I was a late-comer to the rock'n'roll show. Sure, as a nine year old I mowed my grandparent's lawn to earn enough to buy a ticket to the premier of The Beatles A Hard Day's Night in 1964. But by 1967 the US TV debut of the Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane promo film left me lost in translation. Of course I have since come around to recognize it as a pinnacle of the Beatles work, but at the time I just was not ready. So I drifted away from rock until my sophmore year in college. Of course by then the 60s were well over and the rock establishment was petrifying.
So when New Wave/Punk hit, I was so there, buying every new release that I read about in the rock press. My college crowd was there with me, trading homemade cassettes of Elvis Costello, Lena Lovich, Television, Talking Heads, etc. The Pretenders walked a fine line between the old and the new. During the time frame of their two albums and assorted singles released by the original members, there was not a better band. Chrissie Hynde was (and sometimes still is) a fabulous songwriter, and as a singer she could move me with barely a whisper. Her husky voice never strained or screamed, yet managed to become one of the true original voices in R&R. James Honeyman-Scott was a guitarist of unlimited potential, able to produce pure ringing tones as well as blistering solos. Pete Farndon (bass) Martin Chambers (drums) were an exceptional rhythm section, able to fill the space between the vocals and guitar and yet also understanding the importance of empty beats.
In the summer of 1981 I was lucky enough to see the Pretenders live at the Oklahoma City Zoo Ampitheater with some of my friends. A yet-to-become-famous Go Gos - who wore matching polka dresses - put on a killer opening set. But the real deal was yet to come. Frankly I was so delirious at seeing Chrissie and company in person that I remember very little of the actual music other than that they were tight, aggressive, and had an amazing stage presence.
The following video has been on and off of YouTube for several years. I am sure this will get pulled soon so take a look while you can, to see a band that had it all for a few brief months before twin tragedies would occur.
p.s. the blog posting title comes from the heinous concocotion that my college friends put together (grape koolaid and everclear) for the infamous Enid Oklahoma punk roller skating party of 1980.