Reckless by Chrissie Hynde – Review
By Roger Crow
Since she burst onto the music scene in the late 1970s, I’ve had an image of Chrissie Hynde stepping off a plane from the United States and into the Top of the Pops studio, where instant fame follows. Of course, this is light years from the reality of her success story, as her aptly named autobiography Reckless testifies.
Given some of the ne’er-do-wells she hung around with as a teenager in Ohio, it’s a wonder Chrissie made it out of there alive. The early chapters are littered with incidents in which she’s mixing with abusive types, drug addicts, and getting into vehicles with men she really shouldn’t.
All rock and roll autobiographies should feature a mix of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. This includes more than its fair share. From her early years of loving the music of Iggy Pop, David Bowie and The Kinks, I’m willing her to get enough brass in pocket (sorry) to jump on a plane from Akron, Ohio and go to London.
But I have to wade through plenty of misery before she gets there, perhaps most disturbingly when she mixes with bikers who treat her like a punch bag. By the time she does make it to London in the early 1970s, her observations as an American in England are fascinating. It’s a Life on Mars-style snapshot of an era when the swinging 60s were over, Glam Rock was at its height and Punk was about to take off.
“Fascinating anecdotes about mixing with her heroes”
To Hynde’s amazement, she could move into squats, and make a living as a music journalist, stunned that anyone was willing to hear what she had to say. As an American woman with a truckload of attitude, she had a relatively unique selling point at the time, so little wonder many were inspired by her.
There are fascinating anecdotes about mixing with her heroes such as David Bowie, Ray Davies, Iggy Pop, and obviously getting the band together that would make her name – The Pretenders. Inevitably, there is a list of casualties along the way, many dying from drug overdoses, and little wonder as every other person she seems to meet is either drunk, stoned or heading for an early grave.
Though she seems to have very little faith in her singing or songwriting abilities, there is a certain amount of ‘fake it until you make it’ in any business. Once Hynde realises this, her skills develop in leaps and bounds. It’s hard to detect any of that insecurity in her early hits such as ‘Brass in Pocket’ and soon she is becoming the talk of the town (sorry again). It’s something she is not happy with.
“Bursting with unforgettable moments”
Hynde has never been one to suffer fools gladly, or err on the side of caution, though it was inevitable she would make it big in the music industry one day.
The fact she manages to survive in a world where so many fall by the way side is remarkable. And with a string of classic tracks as long as your arm, she also manages to produce some of the best music of her generation.
Every time I hear ‘Night in my Veins’, I’m taken back to a 1995 US road trip when their album The Last of the Independents had just been released. As a Brit in America, I was revelling in the very thing she had left behind.
Though I wasn’t a fan from the outset, The Pretenders grew on me over the years and these days I can’t imagine a music collection without them. Chrissie Hynde may have led a very reckless life, but at least it’s bursting with unforgettable moments. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s a compelling document of the birth of punk and the demise of many stars, known or otherwise.
Though the final chapters seem to skim through her recent years, this is a cracking read, beautifully written.
‘Reckless’ by Chrissie Hynde is published by Ebury Press, £8.99