Talker Of The Town: Chrissie Hynde Interviewed By Simon Price

Chrissie Hynde is releasing her first-ever solo album. But never mind that. Just let her talk. Because the legendary Pretenders leader can talk for London, England, for Akron, Ohio or anywhere else you care to mention. Oh boy, can she talk. Simon Price listens

"I’m trying to find what’s interesting about the world right now. And a lot of it’s bullshit, but a lot of it’s always been bullshit. If you read the liner notes on a Tim Buckley album in the early Seventies, he was saying it was all bullshit."

…and BOOM, we’re off. Before the recorder’s even rolling, Chrissie Hynde is already holding forth on the reasons why American audiences won’t read subtitles and insist on watching remakes of foreign films like Let The Right One In, and the chicken-and-egg question of which came first: the patronising, spoonfeeding, dumbing-down attitude of the film companies, or the dumbness of the audiences?

"The industry has always had its problems. But the public will buy what is sold to them. First of all, because they’re busy. And they buy the same stuff everyone else buys because they want to belong, and relate to it. So who’s going to make the intelligent decision of what to sell to people? Nobody, because money’s involved. So, forget intelligence. They want the money."

Mark Kermode makes the persuasive argument that, as films like Inception have proven that it’s possible to make a blockbuster with a brain and still make your money back, there’s no excuse for making a brainless one…

"I thought Inception was pretty amazing. But you’re seeing a lot of unanswered questions, because there were a lot of blockbusters that didn’t work. This is a Hollywood mentality that is not only irresponsible but immoral. But of course no-one will agree with me, I stand alone. Just as I stand as one of the vegetarian 3% of the population at all times. Fine. I’m the odd one out, sue me. The thing with Hollywood is that they’ll always say ‘It makes the money back’, about dumb films, but where does it make the money back to? Back into the same cesspit. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t save any lives. It’s just helping to perpetuate something that’s already corrupt. The explanation is that the people making it are dumb, and the people they’re selling it to are dumb. Or at least, a large percentage are. Personally, I don’t think these are acceptable excuses. I don’t like excuses. There’s a difference between an excuse and a reason, and I want a REASON. And there’s no good reason."

Oh, look. I know I should have written you a nice little preamble at the top about who Chrissie Hynde is (as if anyone on the planet doesn’t already know), and why I’m talking to her (the release of her first-ever solo album, Stockholm, on June 10). But that’s not how Chrissie Hynde works. No time to get comfortable or ease your way in. No time for pleasantries and small-talk. No time to acclimatise to the fact that you’re looking at one of the most recognisable women – waistcoat, neckerchief, cheekbones like geometry, eyes like Xin Xin – in rock. Just press the record button and watch her go.

In a corny link to fold this cinematic digression to what we’re supposed to be discussing, I ask whether Chrissie sees this kind of cowardly thinking in her own industry.

"Well, this is what I was coming round to, because I’ve got a new record out and I’ve had to think about these things a lot. Question. I saw you the other week when we played that little gig [a private showcase at the tiny 229 Club in London]. Would you rather see us in an arena, or there?"

There. Obviously.

"And everyone I’ve asked has said that. And I blame the artists. They want to be in arenas. OK, I couldn’t make a living if I just did small shows…"

There’s an in between, surely.

"Of course there’s an in between. But the big artists can’t play the in-between venues, because they’ve MADE themselves that big. It’s a prestige thing, and there’s a lot of money in it. And what doesn’t matter to anyone any more is personal integrity. There is none. It’s a cheater’s mentality: if people think they can get away with something and no-one will notice, they’ll do it. But I say to them: don’t YOU notice? Don’t you have any personal sense that what you’re doing is wrong?"

Gigs at megabowls like the 02 are geared towards the last 20 per cent of might-as-well stragglers who are happy to go along as part of a works outing and sit in the gods drinking £5 pints of beer of beer, chatting among themselves while vaguely watching the gig on a distant screen, rather than true music fans.

"To those people it’s an event. It didn’t used to be. It used to be a really specialised thing, and you only went to a gig if you were really into it. But then everyone was becoming household names, because one hit can make you so massive. Take someone like Neil Young, who I saw at the 02: he can get away with it. I don’t even mean ‘get away with it’, he can pull it off. And Neil has almost 50 years’ worth of fanbase, from right across the age spectrum, who want to see him. So he could play Brixton Academy, yeah, but he’d have to be in there for ten nights. So, arguably, some artists don’t have the time to do that. But I don’t think Neil Young set out to be that big. He just diligently did what he did, and built on his own excellence. And let’s face it, he’s done some pretty obscure albums, that are hard to listen to…"

Like Trans, the crazy vocoder-and-synth album he made in 1982 which invented Daft Punk a dozen years early.

"Right. But he does what he wants, and then he’ll come out with another cracker that’s totally accessible. He does his thing, with or without us. And if we like it, we’re welcome.

"Anyway, I’m not telling anyone how they have to do things, but there need to be some shifts at the moment, because technology’s moving so fast, and it’s accelerating and it’s really hard to arrest trends once they start going in the wrong direction. But it can be done. And someone has to blow the whistle on some of this stuff, because…"

She pauses only to pick up a ginger biscuit, half-coated in dark chocolate, from a plate on the table between us. We will in due course get onto John McEnroe’s guitar skills, Mother Teresa’s poetry, Ian Curtis’ stage presence, some hilarious impressions of Iggy Pop, Lemmy and Steve Strange, the principle of animal rights, the definition of glamour, the effects of the burqa, and also…

"VINYL. There’s a bigger demand than ever. Well, not ‘than ever’, but it’s picking up. And that has nothing to do with the industry. They’d killed it off, as far as they were concerned. But people like it. And if people like certain things, these things will remain."

Is Stockholm coming out on vinyl?

"I dunno. That’s embarrassing. I’m so hands-off with them! No doubt, it is."

I was surprised to learn that Stockholm, recorded in that city with Joakim Åhlund (producer and sometime member of Caesars and Teddybears) and Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn & John) is actually is the first Chrissie Hynde solo album, after 35 years of stardom.

"Well, it’s not really a solo album. In The Pretenders I mainly wrote everything, and I never thought of myself as a solo act because I like working in a team. With this, I went to Stockholm to work with these guys, and I said ‘Come on, let’s form a band!’ I had a name for it and everything: Russian Icons. I walked through this local cathedral on the way to work with Joakim one day, and they had these bracelets for sale that had Russian icons painted on them. I bought one for Joakim, because he likes bling. He put his on and said ‘What are these, Russian icons?’ and I said ‘I dunno, but that’s the name of our band now.’ I said ‘Come on, let’s do it, let’s go out and tour!’, but they didn’t even expect to do a whole album with me, and they have other projects and other bands, so I couldn’t convince them to come over. So the band you saw at the gig wasn’t on the album. It’s more of a collaboration than anything I’ve ever done, but I was left on my own to do it. And maybe it’s a bargaining chip and a selling point for me to use. People have been telling me to do a solo record for years but I’ve always said ‘No, I never will, I want to be in a band.’ I don’t like being that much in the spotlight. I wish I wasn’t. It just ended up that way. I have to get over it."

A few of the tracks on Stockholm, including the single ‘Dark Sunglasses’, seem to hint at the dirty truth underneath the veneer of showbiz glamour.

"Hmm. I don’t know about showbusiness. Let me finish this biscuit, oh my God they are good… OK, let’s talk about glamour. I think glamour is a very good thing. But I think glamour is largely misconstrued, and people have lost the idea of what glamour is. Glamour is the way you stand. Glamour is the way you present yourself to the world. Glamour is not so much what you wear, as how you walk. And that’s something I came to realise when I was going out with a homeless guy. He only had the clothes he was standing in, but he really had this thing about glamour. And I thought it was really interesting that this guy, who was totally autistic by the way, this idea of glamour means a lot to him. And he didn’t see it in any other terms. It’s true that if you walk down St John’s High St, you see a lot of money… but I don’t know how much glamour you see. Whereas if you walked down, especially in the punk days in the Kings Road when everyone had their do-it-yourself thing – I mean obviously you’re a fan (she indicates my orange hair-spikes, faux-leather jacket and PiL and X-Ray Spex badges) – they had their own look, and it’s the individualism of glamour."

Chrissie’s on a roll now, and skips laterally onto pondering the implications of traditional Islamic attire.

"And now we have another dynamic in England, where you have women who are dressed all in black, without their faces showing. And that’s added another element to life on the street which is… confrontational, in a way. And also it’s thrown something into the mix that I don’t think anyone was expecting. So you have someone who’s expressing themselves next to someone who’s expressing nothing at all. And as far as glamour, well that kind of nullifies my whole idea that ‘It’s not about what you wear’, because if you’re hiding yourself completely, I don’t know how the glamour could come through. I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about that yet. But when I went to Jamaica the first time, I noticed something: the guys who stood on street corners had something, I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t wealth that they were displaying, because they were dressed in tracksuits or Italian shirts. But it was glamour. They had it. It’s the way they stood, man, and you couldn’t take it away from them. They wouldn’t lean on a lamppost without exuding their own glamour. And that’s when I thought, ‘Wow, it’s not about what class you might be from or what wealth you might have.’ And that’s why I think glamour is an important element in bands. That’s why I shy away from stylists and all that, because the personality of the band can only come from the band."

Chrissie has that in spades. She exudes glamour, in everything from the way she stands in photo shoots to the way she approaches the microphone stand. But was it natural, or calculated?

"I don’t think it’s natural to many people in bands at first. There’s a few who have confidence, but most people I’ve been in bands with have been a little more introverted, fucked up or weird, you know. A great example is the feller who sang in Joy Division. I mean, what an amazing stage presence. He was scary too, because it was so real. And that’s what it’s all about. What a performer: riveting, mesmerising. That’s why I can’t remember his name, haha."

Ian Curtis. But surely in his case it came from neurosis, rather than confidence?

"But when he got onstage and was doing his thing – I’m guessing, because I didn’t know him – that’s probably when he felt the most like himself. And to me, that’s what being in a band is: it’s the place you can be yourself the most. You’re not acting. You’re not pretending."


"One of my big inspirations was Iggy Pop. Because Iggy Pop also has this coveted Mid-West accent that I have, and when I heard him talk – and he was an idol of mine – I thought ‘Well, I don’t have to be embarrassed about the way I talk. If he doesn’t mind, why should I mind?’ You talk to Iggy Pop, and he’s real like… [She switches into a priceless deep-voiced Iggy impression] ‘Hey, Napoleon loved his men. He loved his women, too. He loved his men…’ And I’m like, I can’t believe I’m talking to (cartoon kid on the front of Mad comic) Alfred E Neuman. And I thought, you know what? Be yourself.

In Viv Albertine’s astonishing memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, she mentions that she was urged to hurry up and join The Slits because there was a feeling that Chrissie Hynde would get the gig otherwise… but Viv was quietly confident that would never happen because Chrissie was too good. Any truth in that?

"I don’t think that was really the case. I was maybe a couple of years older, and I came from a different background, and a different musical background, which set me out of the London scene a little bit. I tried to make a band with a number of people. I remember the story a little differently: I remember Viviane saying ‘I don’t know if I want to be in this band with all girls’, and I said ‘Yeah, but they’re pretty awesome’, and I don’t remember saying ‘I’ll do it if you don’t.’ But then I met these guys from Hereford, and the punk scene was very regional – you had Bristol, and Coventry, and Manchester – but most people who weren’t from London didn’t like London. And these guys from Hereford, well, Jimmy Scott my guitar player, had no time for punk. Because to him it wasn’t very musical – it was angry. He wasn’t interested in my ‘punk’ side. He wanted more musicality. And I probably was more musical than a lot of the punks, because I’d listened to a lot of R&B and stuff."

There’s a fascinating contradiction at work here. The Pretenders’ music is attractive and seductive rather than harsh or dissonant, it’s audience-friendly and draws people in…

"I fuckin’ hope so!"

…but Chrissie herself is an extremist, an uncompromising risk-taker who puts her neck on the line (getting herself arrested for slashing up goods in a Gap store in New York, or throwing red paint over a KFC window in Paris).

"Well, I don’t know if I take risks. I’m not that ambitious. I do enough to get by. I don’t like being out there too much – I’m under cover a lot. I’m not interested in being in the public eye that much. I find that the downside. If you’re on the road, fine. If you’re just hanging out, it’s not so nice."

But when it comes to getting involved in animal rights protests, is that Chrissie Hynde lending the weight of her public persona to the cause, or just getting involved as a private individual?

"Hmm. Now this is interesting, because I am in a public capacity, and people know who I am and will use my name if I’m in, like, a PETA protest. They use my celebrity, because they know that sells. That’s made me conscientious not to get involved unless I have a product out. Because if I haven’t been doing anything for a while, then I become a professional celebrity without anything to back me up. I’m kind of not doing anything but you know that I’m famous."

But surely cynics will then make the accusation that it’s just a publicity stunt because there’s a record out. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

"Yeah. But at least, if people are having their breakfast and they read ‘Chrissie Hynde just got arrested’ and they ask ‘Who’s that?’, someone can say ‘Oh, she made that record that just came on the radio.’ You’re right, it can look as if I’m only doing it for self-promotion. But you don’t really go to jail for self-promotion, do you?"

Do the cops behave differently when they’re arresting a celebrity than they would with a normal person?

"I’ve never been banged up for long enough. I’ve only been in overnight. I hope to god I’ll never be able to answer that question."

Having a famous name, though, must help publicise the cause.

"That’s the whole point. We’ve seen that right from the start, when Michael Jackson was doing Pepsi ads: big names sell. But I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing an ad 30 years ago. Now, you’re hoping to get something in an ad, just so you can get your music out. And if I get offered something, I send it to PETA before I even open it. And if they say ‘Yeah, we can use this’, then I’ll consider it. And it can even be products you wouldn’t expect PETA to be endorsing, because they might say ‘It would be good if you were aligned with them, because there are things we want to sort out with them and it gives us an in.’ So I run it past them, because I don’t want to put my name to anything that’s hurt anyone or anything. And you know what? It doesn’t matter what you do: if you’re trying to do good, someone will always think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. But do it anyway."

Some animal rights theorists operate a sentience threshold, above which cruelty or killing cannot be justified. Peter Singer, for example, places it somewhere between a shrimp and an oyster…

"For me, it’s consciousness and if it’s breathing."

What if a wasp flies into the room? Is it justifiable to kill it?

"I wouldn’t kill it if I didn’t have to. If you don’t have to kill something, why would you? If something’s trying to kill me, then… put up your dukes and fight like a man! But otherwise, I see it as murder. Everything that lives, lives off of something else living. So there are going to be varying degrees of what you have to take to survive. And killing for pleasure, for me, isn’t an acceptable reason to kill. If it’s killing for self-defence, that’s fine. Then you get the argument – and believe me, I’ve had every argument you can have on this subject – from people saying ‘Yes, but we USED to do things this way…’ I don’t care any more about what we used to do. I care about what’s the right thing to do, right here and now. And I’d even argue with them about what we ‘used’ to do anyway, because there’s a little country called India that was vegetarian for 5,000 years. They managed. So that’s a huge argument I have with a lot of people, and I’m not here to argue that. I don’t even invite those conversations, unless someone really wants to talk about it. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything."

What of the utilitarian case for animal testing, if it can be shown that there’s a net benefit to humanity?

"Then I’d have to go more into the scientific. I know from Neil Bernard, who’s the resident doctor at PETA, that there’s a lot of alternative ways of testing. But I haven’t researched it, and I know that in a couple of days I might have a better answer. There’s been a lot of testing that hasn’t reaped any benefit. I don’t know enough about it, but my general line is to side with the animal. Because where animals are involved, they’re getting the shitty end of the stick, and where money’s involved, they’re definitely getting exploited. And in any situation where animals are involved and money is changing hands, the animal is almost definitely not only suffering but being tortured. That’s why Morrissey and I are pals, I’m sure, because he knows that whatever he says on this, that I would be cheering in the rafters. I’m not that sentimental about it: when people say ‘Fish have feelings’, I say ‘Who cares? Just leave them alone.’ What difference does it make to me what they have? They’re swimming THAT way. If something’s trying to get away from me, I can take a hint. And if we have to – arguably the American plains Indians and the buffalo – they did it very differently. We’re not doing it that way. If we wanna do it the right way, we can discuss this. But these assholes who say ‘Oh, but I go out hunting and if I kill it I can eat it’, FUCK OFF. Leave it alone. If you’re killing for any kind of pleasure, whether it’s for sport or for eating it, as far as I’m concerned you’re an enemy. And we need to get rid of you."

There’s a full Pretenders concert on Youtube from 1981, filmed for German TV show Rockpalast, in which Chrissie, fronting an all-male band, begins with the heavily ironic question "Are you ready, girls?" The idea of actually being in an all-female band, it turns out, hadn’t even crossed her mind.

"Never even thought about it. I have to be in a band where everyone’s better than me, cos I have pretty primitive skills. I’ve held auditions in the past, and no girls have ever come to them. I wouldn’t specify they have to be female. I’ve seen a few all-girl bands that were a gas, but not because they were girls. That adds to it, of course, because showbusiness loves gimmicks, and that’s a gimmick."

Nevertheless, in The Pretenders’ early days Chrissie was perceived as being part of a new generation of female musicians breaking through, as captured in Michael Putland’s famous NME photo shoot in which Hynde posed alongside Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Pauline Black, Viv Albertine and Poly Styrene.

"Funnily enough, I read an interview with Debbie Harry recently, and she’s always good to read because she’s thoughtful, and quite wry, and dignified. And she said it was a tea party that she pulled together, her and Chris [Stein]. It’s one thing not to discriminate, but it’s a different thing hanging out with guys to hanging out with a bunch of girls. I don’t think I’d wanna be in a girl band, because they talk about emotional things too much. I’ve never been in a band where a guy talks about a fight he’s had with his girlfriend. I’ve never heard that in 35 years. Guys don’t come in and talk about what happened at home with their wife. They just don’t. But girls talk about it. And that’s a timewaster when you’re trying to get shit done. I am a girl, in the way that I like shopping and all that girly shit, but I like guys in bands because they play good. And it’s not for any reason other than that. Come one, come all."

One standout track on Stockholm, ‘Sweet Nothing’, features the refrain "Don’t you be such a baby/Man up to me", which feels like a throwback to (Ray Davies-penned) Pretenders classic "Stop Your Sobbing", and reinforces the idea that Chrissie isn’t keen on emotionality, especially in men.

"No, that’s not true. I like emotion. I don’t like sentimentality much. Actually, "Don’t you be such a baby" was one of Bjorn’s lines. He’d only write a few lines, or a few words and a top-line melody, but it would trigger things off. For example, he said, ‘We’re going to write a song called ‘Dark Sunglasses”, and I was like, ‘Aw, come on, you can’t write a song called ‘Dark Sunglasses’!’ But it egged me on, and he’s right, it is a great song title and I never would’ve thought of it. This album had the fastest lyric-writing I’ve ever done. I just reeled them off. And it has really great rhythm tracks. And to me, if it’s rock music it has to be FUN. Even if it’s fun in a sinister way or whatever, it still has to be a laugh."

Does the title Stockholm purely refer to the location, or are we also meant to think of Stockholm Syndrome?

"I didn’t know what Stockholm Syndrome was! I’ve learned since. I called it Stockholm just as a reference to the fact that it was recorded in Sweden with all-Swedish musicians, and to say ‘It’s not just me’, and it was a magical place. Although, as a matter of fact, the song ‘Tourniquet’ was written about a white girl who was kidnapped by the Comanche Indians, and she ended up marrying and having a son within this Comanche tribe, and then she was kidnapped back by whites as an adult and it killed her. She died from grieving. And I guess that was Stockholm Syndrome…"

John McEnroe plays guitar on one track. Yes, that John McEnroe.

"He is actually pretty good! If he would quit fucking around with tennis and selling and buying art, he really could get good, if he concentrated more. And the thing that’s great about him playing on the song is, if you have no idea what he sounds like – and nobody does – you know exactly who he is when he starts playing. It could only be him. I love that: his personality’s so distinctive, whether he’s on the court or in a recording studio."

Another track, less eyebrow-raisingly, features a cameo from Neil Young on guitar.

"He played it about four times. He didn’t wanna know the song, he doesn’t listen to MP3s, so he said, ‘Look, I’ll just come in, I don’t wanna know it, I just wanna be familiar with it.’ Which was his way of saying, ‘I haven’t listened to it yet.’ So he came in, and it was amazing. I’m more than pleased. I would never have asked him of my own volition. I would have asked McEnroe, cos he’s a mate… and so’s Neil, but Neil’s also one of the GODS. I was just trying to get a reaction out of Bjorn, because he’s a very stoic Swede. We had this song that had these Neil Young-sounding chords, and I kept referring to it as ‘The Neil Young Song’, and I said ‘Of course, we could always get Neil Young on it…’, just to fuck with his head a little, and I would sneak a look, and Bjorn would just be sitting there with his beard… And then I thought, I could call Neil Young."

Chrissie Hynde’s singing voice is instantly familiar and always-miraculous, that ‘catch’, that sultry semi-whisper that makes you feel she’s taking you to one side and addressing you and nobody else. Was she born with it, or did it develop?

"I think everyone learns to sing by listening to the radio. At least, that’s how I did. You don’t really know how you sound until a lot later. It’s like playing the guitar: you can learn the basic chords, but you have to stay at it till you get a distinctive sound. It must be like that for painting. You find you have a thing for colour and shape, and the more you explore it, whether or not it’s something you consciously pursue, you develop a personality. I was on course to be a painter, until I was waylaid by rock & roll. As Harry Enfield once said to me, when he was out late with me and Jeff Beck. It was 3am and he said ‘I’ve got to call the missus to tell her I’ve been waylaid by rock & roll.’ Meaning me and Jeff Beck…"

If it turned out she didn’t have that voice, would she have gone ahead regardless? This was the punk era, after all…

"If I hadn’t been able to sing, I probably would’ve developed my guitar-playing a little better. But I find that with just a few basic chords, the more melodic possibilities there are. I wasn’t good enough to play along to records, but I’d play my own things and sing over the top. In other words, if I wasn’t singing and writing words, I would need to explore the guitar more just to express myself."

Famously, Chrissie was briefly a music journalist for NME. Did she enjoy it?

"I never thought of myself as a music journalist, and I didn’t ask for it. I was talking in the pub one night, hanging around with Nick Kent, and Ian MacDonald said ‘You should write for us.’ And I was working little illegal jobs, working for an architect, and they fired me. I needed to have a job at all times. I’ve always had a job. I got a job the first day I arrived in England: I went to an old market and walked up to everyone asking if they had a job going. Because I don’t come from a welfare state, so I didn’t understand how the dole worked. So I thought, ‘Fuck, I’ll take that guy up on that.’ They let me review some things, and I started getting hate mail after my first review… but they liked that! I couldn’t believe I’d get thirty quid for a day’s work, typing out some nonsense. I enjoyed certain perks of it, hanging out with those guys and going to gigs, but I didn’t like that I was starting to make a name for myself. Cos I knew I wasn’t very good at it, and I didn’t feel like that was what I wanted to be known for."

We’re pretty much done, and I’m about to wrap up, when Chrissie turns the tables.

"Do YOU like being a music journalist?"

Well, now. Yes and no. I tell her I love writing, but I hate what’s happened to music journalism, and I regret not putting my energies into something that could be relied on to pay the rent while I still had the chance. Too late to stop now, anyway. Suddenly, Chrissie switches into motivational mode.

"I’m not saying you can’t feel the way you feel, but I think, and this is only in England – forget about American rock journalism – I think the pieces are often more entertaining than the music. I think you can be very creative. Don’t lose heart, because things have got to shift. I mean, I bemoan that there aren’t any bands: who gives a fuck about these talent shows on television? Everyone watches it, but they also go to McDonald’s. But there are a lot of people thinking ‘This is bullshit.’ And this blandness in music journalism, people are a little fucked off with it. People are spoonfed to a point, but then they think ‘Fuck, I’m bored of this.’"

She’s off again, back onto one of her favourite topics.

"My Pretenders guitar player has a little band, and I went to see them at Rough Trade last night, and just to be in a record store felt so great, to look around and see records again. People like it, and if people like something, it will survive. It’s like being on a raft: you just have to wait until you see something on the horizon and you can get through again. I can tell you something, and you might think this is really weird. There’s a poem, and it’s meant to be by Mother Teresa (but it was actually by someone else and adapted by her). And I’m not a self-help person and I’m not a New Age person, but look for this poem. It says, ‘If you are kind, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.’ And, ‘If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.’ It’s this whole thing of, if you know that what you’re doing feels good to you, do it anyway. Cos it’s not about them. And I just think that’s a really useful thing, especially now. Everyone else is swept up in these gladiatorial games, when they’re watching a bear savage a tortoise. And eating popcorn and thinking it’s great. This mindless over-entertainment. But it’s not everybody. And it doesn’t have to be you. I mean, think about me with my speaking voice, then hearing Iggy Pop talk…"

We really are wrapping up now, but not without some incidental chat about her old punk-era pal and, briefly, former bandmate in the short-lived and notorious Moors Murderers, Steve Strange.

"You know when I first met him? I was in the bar at The Vortex, and this guy comes up to me and he goes ‘Do you wanna hear my songs?’ And I was like, ‘YEAH!’, because I was walking around the whole time with my guitar saying to people ‘You wanna be in a band?’ And he had this loose notebook with all these song lyrics. They were all about different gangsters; there was one about Al Capone, I remember. And he had one about Myra Hindley. So he’s standing there in the bar at the Vortex, singing to me, going…"

There follows THE most hilarious impression of the future New Romantic icon, word-perfect, from memory.

"’In nineteen hundred and sixty four, Myra Hindley was nothing more than a woman who fell for a man/So why can’t she be free? (Free Hindley!)/Brady was her lover, he told her what to do, a psychopathic killer, nothing new/So why can’t she be free? (Free Hindley!)’ So I looked at this guy and thought, he’s amazing. So I played on his record, but of course when it was reported in the NME, they said it was MY band. And I was mortified, because I was trying to get my own thing together. But he’s got that thing: ‘do it anyway’. I’m glad to hear he’s still out there. I was watching one of those Sky Arts documentaries, Rock Of Ages or something, and they had all these guys like Iggy and Lemmy, asking them why they hadn’t retired yet. And the gist of it was, ‘How can you retire from being yourself?’ And that’s what rock & roll is. You can’t stop being who you are."

Chrissie’s impression of Lemmy, I then find out, is every bit as funny as her Iggy and Strange. During which I shamelessly hand her a copy of Talk Of The Town and a Sharpie.

She signs the front, then flips it over to etch something else along the tab on the back. By following the movement of the nib with my eyes, I can already make out what she’s writing.


Chrissie Hynde’s Stockholm LP is out now. She plays James Lavelle’s Meltdown, beginning at Southbank Centre this weekend – for more information go here

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