Album: Viva El Amor!
. . .
My favorite song on Viva El Amor! — and one of my favorite Pretenders songs period — was buried on the second half of the album, and featured a ringer on lead guitar.
Kicking off with what sounds like electronic drumbeats before a shouted “1, 2, 3, 4!” brings Martin Chambers in for real, “Legalise Me” (using the British spelling, natch) is pure forward momentum, guitars beeping and buzzing and Chrissie Hynde singing about one of her favorite things, weed.
Oh, I want the legal right to be me
Bail me, jail me
But they’re never gonna nail me
I was sleeping like a baby in bed
When I woke up to a voice in my head
There’s no room here, try down the road is what I said
I’m just a farmer and I grow marijuana
The hook of “Legalise Me” resonates all throughout the verses and ever-changing choruses, all during which the Pretenders are smashing and bashing like it’s fucking 1980, like they’re trying to raise James Honeyman-Scott from the dead, the aural equivalent of the fist-raising cover shot — one of the last things fellow vegan and weed advocate Linda McCartney ever did — and just when it couldn’t get any better, here comes a rabble rousing guitar solo, played by none other than Jeff Beck.
In Reckless, Hynde tells a story about how had her friend Cindy drove them to see the Jeff Beck Group play in Cleveland in 1968, and she somehow ended up in a hotel room smoking pot with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (as you do) while Beck drove Cindy’s car — a Corvette, natch — around. In any event, sixteen-year-old Chrissie Hynde begged off from sleeping w/ either one by claiming that she had her driver’s training lesson the next morning.
And so, whether or not she reminded Jeff Beck of that story just before his guitar solo, it’s all kinda in there, as Beck turns up the kind of fire that makes me wish he’d not gotten bored with playing rock ‘n’ roll in the early 1970s, shooting out flame and speed and noise and kicking “Legalise Me” into overdrive when it was already breaking every speed law.
In any event, “Legalise Me” is an absolute gas, the kind of later-period Pretenders song that reminds me why I’m always gonna stan for Chrissie Hynde. (I originally wrote “late-period Pretenders song,” but I realized that this was 20 years ago, so really mid-period in their now 40-year career.)
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