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The Great Pretender; She's back on the chain gang, but Jim Kerr's ex is now more of a parent than a punk rocker.

Byline: JOHN DINGWALL EXCLUSIVE

SHE was the original bad girl, a punk-rock chick who formed The Pretenders and went on to marry Simple Minds rocker Jim Kerr.

But she is a great pretender. At 50, Chrissie Hynde may be going back on the road, but she's a lot less punk and a lot more mum these days.

The wild child of yesterday isn't about to let her own kids run riot. Chrissie admits: "I'm shocked when I walk into Sainsbury's and some kid is rollerblading down the aisle with the mum looking on complacently.

"You have to discipline your children. I spanked them when they were toddlers. Once they were older they knew better than to do something they weren't allowed to do.

"My kids had to say prayers before they went to bed and have some respect. That's all."

Now her well-ordered teenagers - Natalie-Rae, 18, whom she had by Kinks frontman Ray Davies and 16-year-old Yasmine, daughter of her and Jim Kerr - are disciplined enough to look after her young son by new husband, Colombian sculptor Lucho Brieva.

That allows their mum go back on the road with the band - and she looks to be really enjoying it, too.

She says: "It's not just getting up on stage. It's living out of a suitcase, travelling, being in hotels. I enjoy all that. That's what I love about it. And I love playing, too. If I felt I was getting less good at it, I'd hang up the guitar."

Hopefully, that won't happen before she gets to Scotland. Chrissie and the group will be performing at Glasgow's SECC on October 29, alongside UB40.

She says: "I have really fond memories of Scotland. It's a beautiful country. I have friends who came up to visit Jim Kerr when he had a place up there a couple of years ago. He has moved away, but they've moved to Callander, which means I can go stay with them when I want to be in Scotland.

"I'm still friends with Jim. We still talk. We always have a laugh and I have a good time."

SHE'S a little less friendly with Patsy Kensit, the woman Jim Kerr left her to be with.

It seemed that Chrissie was determined to get the last word on a track on the comeback album, 1999's Viva El Amor! called Popstar - the lyrics of which berated an ex-partner for dating a wannabe pop star in place of her.

However, Chrissie denies the song was about Patsy and says: "There is a line about the female character of the song wanting to live in Primrose Hill. Patsy thought it was a dig at her and it bummed her out, which was a shame.

"In fact, I was the one who had a flat in Primrose Hill. Everyone was moving to Primrose Hill and the song could have been about anyone.

"In reality, the song was about me with a guy, who I split up with."

Having left her own kids behind for the tour, Chrissie now seems to have adopted the band members as her surrogate children.

She has worn well - but the band required what could only be described as "styling".

Chrissie says: "I think stylists have ruined the rock look and I hate it when people look styled - but these guys really looked like bums.

"They got their stack of shirts out of the flight cases and it was the same shirts for the last three tours. So I asked a pal to get a couple of shirts for them.

"I was a real mother hen, telling them not to wear stuff because it doesn't look good.

"So I thought I should bring in someone else. Now they look exactly the same, only a little better."

Image, however, sets Chrissie off on another pet hate.

She rants: "All the designers have done the rock look, so that fashion looks like rock and rock looks like fashion.

"When I started out, the last person you would have seen in Vogue would have been me. Now I pick it up and see The Chrissie Hynde Look. There was a whole page in Vogue dedicated to me."

The outspoken singer from the backwaters of Ohio arrived in London in the early 1970s and held down a variety of casual jobs to make ends meet.

She sold handbags, worked as a cleaner and took a job at punk guru Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's clothes shop, Sex.

It was there she met the likes of John Lydon and other punk luminaries, meetings which inspired her to perform with musicians, who went on to form punk bands such as The Damned, Clash and Sex Pistols.

She says: "I was in bands with all of them. I knew all the people because they were all in our scene and they were all trying to get bands together.

"I worked in Malcolm's shop in 1974 and people such as Steve Jones would come into the shop. Steve was a local raggamuffin who helped me put the grilles up when the shop was closing.

"I really looked up to Vivienne and Malcolm. I'd never met anyone like them before. We didn't call ourselves punks, but I'd get beaten up by teddy girls and stuff."

To look good on a limited budget, Chrissie improvised.

She reveals: "What I would do is go out to Oxfam buy a pair of Levi's for three quid then stay up on speed for three nights pegging them to make them skin-tight. I'd take a magic marker and write free association words spiralling down the legs.

"Or I'd take my birth certificate and reprint it on to a T-shirt. If anyone asked me who I was, I would just open my jacket.

"I would wear my underpants outside my jeans and condoms as earrings - I got thrown out of a pub for doing that once.

"We'd just wear anything, especially anything we hadn't seen worn before."

CHRISSIE adds: "I had this brilliant T-shirt with God Save The Queen on it and Sid wrote "Malcolm is an old steamer" on the back and signed it Sid, the Vicious.

"I gave it away. The idea of punk wasn't about collectors items. You either threw them away or gave them away. I gave them all back to Oxfam.

"I thought all the bondage gear was two fingers up to the Establishment. Now, 20 years on, the public are into bondage. It's become what accountants probably do and it's really naff."

It wasn't until she met bassist Peter Farndon that her ambition to become a rock singer blossomed.

The pair formed The Pretenders with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, and drummer Gerry Mackleduff, later replaced by Martin Chambers.

She then watched in astonishment as their third single, Brass In Pocket, shot to No1 in November 1979 and the first album topped the charts two months later.

The band enjoyed a string of hits including I Go to Sleep, Back On The Chain Gang and I'll Stand By You.

She fell for Kinks frontman Ray Davies in 1980 and had daughter Natalie-Rae, but they later split.

Tragedy ended the run of success, when two of the members of The Pretenders - Farndon and Scott - died of drugs overdoses.

Chrissie had also been taking drugs, but vowed to keep the band together in the wake of the deaths.

She says: "The Pretenders were established when I met Ray and we had our daughter, then it all went very pear-shaped.

"There were drug overdoses, personal problems and all that mayhem. Both Pete and James died within a year of each other.

"I wanted to carry the band on. Before the deaths I thought if we had to change the line-up of the band, it would be all over.

"We had fired Pete because his drug excesses made it impossible to work with him. Two days later, James died, so it was a traumatic time for me - but I still didn't want the music to die with them.I thought if we never played Kid or Stop Your Sobbing again it would be terrible. Carrying on is sort of a tribute to them."

Chrissie married Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr in 1984. They had daughter, Yasmin, but split five years later when he fell for Patsy Kensit. These days, Chrissie is almost as famous for her work as an activist for PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) as she is for her rock legacy.

Having become a vegetarian in 1969, it was Chrissie who inspired her pal Linda McCartney to campaign on animal issues and to launch her vegetarian dishes.

She doesn't believe the public at large are paying attention to the cause, which led to her being arrested during a demonstration outside a Gap store in the US a couple of years back.

SHE reveals: "I tried to convince Linda that people cared what she did because she was famous and that it didn't matter why she was famous and that she could use her voice for the animals.

"At first, she thought no-one was interested in what she had to say because she was just Paul's wife.

"With Gap, I just wanted them to stop buying leather from India, which has the largest leather industry in the world and it's all black market.

"We had people in PETA who followed the cattle into the slaughterhouses, where they were getting their throats cut with saws.

"Sadly, everyone knows what goes on in the slaughterhouses, yet only 10 per cent of people are vegetarians, so attitudes haven't changed."

In fact, the attitude that's changed is Chrissie's. No more speed and punk clothes.

Instead, she took an eight-year break from touring to bring up her two daughters. No more sticking two fingers up the Establishment - though it can still bum Chrissie out.

She is appalled by growing legislation preventing parents from smacking their offspring and yells: "What? Are they going to have the spanking police?"

"It's pathetic. That has nothing to do with domestic violence. Punching or hitting a child is very different from smacking them. If I ever spanked my kids over something, I never had to do it again. It's a gesture - I said no and I meant it."

So, are the teenagers going to turn out like mum?

Chrissie says: "They are 16 and 18. They're not married and haven't moved out of the house, but whether they'll make music I can't say.

"They like listening to stuff, but I don't know what they are doing. I just let them get on with it. I'm certainly not a pushy showbiz mum.

"They are very normal kids. They have very good grades.

"I've never had to lean on them, because they are self-motivated."

Somehow, no matter how you try, you start off talking to Chrissie, the wild child of punk - and end up with mum.

ON STYLE..

I'd wear my underpants outside my jeans and condoms as earrings. We'd wear anything in those days

ON STELLA ..

All the designers have done the rock look so that fashion looks like rock and rock looks like fashion

ON PATSY..

There's a line about a female pop wannabe - Patsy thought it was a dig at her

ON JIM & PATSY..

I'm still good friends with Jim despite the split. We still talk and have a laugh and a good time

ON LINDA..

I tried to convince Linda that she could use her voice for all the animals
COPYRIGHT 2001 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 20, 2001
Words:1913
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