The Pretenders Newcastle gigs 1979 – 1981

The Pretenders Newcastle gigs 1979 – 1981
pretendersprog1980Chrissie Hynde moved to London from the USA in 1973, finding work at the NME and at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s clothes store. She became involved with the early punk scene, and hung around with the Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. She had a few short-lived bands and then formed the Pretenders in 1978 with Pete Farndon on bass, James Honeyman-Scott on guitar, and Martin Chambers on drums. They released a cover of The Kinks “Stop Your Sobbing” in 1979, followed by the great “Kid”. It was around the release of “Kid” when I first saw the Pretenders on 3rd August 1979 at Newcastle Mayfair. The Mayfair was a big heavy metal haunt, and the audience would give punk and new waves bands a hard time. The Pretenders were no exception, and they faced an onslaught of beer glasses.

pretenders1980tixIf I remember right, Chrissie Hynde put on a brave front arguing with the hecklers, but they eventually abandoned the gig, soaked with beer. Nonetheless, they played a great set, and left me wanting to see them again. In January of 1980 the Pretenders hit No 1 in the UK charts with “Brass in Pocket”. On 8th February 1980 I saw them play to a packed, sold out, Newcastle Polytechnic. They gave a storming performance, and Chrissie was simply amazing. This was the best time I have seen them in concert, and a gig that sticks in my mind as something pretty special. It was one of those nights where you felt that you were seeing a band on the verge of the big time, they knew it, we knew it and the atmosphere was electric; I think they may have been No 1 the week of the gig. pretenderstix1981From there on the next couple of visits to Newcastle were to the City Hall; on 6th October 1980 with (Swords of 1000 men) Ten Pole Tudor as support and again on 30th November 1981. The Pretenders were a great live act; Chrissie all swagger, tunes with great hooks, and a sense of their ’60s pop roots blended with punk and new wave. By the end of 1982 both Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott had died from drug overdoses, and it seemed that the band would be no more. However they were to regroup in 1983, and were back at the City Hall in 1984. I’ll blog about that gig tomorrow.

18 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Peter

    Great memories of the Pretenders gig at the Mayfair. Chrissie Hynde was an amazing front person and one of the few people who challenged the idiots who would attend ‘new wave’ gigs at the venue. Could never understand why these bands played at the venue as they got such a hard time although I do think the tension all added to the gig. Did you attend a gig by Secret Affair at the Mayfair? They were a mod revival band, the movement became fashionable for 5 minutes around this time and I remember the gig ending in a full scale western style riot between Mods and Rockers.

    Thanks again for sharing all the memories.


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Hi Kieran Many thanks. Yes I was at the Secret Affair March of the Mods gig at the Mayfair. I have yet to write about it, but will do so. I recall mass fighting, and chants of “We hate the mods” vs “We are the mods”. I was standing upstairs out of the way, and recall seeing some guys throw a table or two down onto the people fighting on the dance floor. I think the bouncers brought Alsatian dogs in to try and calm things! A pretty scary night. Cheers Peter


  2. Posted by Tony Poolan on November 21, 2014 at 9:04 am

    As a matter of interest I was given a free ticket to see them in Glasgow – at the Garage if I remember rightly – when a neighbour won tickets in a radio competition. It would have been in the mid nineties. I went along expecting nothing and was completely blown away. Hyde was astonishing and Martin Chambers on the drums drove the young guns she had on guitar and bass along in style. Gret atmosphere. One of those unexpectedly great nights. Shame it wasn’t Newcastle but I was working away at the time.


  3. Posted by Ian on October 16, 2015 at 1:59 am

    The Pretenders played at the Poly the week they had No.1 single (Brass in Pocket) and album on both sides of the Atlantic. They’d tried to back out of the show but the Ents committee threatened to sue them and they ended up playing the show. I remember being upstairs in the main bar, hearing this amazing reggae band who were the support act, we rushed downstairs and caught an incredible set by a band called UB40, who to my mind blew the Pretenders away.
    I’d been in two minds whether to go to the show as Genesis tickets were going on sale the next morning (Duke tour), I ended up getting a ticket for the Genesis show anyway from a mate who had to work that night.


    • Posted by vintagerock on October 16, 2015 at 5:56 am

      Wow Your memory is much better than mine Ian Many thanks Peter


    • Posted by Joe on July 17, 2022 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Ian, just came across this blog and thought I’d share my experience. I was a student at Newcastle Poly and went to most of the gigs but we were a bit late to the party getting tickets for this one; Brass In Pocket went to Number 1 and it sold out. Determined to go, my mate and I moved around the Union building room by room at teatime on the day, evading security as they cleared the building. We ended up hiding behind an upright piano at the bottom of a back staircase, where we hid for about 2 hours while the bands set up. A security guy even tinkled the ivories whilst we held our breath. We heard the main doors open and punters started coming in, but there was a guard minding the emergency exit at the bottom of the stairs. Eventually he disappeared and we shot up the stairs, covered in dust, got a couple of pints and muscled our way to the front to witness a fantastic set by UB40 followed by Chrissie Hynde herself who, to a couple of 18 year old students, with her leather kecks and guitar, looked and sounded absolutely sensational – we were blown away. Strangely, as the years passed I was never really a massive fan, but the memories of that night are pretty special.


      • Posted by vintagerock on July 17, 2022 at 2:09 pm

        Great story Joe. Thank you for sharing. I had forgotten that UB40 were the support act! Amazing night. Best time that I ever saw the Pretenders. Happy days Peter

  4. Posted by Ian Forsyth on September 5, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Hi, I was at the two city hall gigs, middle of the front row for the 1980 gig. Had a red leather bike jacket same as Chrissie’s. No one got up for the first few songs and it was getting a bit cringey as she was obviously a bit annoyed, and made a few sarky comments. I was only 16 on my own and sober, but was a bit embarrassed, so stood up, turned around and waved everyone up on their feet – and fortunately they did. Ten Pole Tudor didn’t play support (despite the ticket) the fab Moondogs did (who’s gonna tell Mary etc). Still love the moondogs.


  5. Posted by Brian Stewart on February 3, 2021 at 11:07 am

    I was at the Pretenders gig at The Mayfair I don’t recall any crowd trouble. I loved them one thing I do recall is Chrissie singing Brass In Pocket ? Wearing a jockey outfit and cracking a whip at the front rows? Or is it a dream I had??!!


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 3, 2021 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Brian

      The gig I saw at the Mayfair was well before Brass in Pocket; it was at the very start of their career when Stop Your Sobbing or Kid was the current single. Maybe they returned later? Best wishes Peter


  6. Loving looking through your blog mate, its a gold mine, this is a real sentimental one, the first gig I ever went to, Pretenders Nov 1981, I was 11, gig was sold out but my dad took me down on the night to see if we could get tickets, the guy on the door in the foyer must’ve been melted by my angelic forlorn look lol as he let us in gratis, will never forget walking through the upstairs doors and the noise hitting me as the Pretenders were laying into Message of Love, that was it for me, hooked; I’ve seen the Pretenders quite a few times since and I must say it really never was the same after James & Pete passed, I think people here the pop hits, which are great, and think they’re one thing, but back here they really were a loud, raw rock n roll band, and yeah one I’ll never forget for obvious reasons


  7. I can’t remember exactly what motivated a late call to drive down to the city hall, probably a pre adolescent crush of chrissie! They were already a couple of songs in when we got in, just always remember the noise hitting when I went through the upstairs doors and always remember it was message of love followed by the adulteress! I was obsessed with music from being around 7 or 8, really young, my parents were only young as well so rock music was always playing when I was a kid, even as a really young kid when others were just dancing I’d hang by the dj just watching the record go round, just always fascinated by vinyl, records, the sound etc, by 11 there was loads of bands I was into, could’ve been any number of people, but yeah for whatever reason it was the pretenders, they’ve always a place in my heart being my first live band!


    • Posted by vintagerock on March 15, 2022 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Connor you sound similar to me! I loved music since I heard the Beatles and She Loves You. My first gig was when I was 12 years old at Sunderland Empire, by myself, to see the Bonzo Dog doo dah Band, supported by Yes and Roy Harper. I then saw the Nice with Keith Emerson, again supported by Yes and Taste featuring Rory Gallagher when I was 12 or 13. Happy days Peter


  8. Wow I always remember seeing bonzo dog on some tv show in the 80’s, think it was a bbc 60’s compilation, I had it on vhs for years, it had the move, small faces doing song of a baker, frank zappa and the mothers doing some mad doo wop song, and yep the bonzo dog, absolutely mental, that’s a mad first gig, particularly alongside yes and Roy harper, who I confess I only know about through his association with pink floyd! Looking through the list of gigs you’ve been too mate I doubt there’s many can compete with your gigography, we’re all small fry in comparison. Well done man, there’s nothing better than live music!


    • Posted by vintagerock on March 16, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      I think first gigs are very important and special and shape our musical tastes and love of live music for ever. Thanks so much for your support of my blog, Connor. I enjoy the conversation and reading your comments. Happy days Peter


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