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The Pretenders

Just a little rock band

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By Gary Graff  
artist

Pirate Radio, the Pretenders' new box set, surveys the group's 28-year history -- an epic tale that includes the deaths of two founding members, personnel changes and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For founder Chrissie Hynde it's also an opportunity to ruminate on the experience so far:

Q: What kind of perspective did you get from compiling Pirate Radio?

Hynde: It reminded me of how great the early band was. That kind of cheered me up when I saw how much fun we were having and stuff, and the other great players I've had along the way, and hearing stuff I had completely forgotten about.

Q: The Pretenders have been through a lot, especially in the early '80s, when James (Honeyman-Scott) and Pete (Farndon) died. What kept you going?

Hynde: Y'know, I'm never going to have a nervous breakdown, or anything. Sorry, it's just not in my zodiac. I suppose people could've felt sorry for me, say, 'Ah, look at the poor thing.' But if you can't handle a couple deaths...that's just the art of living. But I'll be paying my respects to Pete and Jim for starting the idea, creating this thing. It's important the audiences understand the role the dead guys played.

Q: Do you approach the band any differently today than you did back in 1978?

Hynde: Well, you know, I'm not ambitious. I wasn't in it to make a lot of money or get famous or anything. I like to goof off, man. I just want to hang out and do what I want to do. To me, rock is very much, like, a lifestyle, yet as far as rock as a career, it's very much a hobby to me. There's something about being in a band, it retards your development in some ways but it gives you a whole lot of free time to just work on your general consciousness. And my general consciousness says I just want to sit on a park bench.

Q: But you did approach your music with passion. This is not a hobbyist's kind of music.

Hynde: I guess maybe I was ambitious enough to make records, but I haven't tried to branch out or do anything else, or make a lot of records. You can't accuse me of being prolific.

Q: Do you take some satisfaction in the way the music has endured?

Hynde: Y'know, I'm just glad I can do what I want to do. Of course I'm glad if someone likes it, but I'm not trying to convince people to like it and I don't think, "Oh, wow, were great." It's just a little rock band. It's had kind of an interesting story and, certainly some great players in it. It sure was better than waitressing for twenty-five years.

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.