Album: Pretenders II
. . .
Here’s a thing I didn’t realize when I started writing these posts: just how much of a love-fest they were going to be for James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a cocaine overdose in 1982 and subsequently had such a short oeuvre that he often gets left off the lists of great guitarists.
I mean, Chrissie Hynde was a life-changing force of nature, one of the all-time great singer-songwriters. But holy Jesus fuck, Honeyman-Scott was so fucking tremendous, he helped her tap into her force and then he aided and abetted her in such a way that she’s been able to use what she learned to ride her initial inspiration for four decades now.
And so, James Honeyman-Scott has been at the heart of the dozen songs that I’ve written about so far, and his tremendousness is at the heart of my favorite song from Pretenders II (including the short, neutered version of “Talk of the Town” they put on it), the transcendently gorgeous “The English Roses,” as lovely of a song as the original incarnation of Pretenders ever recorded, and the last great Honeyman-Scott performance on record.
On “The English Roses” his default setting is glorious drone, his leads nearly as swoon-making sexy as as Hynde’s voice, perfectly matched by some cool Pete Farndon bass runs, Martin Chambers’ stuttering drumbeat — alternating his snare and his floor tom on the backbeat, augmented by bongos — and Hynde’s impressionistic lyrics.
This is a story
Fruit cut from the vine
Forgot and left to rot
Long before its time
This is a story
About the girl who lived next door
Looking for someone to hold
So in the end, when all of the guys are singing “ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh” and Honeyman-Scott is swirling around the song with his guitar, “English Roses” slurs into the fadeout in high style, as beautiful as this band ever hoped to get.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was very much disappointed by Pretenders II, and the fact that I loved loved “The English Roses” so fucking much actually accentuated that disappointment. That this song — and to a lesser extent, “Day by Day” and “Pack It Up” — could still move me the way that “Up The Neck” or “The Wait” did meant that they could do so in the future, when they got it together for Pretenders III.
“The English Roses”
“The English Roses” live in Germany, 1981
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