SS in '43
    You'd've been kicked out for cruelty
  • Forever Young Song: "Forever Young"
  • Granola Girl: Chrissie is vegetarian (she even owned a vegan restaurant in Akron, Ohio before it closed) and supports animal rights. It was her love of animal rights that caused her to allow Rush Limbaugh to continue using "My City Was Gone" after initially balking at it; she donates the licence fees to PETA (who Rush sided with against the EPA on animal testing).
    Blow up the abbatoir! DETONATE!
  • Grief Song: "Back on the Chain Gang", about fallen member James Honeyman-Scott.
  • I Am the Band: Chrissie Hynde was the only official member on Packed! and Alone, and the only band member to appear on every Pretenders recording.
  • "I Hate" Song: Hynde rarely holds much back when she dislikes something or someone. For one example, "Pack It Up" starts with a cry of "You guys are the pits of the world!" and gets magnificently venomous at the culmination;
    But you're a piece of junk, and furthermore
    I don't like your trousers
    Your appalling taste in women
    And what about your mind?
    Your insipid record collection!
  • It's Okay to Cry: "I'll Stand By You" has the singer telling someone not to be embarrassed about their emotions, including tears.
  • "I Want" Song: "If There Was a Man" is about a shy wallflower pining for an epic romance.
  • The Lad-ette: Chrissie Hynde has said in interviews that she relates much more to men than women and has projected a tough, masculine appearance in her adult life.
  • New Sound Album: Get Close introduced a lot more funk influences, to the point where Chrissie Hynde eventually fired half the band mid-tour because they no longer sounded like Pretenders.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Precious" is a famous example.
    But not me, babe, I'm too precious, I had to fuck off!
  • Revolving Door Band: Between Learning to Crawl (the first album after JHS and Pete Farndon's deaths) and Last of the Independents, no two studio albums had the same lineup. Their record of holding a lineup is three albums, between Last... (1994) and Loose Screw (2002), with guitarist Adam Seymour and bassist Andy Hobson joining Hynde and original drummer Martin Chambers.
  • Rock Star Song: The third verse of "Middle of the Road"
    In the middle of the road
    Is no private cul de sac
    I can't get from the cab to the curb
    Without some little jerk on my back
    Don't harass me
    Can't you tell I'm going home I'm tired as hell
    I'm not the cat I used to be
    I've got a kid, I'm thirty-three baby
  • Self-Titled Album: The first one.
  • Shout-Out: "Louie Louie" is not a cover of the classic Kingsmen song, but contains enough references to it that it almost crosses over into Heavy Meta territory.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Show Me," "I'll Stand By You," "Talk of the Town," "Don't Get Me Wrong", "If There was a Man".
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: "My City Was Gone" (namely Akron, Ohio)
  • Take That!: "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?" is an open swipe at pop or rock stars who sell out their credibility by letting their music be used for commercial advertising. The lines Millions of kids are looking at you, you say, "Let them drink soda pop" and Who's got soul? / From the African nation to the Pepsi generation are generally taken to mean that the main target is Michael Jackson, who had a huge deal with Pepsi.
  • Textless Album Cover: Pretenders II, whose moody cover photo recalls the textless covers of the first two Rolling Stones albums.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: Just "Pretenders", but they are often called "The Pretenders". The band's Wikipedia article is titled The Pretenders but it previously used "Pretenders" throughout. The history of the name is slightly complicated; they started out as "Pretenders", then from 1983-1987 they usually used "The Pretenders" (but kept the old logo, so when that was used on sleeves and labels instead of text, the "The" was absent), but afterward they went back to just plain "Pretenders".
  • Unplugged Version: The live album The Isle of View.
  • When She Smiles: Gender Flipped in "Don't Get Me Wrong":
"I'm thinking of the fireworks
That go off when you smile"

Alternative Title(s): The Pretenders