Chrissie Hynde knows a few things about being a female rocker. When at the tender age of 14 she saw Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels play at a fairground in her hometown of Akron, Ohio, the band got into a fistfight with each other during the performance. She was hooked. “I thought,” she said to The Guardian ‘That’s got to be the life!'”
Not long after college at Kent State, where she was in a band with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, she ended up in London. There she worked at Malcolm McLaren’s notorious store SEX alongside the future members of The Sex Pistols. She even asked Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten to marry her for the work visa. She tried to start a band with Mick Jones of The Clash, but that didn’t take. She was kicked out of the band Masters of the Backside before they changed their name to The Damned and became famous. Then in 1978, she formed the band The Pretenders and quickly became a rock icon with hit tunes like “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “Message of Love.”
In short, Hynde has been rocking for over 40 years now and she has some advice for aspiring lady rockers, which was originally printed as a promo for her 1994 release “Night in my Veins.”
1. Don’t moan about being a chick, refer to feminism or complain about sexist discrimination. We’ve all been thrown down the stairs, and f—ed about, but no one wants to hear a whining female. Write a loosely disguised song about it instead and clean up. ($)
2. Never pretend to know more than you do. If you don’t know chord names, refer to the dots. Don’t go near the desk unless you plan on becoming an engineer.
3. Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job. Oh, and you better sound good too.
4. Do not insist in [sic] working with “females.” That’s just more b.s. Get the best man for the job. If it happens to a woman, great – you’ll have someone to go to department stores with on tour instead of making one of the road crew go with you.
5. Try not to have a sexual relationship with the band. It always ends in tears.
6. Don’t think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look f—able will help. Remember you’re in a rock and roll band. It’s not “f—me,” it’s “f—you”!
7. Don’t try to compete with the guys; it won’t impress anybody. Remember, one of the reasons they like you is because you don’t offer yet more competition to the already existing male egos.
8. If you sing, don’t “belt” or “screech.” No one wants to hear that sh–; it sounds “hysterical.”
9. Shave your legs, for chrissakes!
10. Don’t take advice from people like me. Do your own thing always.
A lot of this is just sound advice for getting along at the workplace – don’t act like you know more than you do, don’t complain, make your workmates look good but don’t doink them. But probably the key points for Hynde is number one and number seven.
In that interview with the Guardian, she indeed proved to be reluctant to “moan” about sexual discrimination in the rockdom. “There’s always been women doing this, just not that many,” she said. “I don’t know what the feminists have to say about it. Over the years, you’d hear, ‘We weren’t encouraged.’ Well, I don’t think Jeff Beck’s mother was saying, ‘Jeffrey! What are you doing up in your room? Are you rehearsing up there?’ No one was ever encouraged to play guitar in a band. But I never found it harder because I’m a woman. If anything I’ve been treated better. Guys will carry my guitars and stuff – who’s going to say no? Guys always tune my guitars, too.”
Check out the video for “Night in my Veins” below:
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.