Viva Las Vegas

Chrissie Hynde is, without a doubt, the one and only Queen of Rock‘n‘Roll. People my age and younger probably think of her as the lead singer of that poppy adult contemporary rock band, The Pretenders, as indeed, so did I. Songs like “Brass in Pocket” and “Back on the Chain Gang” always sounded too slow and jangly and insincere for my teenage tastes. Until that fateful day when my studly younger brother waxed ecstatic with, “Chrissie Hynde‘s got a voice that can make a guy come in ten seconds.”

“Whatever.” I quipped–I don‘t need talk like that from my brother and I certainly don‘t need guys coming in ten seconds, but my curiosity was sparked. Next time I was alone in our shared bunker, I put on his CD and listened to “Night in My Veins.” Sounded over-produced and adult contemporary, but when she sang “He‘s got his hands in my hair and his lips everywhere, oh feels good...” with that voice...I was breathless. By golly, the boy had something. Six months later I ordered Pretenders, their first album, from my scam-of-the-month CD club. The disc never left my CD player.

Pretenders is the sexiest rock album ever conceived by a woman. Those are fighting words, I know, but see for yourself. One listen and Gwen, Alanis, Sheryl, Shirley, Natalie, etc. will turn your stomach. PJ Harvey comes close–resurrecting all the hot blues mamas and Chrissie to great effect, but nuthin‘ no one can compare to Chrissie‘s off-kilter timings, guitar backbeats, frenzied, growling rhythms, and cutting lyrics that she purrrrrrs with a voice that is all sin and sex: “Not me baby I‘m too precious. Fuck off!”

Chrissie was and is the punkest chic around. She knew Rock‘n‘Roll inside and out and had the courage and creativity to morph male traditions into something so brave, bold and female. After years in various bands of the early UK punk scene with guys who would later become The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Mtrhead, and The Damned, it seemed bizarre to everyone involved that this Yankee chic from Ohio would crack Radio and the rock press with a cover of an obscure Kinks‘ song, “Stop Your Sobbing.” Showing herself to be a master of contradiction even then, the B-side featured the most exhilarating balls-out song in the Pretenders‘ catalog, “The Wait.” She would go on to call herself a “feminist who disliked feminism” and to champion such unpopular causes as motherhood and veganism. She never compromised her opinions to pander to the “Jealous Dogs” of the rock world, and her songwriting is similarly unique and unparalleled.

Twenty years later, she‘s still around. Still churning out zingers from “Hynde‘s House of Hits” on the same Warner Brothers label. She proved she was made of pretty tough stuff when she bounced back head-up from the overdose deaths of her original guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, and bassist/boytoy Pete Farndon shortly after the release of Pretenders 2 in 1981, then recording the classic though decidedly less punk Learning to Crawl. Nowadays she‘s a single mom of two teenage daughters by rock stars and still drinks her roadies under the table where, according to legend, she‘s more than likely to take advantage of them.

Chrissie Hynde way gets my vote for sexiest woman alive. Will I shell out an unbelievable $40 for a ticket to see The Pretenders and those new wave circus freaks The B-52‘s alongside countless yuppies at the River Queen on August 15th? You bet your precious ass I will, boyz and girls. I‘ll be in the front on my knees.

With love, Viva.

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