“You might think it’s impossible to change
A world so broken you cannot rearrange
But in your own small way, it’s easy
If the day is saying ‘seize me’
Take it with both hands, before it’s out of range….”
One of the guitarists I most admire is a guy called James Honeyman-Scott. He was the original lead player in The Pretenders, the late 70’s band fronted by Chrissie Hynde that came to prominence in the UK with their self-titled first album and No. 1 single “Brass In Pocket”. This was one of my favourite records at that time and I still have the single I bought then. Mine has a strange message scratched in to the gap between the label and the playing surface of the record. Is there a name for that part of the vinyl? The Run Out? The Myocardium?
The message says “This Is All Very Nice Isn’t It?” On the B-side, it says "Mange L'Escargot MMM?" My eyes are so knackered these days, I need a magnifying glass to read them. I always wondered who the cheeky devil was at the pressing plant who decided to scrawl these on. Or, was it at the insistence of Chrissie herself, or one of her bandmates? She reputedly hated "Brass In Pocket" and the way it turned out on record….any answers via my contact page, please.
Honeyman-Scott died of drug-related heart failure in 1982 at the age of 25, two days after the group’s bass player, Pete Farndon, was sacked because of his own drug use. Robbie McIntosh - another amazing lead guitarist - took over. Farndon himself died in 1983 at the age of 30, following a heroin overdose. A more tragic turn of events for a relatively new band one could not wish to imagine, but The Pretenders continued in various guises for many years and persist to this day, with Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers still to the fore.
I liked the lines Jimmy Scott played on Pretenders records, especially those on “Kid”, their first single which inexplicably failed to reach the top 30 in the UK, peaking at 33. I would hazard a guess that Scott seriously influenced Johnny Marr’s style for The Smiths, whilst he also reminded me of George Harrison’s later, jangly fills for The Beatles and the phrasing of Dave Edmunds’ guitarist around the same late-70s period, Billy Bremner. Not the Billy to be confused with the tenacious, tough-tackling, ginger-haired, Scottish midfielder of the 60’s and 70’s who captained Leeds United, by the way. Glad to clear that up.
I was hoping to capture something of Jimmy Scott’s sound and approach on “Lying Down”, notably on the descending run that goes over the lyrics immediately preceding each chorus. I find this damned tricky to play, while trying to sing the words over it, even now.
I double-tracked the guitars on this recording, using my Strat on one and my Hofner Verythin on the other, panning each one hard left and hard right in the mix. The Verythin is a more than adequate substitute for a Gibson ES-335, although if anyone would like to donate such a Gibson to my paltry collection, that would make me quite happy. I could have thrown a solo in after the second chorus, but the slight variation here of the phrasing that underpins the rest of the song, seemed to work on its own, so I left things alone. Sometimes, you just have to walk away.