In 1981, the Pretenders were a "real" band, meaning it wasn't just Chrissie Hynde and a bunch of people backing her up. But in mid-1982, bassist Pete Farndon was kicked out of the band and died of a drug overdose a short time thereafter, then lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott also died of a drug overdose. The Pretenders were never really a real band after that. The first four songs on this album come from before the two deaths.
However, despite these losses, the band's 1984 album "Learning to Crawl" was a huge hit and is arguably the band's best album ever (or maybe tied with the debut album). This album basically covers the "Learning to Crawl" era, so it's pretty good too. Four of the songs are bonus tracks from that album.
Two of the songs are still officially unreleased, a medley of "Wild Thing" and "Whatcha Gonna Do about it," and "Room Full of Mirrors." The sound of these two live songs are pretty good, though I don't think they come from soundboard bootlegs. Note that a version of the Jimi Hendrix song "Room Full of Mirrors" would appear on the next Pretenders album "Get Close." But that album has some typical 1980s production issues, so I prefer the live version here.
The last song, "I Got You Babe," deserves a special mention because it was a hit in 1985. It's a duet between Chrissie Hynde and UB40, and it's a cover of a 1960s hit by Sonny and Cher. I think it's also the first commercially significant Hynde solo song. But on all future Pretenders stray tracks albums, there will be plenty of those, sometimes more than actual Pretenders songs. But I'll be mixing the two together, because there's so little difference between the Pretenders and Hynde solo.
This album is rather short at 35 minutes. There are a couple more songs I want to add to it, but they're very rare and I haven't found them yet. (One is a cover of "Day Tripper" from a 1981 concert and the other is a version of "The Last Ride" from a 1984 concert, which I think is the same song that would show up on a 2008 Pretenders album. If you have either of these, please let me know.)
01 [Your Love Keeps Lifting Me] Higher and Higher [Live] (Pretenders)
02 In the Sticks [Instrumental] (Pretenders)
03 Tequila (Pretenders)
04 Wild Thing - Whatcha Gonna Do about It [Live] (Pretenders)
05 Fast or Slow [The Law's the Law] (Pretenders)
06 Money [That's What I Want] [Live] (Pretenders)
07 Ramblin' Rob [Demo] (Pretenders)
08 Room Full of Mirrors [Live] (Pretenders)
09 I Got You Babe (UB40 & Chrissie Hynde)
In searching for good album cover art, I came across a neat Pretenders concert T-shirt from 1984. I wanted to use that, but it was too blurry and low-res. However, I happened to find the exact black and white photo that was put on the shirt. So I've used that, and added "The Pretenders" in red, taking the letters directly from a photo of the T-shirt. Of course, I also had to add the album title.