Record Review: The Pretenders – Extended Play

Sire Records | US | EP | 1981 | 3563

Sire Records | US | EP | 1981 | 3563

The Pretenders: Extended Play US EP [1981]

  1. Message Of Love
  2. Talk Of The Town
  3. Porcelain
  4. Cuban Slide
  5. Precious [live in Central Park]

The Pretenders collection ended here. I’d heard The Pretenders first with their hit single “Brass In Packet.” It was hard to avoid, really. It was a rare example of New Wave hitting the US charts in 1980, so I was fine with it, even if it was hardly the light of the Western World itself. I bought the first Pretenders album and found it hit and miss. I wasn’t certain if I wanted to continue on their bus for the long haul or not.

By late 1980, the whole US EP phenomenon really caught my eye and I was kind of hooked on 4-6 cut 12″ discs that retailed for $5, even though they were a ripoff. Just $2.oo more delivered a 9-12 track LP at that time! But there were many instances of the format being used as a place where non-LP singles could temporarily come home to roost in the United States, where such beasts were rare in the wilds. Polydor US made sure that all of The Jam’s many singles near the end were compiled into EPs for the US market, where singles got ignored unless they were hits. Then, even $4.98 for 4-5 cuts trumped $6 for a pair of UK import 7″ers!

The Pretenders got the same treatment after their gold selling debut album since the band weren’t exactly burning rubber to get album number two in the can to Sire’s satisfaction. Back then a year between releases was still a long time for the iron to cool off! In The Pretenders’ defense, the fact that they had a hit record and gold album, meant that they had to spend a lot of time plugging their wares in the huge [and fractured] US market so they managed to cut two singles for the UK market that were compiled into a release here.

Real Records | UK | 7" | 1980 | ARE 12

Real Records | UK | 7″ | 1980 | ARE 12

The Pretenders: Talk Of The Town UK 7″ [1980]

  1. Talk Of The Town
  2. Cuban Slide

The Pretenders issued this non-LP single in the waning days of 1980. “Talk Of The Town” sports a nice intro courtesy of James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar that propels the listener into the song’s mid tempo grove quite effectively. It’s a fine little number, but nothing to cross the street for.  Far more compelling was the song’s B-side. Once I heard “Cuban Slide” I knew I’d found my favorite Pretenders song and that fact hasn’t changed any on the intervening 32 years. Based on the venerable Bo Diddley riff, with heavy tremolo courtesy of Scott, who got co-writing credit here. I always loved this cut more than anything else I’d heard by the band. This song is the reason why this EP is still in the collection in 2013. I traded off  The Pretenders debut album during my Great Vinyl Purge I in 1985 and only picked up a CD of it from the late, lamented LaLa in 2006 for a dollar. I managed to live for the intervening 21 years easily enough.

Real Records | UK | 7" | 1981 | ARE 15

Real Records | UK | 7″ | 1981 | ARE 15

The Pretenders: Message Of Love UK 7″ [1981]

  1. Message Of Love
  2. Porcelain

A few months later a new single was released and in this instance, the A-side was more of a keeper to my ears than the B-side. “Message Of Love” has a loping beat that keeps time throughout the song in a brisk, circular fashion.  “Porcelain” is a throwaway rocker that has all of the earmarks of a live vamp that evolved to fill out their debut album sets. Somehow, it got called into service for a B-side, which is as far as it should have gone.

Real Records | JPN | 7" | 1980 | SFL-2506

Real Records | JPN | 7″ | 1980 | SFL-2506

The US EP is capped off with a live version of the blistering “Precious” from the debut album tour. It was one of the better songs from that album and it didn’t hurt that the song invoked Cleveland’s own Howard The Duck; one of my favorite comic book characters [deep shame about the movie…]. Several months later, “Pretenders II” appeared and I was flabbergasted to see that the A-sides from this EP were added to the album, making its purchase something of a non-event in my world. By the time I heard drivel like “Bad Boys Get Spanked” I knew I’d moved on from the target audience of this band! This EP as I said in my first sentence, was the capstone to my fleeting Pretenders fandom, such as it was.  Special bonus points to Japan for recognizing that The Pretenders had squandered their best track on a B-side [see right]!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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6 Responses to Record Review: The Pretenders – Extended Play

  1. I generally like the Pretenders, but I think of them as an above-average mainstream rock band rather than really part of the New Wave (Martin Chambers’ sideburns nonwithstanding) and notable mainly for Chrissie Hynde’s ability to SUCK THE LIFE out of nearly every male she meets, kinda like a black widow! Dunno how Martin manages to stay out of her clutches!

    Anyway, I always really liked their cover of “Stop Your Sobbing” and a handful of other songs. I think you could take their entire output and make perhaps a killer 2CD set of it, and this is broadly true of quite a number of bands from that period. “Cuban Slide” is definitely one of their best numbers.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – “Above average mainstream rock rather than really part of the New Wave.” General agreement musically, but I associate Ms. Hynde with the Punk movement since she was all over it in participatory terms having nothing to do with music [at the time]. Given that her music came after the Punk phase, it gets lumped in with New Wave by virtue of her timing in the marketplace. Maybe 2 CDs, of highlights. I dunno. I’ve heard precious little [save for the odd single on MTV] since the original guitarists OD’ed!

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  2. Echorich says:

    Agree with both of you on this one. While I have some admiration for Pretenders ll, it’s obvious that mainlining had definitely found it’s way into the band as the level of product suffers when compared to the debut. I walked away from the band after Pretenders II so my compilation of the band wouldn’t make it to a second cd. I returned to Ms. Hynde for Viva El Amor.
    As for her place in punk…writer, groupie, singer, fixture for derision…she tried it all. But by the time she got around to putting out music the scene had leveled off and spread across the music spectrum. As for being a punk band, I always felt the calibre of their musicianship wasn’t too high to be ‘punk’ in a DIY or “here the 3 chords we know” way that I grew up on Punk. Don’t get me wrong, Mystery Achievement, Cuban Slide, The Wait an Tattooed Love Boys got me pogoing around the bedroom and at the clubs…

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  3. zoo says:

    The Pretenders essentially died with Honeyman-Scott, IMO. Robbie McIntosh could definitely play, but by the time he joined, Hynde had softened their sound too much for my taste. Can’t argue too much with you, Monk, that after 1980, it’s been downhill. I thought Learning to Crawl had some decent songs, but it was really a different band by then.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – I concur that after losing Farndon and Honeyman-Scott, perhaps Chrissie Hynde should have opted for solo branding. The only Pretenders song that sounded like the band I remember was on “Middle Of The Road.” And what was up with marrying Jim Kerr? I’m still confused by that!

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