Representing both a creative and a commercial rebirth, Pretenders’ sixth album, 1994’s Last Of The Independents, was the one the band’s loyal fanbase had been longing for. Stuffed with sassy songs full of attitude and killer hooks, it was everything a Pretenders record should be, and revealed that Chrissie Hynde had regained her mojo in no uncertain terms.
Listen to Last Of The Independents here.
“Rock is not about going to work”
Not that Hynde had lost her way, exactly. After all, her band’s two previous albums, 1986’s Get Close and 1990’s Packed, bequeathed a smattering of hits and were hardly devoid of inspiration. However, having made both records with a supporting cast of studio musicians, the notion of Pretenders as a fully-fledged “band” had dissipated somewhat after 1984’s Learning To Crawl. In the meantime, Hynde also had her second child and had become increasingly involved with environmental activism rather than music. By her own admission, her interest in the rock’n’roll lifestyle had waned considerably.
“How can you crank out an album every year? That would be like going to work,” Hynde reflected in the sleevenotes for Pretenders’ 2008 box set, Pirate Radio. “To my mind, rock is about not going to work. If it all becomes too professional and you don’t goof off enough, how will you have anything to talk about in the music? I need to hang out and have fun and be a nobody with a private life.”
Nevertheless, with a little help from her old friend and producer Nick Lowe, Hynde slowly began to reconnect with rock’n’roll. During the early 90s, Lowe was playing with a young guitarist named Adam Seymour (formerly of UK indie hopefuls The Katydids), and Hynde was suitably impressed by his abilities. Detecting a melodic flair and versatility in Seymour’s playing akin to that of her old sparring partner James Honeyman-Scott, Hynde recruited Seymour for Pretenders’ next album.
“It began to feel like a real band”
Taking place in Bath and London, sessions for Last Of The Independents began with Hynde and Seymour joined by sessioneers including ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke and drummers Jimmy Copley and James Hood, with producer Ian Stanley (later joined by Stephen Street) manning the console. With Copley behind the kit, they recorded the swaggering Night In My Veins, a UK Top 30 hit which suggested Hynde was back at her feisty best. However, the sessions really began to cook when Hynde decided to invite Pretenders’ original drummer, Martin Chambers, back into the fold.