Pretenders’ initial rise to prominence was meteoric. The group started out playing London’s club circuit late in 1978, yet within a year their landmark self-titled debut album had topped the UK charts. By the spring of 1980, the US was in their sights. However, while Pretenders’ inspired marriage of retro-rock cool and gritty post-punk modernity had seduced vast swathes of the record-buying public, their debut album’s success left them bereft of the space they needed to shape their second album, Pretenders II.
Listen to ‘Pretenders II’ here.
“We were on the road all the time”
“Our first LP was very special,” drummer Martin Chamber said in an interview with Trouser Press in 1983. “The second album was more difficult because Chrissie [Hynde, frontwoman] had no time to write. She has to be relaxed to write – and we were on the road all the time.”
As Chambers revealed, Pretenders had precious little time to absorb the pressures of fame in 1980. They embarked on the first of several gruelling US tours in May of that year, and their relentless schedule took its toll on Chrissie Hynde. “I feel like people want me to make a mistake,” she told People magazine in 1981. “I don’t feel big time. I’m, like, just passing through.”
Nonetheless, the music Pretenders committed to wax in the wake of their debut album suggested they really were here to stay. Effectively bridging the gap between Pretenders and Pretenders II, the yearning, Byrds-esque chime of Talk Of The Town and the swaggering Message Of Love chalked up UK Top 20 successes while adding to the anticipation building around the band’s second album.