Chrissie Hynde: 'I'm Just Telling My Story' The Pretenders founder discusses her new memoir, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. The book is about her life as a musician; "the rest of me," she says, "isn't really up for grabs."

Chrissie Hynde: 'I'm Just Telling My Story'

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This rock anthem came out in 1979.


CHRISSIE HYNDE: (Singing) Got brass in pocket.

GREENE: "Brass In Pocket" from The Pretenders. To many, it's a song that empowers women.


HYNDE: (Singing) Going to make you, make you, make you notice.

GREENE: Don't tell that to the woman who wrote it.

HYNDE: You know it's just a three-minute rock song. It's - I don't think it's as loaded as that.

GREENE: People certainly saw it, in its day, as being very different and really emboldening women and...

HYNDE: OK, well, I'm not here to embolden anyone.


HYNDE: (Singing) I'm special, so special. I got to have some of your attention. Give it to me.

GREENE: I'm just going to say it - Chrissie Hynde is a really tough interview. She started The Pretenders in the late 1970s at a time when it was still pretty rare to have a front woman in a hard-charging rock band.


HYNDE: (Singing) I like the way you cross the street 'cause you're precious.

GREENE: She thinks of herself as a private person. But now, in her early 60s, she thought it was time to share her story in a book. The new memoir is called "Reckless: My Life As A Pretender."

HYNDE: You're just trying to make sense of it all. And I, you know, really couldn't have done it while my folks were alive, unfortunately, and I feel bad about that. It's like I'm doing it behind their back. But I did so much behind their back, this probably wouldn't make any difference at this point.

GREENE: Well, say more about that. Why did you feel like you couldn't write this when your parents were still alive?

HYNDE: Well, because I'm - my language isn't very good, and there's a lot of drugs and, you know, stuff like that, which I just wouldn't have done it while they were alive. It would've been too upsetting for them. They would've been mortified.


HYNDE: (Singing) Shouldn't let your manners slip, you're too precious.

GREENE: Chrissie Hynde is a Midwestern girl. She grew up in Akron, Ohio. The world's biggest rock stars would pass through nearby Cleveland, and Chrissie Hynde was hooked. It's a topic she goes on about at length in the book. Bands were everything, she writes, nothing else mattered, which made me think she'd want to talk about it.

And The Rolling Stones, I mean, they came - I mean, I loved reading about how you sort of took some of the staging off to take it with you almost as a souvenir.

HYNDE: Yeah. Do you want me to repeat the story? So I don't know if that's a question.

GREENE: Yeah, I'd love you to. No, I'd love you to. What...

HYNDE: Can I just not repeat stories that I've already said in the book? Can we talk about things outside of that? Is that possible? I don't want to do a book reading, as it were.

GREENE: No, I would just love to hear some of the emotions of why you love The Rolling Stones so much. I mean, you were taking some of the notes that people had written for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and taking them home with you. I mean, what was driving you?

HYNDE: Well, I just loved the bands. That's what drove me all my life, is I love the bands. Back in those days, nobody thought, I want to grow up and be a rock star. No one thought about fame. No one thought about making a lot of money. I just liked music. And I really liked rock guitar. I didn't think I was going to be a rock guitar player because I was a girl. I would've been too shy to play with - you know, with guys.


HYNDE: (Singing) In the middle of the road, yeah.

GREENE: But she did. She moved to London and formed The Pretenders with three guys. The band put out a string of hits. And Chrissie Hynde became a symbol of female power and possibility. So one story in the book made a lot of people angry. They felt she was suggesting that women can be to blame if they're assaulted. She was describing an encounter back in Ohio when she was in her early 20s and got involved with a gang of bikers who did security at concerts. And we should warn listeners, this does get graphic.

There is a story in this book about you ending up with a biker group. Can you tell me about the night where you ended up in an abandoned...

HYNDE: No, I'm not going to tell you stories that are in the book.

GREENE: Well, I just hate...

HYNDE: So, you know, I know it's a drag, but I'm not going to tell you stories that I've written in the book that I've already written about.

GREENE: I wanted to give you the chance to describe what happened in them.

HYNDE: Well, OK, let's talk - I'm not going to describe it because I've written about it in the book. But what I can say is I never said I was raped, and I've never used the word, and it's not in the book.

GREENE: I mean, I can certainly read a couple lines from the book if that - if that would be better?

HYNDE: Yeah, that might be better.

GREENE: OK. I'll just read a little bit here.

(Reading) The hairy hoard looked at each other. It was their lucky day. How about yous come to our place for a party?

And you ended up with them. And then you proceeded to describe what they were asking you.

(Reading) Get your bleeping clothes off. Shut the bleep up. Hurry up, we got bleep to do. Hit her in the back of the head so it don't leave no marks.

This certainly sounds like an awful, awful experience with these men.

HYNDE: Yeah. Yeah, I suppose - that's - if that's how you read it, then that - yeah.

GREENE: Well, let's get to how people have reacted because what a lot of people have focused on...

HYNDE: You know, I was having fun, man, 'cause I was, like, so stoned I didn't even care. That's what I was talking about, is I was talking about the drugs more than anything and how [expletive] we were and how it, you know, impaired our judgment to the point to where, you know, people - it was just - had got off the scale.

GREENE: What you wrote that a lot of people have really reacted to is

(Reading) let me assure you that technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing, and I take full responsibility.

HYNDE: Yeah, that just sounds like common sense to me. You know, no one dragged me into a park in the middle of the night with a gun at my head and forced me to do anything. You know, I went off with these guys at my own volition, and, you know, I shouldn't have.

GREENE: And we...

HYNDE: I mean, I was stupid to do that. But, you know, I did it. So...

GREENE: I just think there was one comment you made in an interview about the book to The Sunday Times of London.

(Reading) If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk, who else's fault can it be?

HYNDE: So what are you getting at? Why are you asking me this?

GREENE: I just think a lot of people...

HYNDE: I don't understand why there's - I - you know what? I don't care what a lot of people want, you know? And I'd rather say just don't buy the [expletive] book then. You know, if I've offended someone, don't listen to my records 'cause I'm only telling you my story. I'm not here trying to advise anyone or tell anyone what to do or tell anyone what to think. And I'm not here as a spokesperson for anyone. I'm just telling my story. So the fact that I've been - you know, it's almost like a lynch mob.

GREENE: Chrissie Hynde, Q Magazine, a huge music publication in Britain, once called her the high priestess of badass rock 'n' roll. But she will be the first to tell you, you will never truly know her. I asked her what she regrets.

HYNDE: What do I regret?

GREENE: What do you regret?

HYNDE: I regret losing a lot of friends to drugs that I took with them and getting people involved in - you know, being there when - a lot of the stuff that I regret isn't in the book. In fact, the stuff I really regret I left out of the book 'cause I don't want to, you know, stir up some hurtful emotions to people - the people that get left behind.

See, the only reason that I'm here and the only reason you're talking to me is because I made some records and I go on tour with a band. And that's really what I wanted to offer the public. And now offering the public my book and me telling my story, I want to offer that. But the rest of me isn't really up for grabs, you know?


GREENE: Chrissie Hynde's new memoir is called "Reckless."

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