Thursday 19 July 2018

Chrissie, happily, still on the chain gang

Chrissie Hynde, playing Electric Picnic next month with The Pretenders, has been writing great songs for four decades

No Pretender: Chrissie Hynde is in the pink at the NME Awards
No Pretender: Chrissie Hynde is in the pink at the NME Awards
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

With some publications going all gooey-eyed over the 40th anniversary of punk's golden age, 1977 - The Sex Pistols released their vitriol-splattered masterpiece Never Mind The Bollocks that year while The Clash released their eponymously titled debut too - my mind was drawn to one of the most amusing tales from that era...

Circa 1976, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious (Queen's Freddie Mercury called him Simon Ferocious) almost married American singer Chrissie Hynde.

Hynde, who was without a visa and about to become legally reacquainted with her own country, was desperate to remain in the UK. Hynde had arrived in London from Ohio in 1973 and worked at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's clothes shop, Sex, on the King's Road in Chelsea.

She had initially approached her pal, Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten, about getting married so as to remain in the UK.

It was an approach which came to nothing.

Vicious rebuked her over the plan to marry Rotten thus: "'Cause now he's a rock star, you can have his baby and get his money!"

As soon as he realised the stupidity of his ill-chosen words, Vicious chivalrously suggested that he would marry the future Pretenders chanteuse himself.

Had fate not intervened, it would have been the Hello! magazine wedding from hell. The punk equivalent of a mohawk-mopped Lady Di walking down the aisle with Prince Chuck wearing a safety pin through his nose.

And like Di and Charles, there was not a whole lot of love between Chrissie and Vicious.

"There was no romantic liaison going on in those days," Chrissie told me in an 1996 interview. "Sid was just one of the gang.''

I'd have married you too, I said to her.

But I'd have been nine, Chrissie.

"Well, I had the same problems with Sid too," she laughed.

"We had to get his birth certificate. He was barely 18. Then, when we went to the register office, he had some police problems with putting some guy's eye out with a glass, or something [Vicious had to go to court]. And the register office was closed the next day. I was in a hurry. So it wasn't meant to be. I had nothing romantic with those guys. There was too much speed for romance.''

There was no actual sex in punk, then?

"Not really. No one had anything romantic in those days. It was the cheap drugs.''

So to sum up: punk was just a lot of immature boys pretending to be council estate James Deans?

"Sort of. All those kids grew up on Mott The Hoople and David Bowie. There wasn't much else to it."

Notwithstanding marriages that never happened to punk iconoclasts, Chrissie and her iconic band The Pretenders - who play Electric Picnic at the start of next month in Stradbally Hall, Co Laois - gave the world such sublime pieces of music as Brass In Pocket, Talk Of The Town and Back On the Chain Gang.

More than that, Chrissie gave the world her certain attitude. Seeing Chrissie in concert gave Madonna, as she said herself, "courage, inspiration to see a woman with that kind of confidence in a man's world".

The 65-year-old rock star/animal rights activist would probably not appreciate Madonna's praise, however well-intended. Or anyone's. The star, who has been writing great songs for over four decades now, would view accolades or PR gush as a kind of sentimental death.

Take Chrissie's reaction when in 2005 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

"I call it the Rock and Roll Hall of Shit," she said. "It's everything that rock 'n' roll isn't. It sort of desecrates the name of rock 'n' roll."

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