Tuesday, May 15, 2007
At the Helm in a Man's World....
First of all, let me say that we had an absolutely stellar day yesterday, in terms of visits to this site. I can only credit the Cramps and the amazing Poison Ivy Rorschach, who is the cool next to Lux's creepy and crazy.
It is not easy to be at the helm in a man's world, or even co-helming with a man in a man's world. Cuz Soul Brother #1 James Brown told you long ago, "It's a Man's World." No doubt about it. And punk rock was hardly different. I was moved to the point of saying out loud, "Right on sister," when I read the interview between Alice Bag and punk photographer, Debbie Schow on Alice's blog. (highly recommended reading for all, especially the girls and women of punk rock. It's most definitely, "right on sister" material.)
So, here's another American guitar-slinging lady leading a band of men. Chrissie Hynde, the nice, smart girl from Ohio who decamped to London and made her mark in music first as a reviewer with a caustic wit and truly American no-holds-barred criticism. Then a few Nick Lowe-produced singles later, she seems to be an overnight success with her band, The Pretenders.
Of course, she had worked hard, lived by the skin of her teeth and paid her dues before most of America saw this prodigal daughter return to conquer their airwaves and stages with her catchy pop-tinged punk rock music. Chrissie's love of rock n roll, her depth and breadth of knowledge of all of music and her sharp editorial skills combined to make her a top notch songwriter of both lyrics and music. A poet for the people with a clever turn of phrase, not unlike some of the 60s best...its no wonder the Pretenders version of the Kinks chestnut "Stop Your Sobbing" was such a hit. I have a maxim, if musician friends ever ask me about covering songs... and that is: don't cover it if you can't bring something new to the table.
What Chrissie Hynde brought to the table when covering "Stop Your Sobbing" was not just her magnificent voice and just-reminiscent-enough arrangement, but to hear a woman sing those lyrics...Chrissie turned the power tables around. In her own "Brass in Pocket," with its "I'm special" hook, you know she is, and that she knows it too makes her a role model worth considering.
What makes her special is NOT that she's dated Sex Pistol Steve Jones or had a relationship and a child with Ray Davies and with Jim Kerr, although it does give her biography some interesting footnotes... what makes Chrissie Hynde special is that she has endured through the ages and stayed on top of her game. With the tragic and senseless drug-overdose deaths of original Pretenders, James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, many bandleaders might reconsider the gauntlet they give themselves and start to take it easy. But Chrissie soldiers on and follows her heart, from defending animals rights to speaking her mind on hot topics in politics. All you can be is true to yourself. Viva Chrissie Hynde.