Reckless – My Life
By Chrissie Hynde
Ebury Press -£20.00

After writing a song there’s first a feeling of elation followed by the sinking feeling that it will never happen again, and you go back to thinking that you can’t do it. It creates an ongoing feeling of inadequacy. 

And in the end, this is a story of drug abuse.

So yeah, Chrissie Hynde: cool and collected and suave and unintentionally sophisticated (in a loose and lazy, inebriated sort of way). Have always been attracted to her work, ever since first hearing her all too fab rendition of The Kinks’ ‘I Go To Sleep’ whilst living in London’s Maida Vale. Might this be due to her understated vocal delivery? Or might it be due to the fact that she always wore what seemed like a man’s suit jacket – while fronting The Pretenders? Either way, Hynde was always very Keef-esque; which, given that rock’n’roll is a predominantly, über male domain, isn’t something to be taken all too lightly.

 But I have to say, Reckless is a horrible disappointment. Surprisingly so, given her high pedigree; not to mention that she’s been around a while and therefore knows so many people. That she was mates with The Sex Pistols, Johnny Thunders and The Clash alone, ought to have made for (far more) inviting, interesting reading.

Yet most of this book is a predictable and chronological assessment of Hynde’s early years, which, apart from lending a candid, first-hand account of early sixties America, is nothing other than a sordid foray unto the rather dismal world of alcoholism and drugs: ”Who would have thought that rock and roll could be even slightly complicated? We are, after all, talking about three lousy chords played by high-school drop outs. But the complications are life threatening.

Alcohol poisoning: every band has gone on stage shaking after barely being able to stand up to do the soundcheck. You can see pictures of the gods of rock reduced to mere mortals, passed out on flight cases daily. There is nothing quite like the look of desperation and fear exchanged at the side of the stage before the lights go down, with the whole band undergoing the shared experience of total alcohol meltdown. ”Can we do this?”” (from the later chapter, ‘Pretenders’).

That said, there’s very little of Reckless that is actually devoted to The Pretenders, which at the end of the day, is what I (and I should imagine most people) wanted to read about. Other than the futile and seemingly pathetic deaths of guitarist James Honeymoon-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon (who, during the early formation of the band, dated Hynde), there really is not a lot. Alas, the second opening quote says it all really.

As mentioned, there’s the inevitable insight into American society:

”A suffocating cloak of isolation was enveloping America. Only the destination places – cultural centres you’d visit or pass through like Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco or Seattle – still functioned, with thriving downtowns, defying the seclusion that was spreading like molten lava […]. No one wanted to share their space with strangers.Heaven forbid they might not even be white. Although no one would have openly admitted it, racial mixing ‘which was inevitable’ was a cultural conundrum, to put it mildly” (‘Walk, Don’t Run’);

along with American sexuality by way of the sixties and its introduction of the Pill:

”The most potent factor in the sixties’ descent into chaos was the birth-control pill. Never mind LSD – a passing fad -the pill was king, and like Cher it needed no second name. The pill was changing society beyond recognition, with the entire family structure about to alter unrecognisably. Sex was becoming a recreational lifestyle choice. If you were to mention the word ‘procreation’ you’d probably get thrown out of any protest, commune or crash pad for being a bummer. Only a straight person would think like that” (‘WHLO Appreciation Day’);

but very little insight into anything, or anyone, of any potent significance.

The chapter on Lemmy doesn’t really say anything we don’t already know (him being a huge Beatles fan for instance).

Reckless ought to have been, and could so easily have been, a terrific book. Sadly, it’s a morose and rather morbid book: ”As far as rock bands went, it was all textbook stuff. But the fact that everybody in every band in history had gone through the same things didn’t make it any easier to assimilate the horror show of drug addiction. Alcohol was always in the mix too, the lethal ingredient, portal to the dark side, ever-lurking. The only reason we were still standing was that we had youth on our side. But as always, time was running out” (‘The Last Show’).

Think Chrissie needs to take heed of some of the actual joy of rock’n’roll, as opposed to its potentially dark, distant cousin, that is the darkness.

David Marx


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