Pretenders Day After Day
February 2, 1979 - London, England - Moonlight Club
A review by Mark Williams from Melody Maker, February 3, 1979
Moonlight Club, West Hampstead
Slithering recklessly through the frozen slush in time to catch the support act at the Moonlight, car radio
blurting out Nicky Horne's second record of the evening which is, prophetically enough the Pretenders' "Stop
Your Sobbing," his Record Of The Week. Dark Question. How many bands with well-aired vinyl are playing support
gigs in pubs? And why? Another Jonathan King-type hype with a bunch of seasoned musos depping for some hicks from
the sticks? With Nick Lowe as producer, anything's possible…
But the Pretenders are three seasoned troupers from Herefordshire fronted by mercurial rock journalist-turned-chanteuse
Chrissie Hynde, who also plays rhythm guitar with a casual expertise. Following a hasty sound check, they slam
straight into "The Wait" which is the B-side of "Sobbing," should have been the A-side and
is a tour-de-force of speed-rock. Live, the song assumes even greater urgency with Chrissie Hynde's staccato verbals
piercing like darts and Jim Honeyman-Scott's guitar solo transcending the plastic version for sten-gun gusto and,
Most of the ten-song set was penned by Ms. Hynde and/or bassist Pete Farndon. Their material relies on solid
hooks, abrupt tempo changes and a tenacious rhythm section. The balance at the Railway Hotel's small back room
wasn't all it should have been, but Hynde's strident vocals and attractively jagged-toned Telecaster were clear
Of the non-originals, Question Mark & The Mysterians' "I Need Somebody" perfectly complemented the
band's own edgy offerings, but "Stop Your sobbing" didn't. Instead it gave Ms. Hynde a chance to drop
her somewhat aggressive, cynically witty stage persona for a few minutes and croon not unlike Sandie Shaw.
But while the Pretenders' confidence never bordered on arrogance, it certainly belied their short history and limited
giggery. Their musicianship and the originality of their material failed to impress no one in the smallish audience.
So does destiny have an obligation to elevate the Pretenders on to Bigger Things? Punditry comes cheap - I'm keeping
my trap shut.
A review by Richard Williams from Melody Maker - February 10, 1979
Moonlight Club, West Hampstead
No apologies for following Mark Williams' review of the Pretenders at the Moonlight last week with an instant
replay. Now is the time to catch them, before success (which is inevitable) and the consequent expectations modify
them in any way.
Last Friday night's event had the edge that feels like minor history being made: lots of interested faces from
unexpected quarters, jammed into the Railway Arms' small room, lent a vibrancy to the atmosphere, and the Pretenders
I thought they'd goofed when they opened with "The Wait," the B-side of their Real Records single, the
best thing of its kind I've heard since the MC5's "Looking At You." They hadn't though: almost every
subsequent song was its equal (and, in at least one case, its superior). It was one of those sets which build to
the point where, when it's over, you're cursing the fact that you didn't have a cassette machine in your bag and
a microphone up your sleeve, because you want to hear it all over again, right away.
Chrissie Hynde deals with rock 'n' roll like no woman I've ever seen. She avoids the pop nuances of Debbie Harry
while, unlike Siouxsie Sioux or Poly Styrene, making an instrumental contribution (on rhythm guitar) of a weight
equal to any of the three men in the group.
Although she looks tuff (by Keith Richards out of Veronica Bennett), there's an uncondescending charm about her
introductions and asides which establishes the performer/audience rapport at a very interesting and constructive
She also happens to be the best new singer in ages: razor-phrasing abets a pushy delivery, and she doesn't have
to stop playing while she sings (or vice versa). She can spit out "The Wait" or drawl a Lou-Reed soundalike
song about anonymous 'phone calls (better than anything Reed's written in years), and she transfixes the listener
The band matches her extraordinary power, most notably on "Married Life", the only decent white reggae
song I've ever heard, and they cope beautifully with the dense pop textures of Ray Davies' "Stop Your Sobbing"
(the A-side). Some of the originals have quite complex rhythmic substructures: I think it was "I Can't Control
Myself" which had alternating bars of 4/4 and 7/8 in the verses, attached very confidently by the rhythm section.
Anyway, the theme of this message is See Them Now. Maybe in Northampton tomorrow night (Friday) where the "House
Full" notice will doubtless go up early again. But, pretty soon, it won't even be that easy.