No fool Nick; his ears did not lie, and those immaculate Hynde qualities didn't stop at her vocal cords. Over the last 28 years, she has consistently been one of the best songwriters in rock 'n' roll, as this blessed hunk (81 tracks and 19 videos) of Pretenders material proves beyond a doubt. (The box has Ben Edmonds-penned liners, photos by Creem's Robert Matheu and many live shots of the band in Detroit; the cover is Hynde at the Fox Theatre in 1984.)
Hynde has always been the driving force of the band, which has suffered the deaths of two originals guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farnsworth in '82 and '83, respectively and she's managed to create pop gems with every incarnation since. From the early days of smoldering, ear-bending hits like "Precious," "Brass In Pocket" and "Kid" (wherein Honeyman-Scott renders perhaps the most perfect guitar solo ever) through classics like "Don't Get Me Wrong," "Night In My Veins," "Back on the Chain Gang" and "I'll Stand By You," Pirate Radio fills the bill.
But far more than a greatest hits package, the four-disc set offers such unreleased delicacies as "Tequila," Warren Zevon's "Reconsider Me," and Lennon and McCartney's "Not A Second Time," as well as live cuts including "Up the Neck" and "The Homecoming."
Tracks aside, an extra treat included is the DVD, a career-spanning batch of vids and live performances (some in Detroit) that shows this was a band to see as much as hear. Hynde's an artist who looks exactly like she sounds and sounds like she looks. From behind the Cleopatra eyeliner and retina-level bangs that beat even early Cher-do's, the rail-thin, foxy Chrissie projects a sexy, snarling bar queen one minute, and a tragically vulnerable sweetheart the next.
Still, it's not all about her; watching 1979's Top of the Pops rendition of "Brass In Pocket," one is reminded of how much of an actual group the band was. Everyone looked cool, everyone could play, every song a winner. This was the quartet from London that arrived on these shores so long ago with a viciously charismatic, expat woman who melded Ronnie Spector with the Kinks with a punk attitude and cranked the package into something brilliant. Forget about what's playing across the dial at the moment, Pirate Radio is something to listen to forever.
Peter Gilstrap is a freelance writer. Send comments to email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.