Flashback Friday: Last of the Independents

Loba plans and life laughs. And it’s the cruelest sound in the world. I honestly had every intention of coming here with far more frequency. Febrewary February was nice, right? Seems that it was not meant to be for March. If only I could have come up with a clever beer-related portmanteau for March.

DAMN MY INABILITY TO BE CLEVER ALL THE TIME.

Anywhoodle. March is now almost over, and I’ve only done one Flashback Friday. But it was a good one, right? So I’m back, once more mining my music loves. This time, it’s the 1994 Pretenders album Last of the Independents.

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As I have confessed many times, music isn’t really my strong point when it comes to obsessions, so if I’m into a group it’s because they’ve finally become popular enough for me to notice them…or the pastor in the “Rock music is all from the Debbil, mmkay” videos that they made us watch in high school mentioned them as specifically evil, which meant in my mind that I needed to listen to them STAT (you think I’m kidding, but that’s how I learned about Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Dio, GWAR, Alice Cooper…see? Great groups!).

The Pretenders were never called out for specific sins by these videos, so my discovery of their music came with the repeated play of the single “I’ll Stand By You” on the radio, MTV, and VH1:

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Yeah, I know. Power ballad. Shut up.

Still, this was the first time that I had ever seen Chrissie Hynde, and I found her mesmerizing. It’s the voice. And the bangs. But mainly the voice. After seeing this video a few times, I knew two things: I wanted to know more about this group and I wanted this album. Not a bad sell from a power ballad.

Of course, I’ve since learned all about the band’s British roots and Hynde as their Yankee front woman and powerhouse song writer. In fact, she either wrote or co-wrote every song on Last of the Independents (as well as the majority of the band’s entire oeuvre). One of the things that I love the most about this particular album is the incredible sociological commentary on womanhood at this point in time. Not feminism or femininity. Womanhood. Hynde basically wrote a musical treatise on her thoughts about being a woman, a mother, an unfairly classified “lesser” gender. Her songs are stories of support, survival, sexuality, stigma. Love and hate, birth and death, success at what cost? Family, fate, and tequila. Hynde’s musical personas through this album all struggle with wanting the fully realized life that men take for granted, sometimes at the expense of these heroines. Frailty. Strength. Admirable. Playful. Pitiable. Seductive. Loathsome. Hynde embraces all aspects, presents them on equal footing, lets us decide.

Also? She turns a phrase like a fiend.

I have to say, I don’t think there’s a dud on this entire album. However, my favorite song actually comes quite late in the playlist, toward the back where weaker songs typically go. This, however, is one of the most beautifully crafted songs—one of my favorites not only from the Pretenders but from any group. It’s called “Every Mother’s Son”:

I was born with my hand in a fist,
And my eyes shut tight.
Any wonder that I cannot resist
Punching blindly in a fight.
First time I saw swans flying to the sun,
I wanted to be one.

Like every mother’s son,
When I saw my life had begun,
I wanted to be someone—
Like my brother,
My one and only father,
And like every mother’s son.

I was raised within a cause,
With a purpose to fulfill.
I was taught to defend what was mine,
And instructed not to kill.
My small mortal eyes can see eternity
In the clouds that dissolve and then regroup endlessly.

Like every mother’s son,
When a man showed me how to use a gun,
I wished I’d never needed one—
Like my brother,
My one and only father,
And like every mother’s son.

Everything in domesticity
Assumes its role better than me.
I’m a displaced person whose culture let me down.
I raise my own daughters in a pornographic town.

Like every mother’s son,
I’ve lost some and some I’ve won,
Now I’m waiting for a new dawn—
Like my brother,
My one and only father,
And like every mother’s son.

The first four lines alone were all I needed to fall in love with this song.

If you haven’t heard this album, I’d definitely say give it a go. And if you’ve never given The Pretenders a chance to impress you? Well, what on earth are you waiting for, denizens?