|While flipping through Trouser Press magazine one day, I came across an ad in the back for Pretenders fans to write
to this guy. It ended with "Let's go girls!" or "Come on girls!" -- something like that. I
responded with a letter and a Pretenders sticker. Got a letter and tape back saying my letter was "really
cool." K., author of the ad, and his friend M. were both Pretenders fans. They split the letters up and who
else they wrote to is still pretty much a mystery. (Once in awhile you find someone and it comes up -- You knew
K.? It was ages ago... where is everyone else? What's everyone doing now?) I'd never had Pretenders pen pals. Having
someone else who could talk about them for hours was a wonderful thing. I didn't know these guys and they didn't
know me, so I was surprised when M. said (on the tape) in his first reply that they would just buy whatever they
could for whoever needed it. Wow. What generosity. I was stunned by it and so deeply touched that even now I try
to be totally openhanded to all Pretenders fans. Even if I don't personally like them -- how could I refuse? What
fan refuses to share the music of their favourite band with anyone interested? How can you not give others the
opportunity to experience the same happiness and peace that you find in music? This band has given me nothing but
undiluted joy AND ASKED FOR NOTHING IN RETURN. How could I possibly ask for anything more?
Through K. and M., I met D. I thought she was boring, but I tried to be nice, keep peace in the camp. I also met
Iverson. He had the most live tapes of anyone I've ever known. He'd just send them to people... whatever you wanted.
Never asked me for a trade or anything. I liked him... he was a nice guy.
Ahh... those innocent days before record conventions and Goldmine magazine. I didn't have much stuff -- had never
even seen the cover for the "Talk of the Town" single. My new friends sent live tapes, bootlegs, buttons.
I was thrilled when I found the gray and pink '83 tour shirts at my local Tower Records for them. We just sent
whatever we found. Anybody remember the big article in Rolling Stone in '84? I bought my issue and went home to
call K. We talked about it at length until I said, "I'm so glad they were on the cover." K. said, "What,
are you NUTS?! They are not!" Sure they were -- it was right here. Was he blind? "Benton, they're NOT
on the cover -- I'm looking right at it." So he was in Connecticut holding up his new Rolling Stone with Daryl
Hannah on the cover and I was on the other side of the country looking down at mine, with all four Pretenders looking
back. Found out later that Rolling Stone was doing some test marketing thing and the Pretenders were only on the
cover in a few states, including California. Back to the store for more copies for my pals by another ocean...
At least a few times every week we'd talk on the phone. Me and K. Me and M. They were always a lot of fun, those
My relationship with my mother became extremely strained, to put it gently. She's very serious and I am not. For
her, sadly, there is no humour; for me, it's everywhere. We argued about everything and never got along. Lucky
me, I attended one of the top five most difficult high schools in the state. Oh joy. School was awful and home
was no better. I was shrouded in misery. I clung to the Pretenders like they were a raft in the mighty ocean of
despair. Help me, Chrissie, cuz I'm never gonna make it outta here.
I can tell you why I like any band and songs I'm fond of. I'll give you examples and exact reasons: a streaming
guitar sound, a weird drum crunch, lyrics that describe a fool's dream. With the Pretenders, I don't know why.
Hynde's voice is the most astonishing sound I've ever heard.
You know how a lot of times you listen to a song for the first time and you can guess what the next line will be?
Or close to it. With a Pretenders song, I couldn't possibly predict the next line. You never know what's coming
up next. It's just different with this band.
Musicians, good ones, can purge you. Music is a vessel on which any emotion can travel. It can bring you a single
sentiment or a whole shipment of different ones. Great musicians, the few true greats, are soul healers. It's like
they've felt everything there is. When you've been down there so long it's all you know anymore, they know it too.
(I don't know how they know it... if I did, I'd be one of 'em.) They perceive all emotions and, more important,
understand them all. The service offered: a hospital for the psyche. Sometimes you've got nothing to hold onto
anymore, then you hear this song...
So I can never explain why I like this band so much. There are no words to describe something that touches your
soul. I know Chrissie always wanted to be a guitar hero. Music is her function. Restoring the soul, cleansing,
understanding when no one else does, makes you one of these extraordinary individuals, like it or not. She didn't
master a guitar quite as much as she wanted, I suppose, but she was very able to master another instrument -- her
voice. I know I've been healed by it. She always gets it right. That's just the truth for me.
At lunchtime one fine school day, Marlene took something out of her book bag and, without letting me see what it
was, turned to me and said, "I have something for you, but you have to promise me that if you meet Chrissie,
you'll give her a copy." Awww... I wasn't ever gonna meet Chrissie -- how would I manage that? "Yeah,
OK." "You have to promise." "I swear! I promise, if I ever meet Chrissie, I'll give her a copy."
What did I have to lose? It was never going to happen. She gave me a stack of paper, different colours. She'd borrowed
a photo of Chrissie and Martin at the US Festival that I'd bought somewhere. She had made different-sized copies
of it for me in her photography class. She also had a graphics class, and ran copies of the picture onto different
colours of paper, and on some of it printed over the picture the words to "The Waitress", her parody
of "The Adultress." It was really funny and I was delighted with it -- I could send copies to all my
Pretenders pals. Most of the paper just had the pictures on it. I now had Pretenders stationary!
MTV was hyping the Pretenders like it was nobody's business. On January 14, 1984, MTV had a "special announcement"
they'd been going on about. What was it? Was the band going to play some new stuff live? New videos? What? WHAT?!
Well, kids, tickets were going on sale for a tour. Yes, a tour. They were coming to a town near you. And, oh --
ha ha -- tickets were going on sale in half an hour. WHAT?! I didn't have any money. It was gonna sell out and
I wouldn't have a ticket! No one was home with me -- no pleading with my parents on this one. I called my pals
on the East Coast to make sure they knew what was going on.
Talked to K. for awhile, and he told me he and M. were going to split up and go to two different places to try
for tickets. That ended up with M. going to the box office where the show was going to be. There were 20 people
there already. He got in line. Yes, they said, everyone would get a chance to buy tickets, they'd stay open late.
They took the first ten people in to buy tickets. More people came and got in line. The next ten were brought in
for tickets. That's it, sorry, we're closed. M. pleaded with them. He cried, too, but they were closed, and that
was that. M. went home and cried some more. His mother was awfully sweet, but I think she had to try not to laugh
a little bit when he came home sobbing. He told me later, "Benton, I was crying and stuff -- can you believe
it? I wanted tickets so bad and I was next in line." K. had better luck and got their tickets.
Meanwhile, back in California... Jennifer had to be home, because no one else was. Pick up the phone, pick up the
phone, pick up the phone, c'mon, pick up the-- "JENNIFER! Do you have any money? You need to go NOW and get
tickets! Pretenders tickets are going on sale in <checked the clock> ten minutes!" She lived just down
the street from a record store with a ticket outlet. She had to take a shower first! I was completely insane for
the next hour. Jennifer finally showed up with tickets. She saved me on that one -- the show sold out quickly.
A second date was added. Got tickets for that one, too.