Akron, Ohio native Chrissie Hynde started a firestorm in the ’80s with her British-American New Wave punk band The Pretenders. After releasing their self-titled debut album in 1980, which reached No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart and landed in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S., the band were keen to release album number two just a year later. In 1981, they dropped Pretenders II, which was the last album to feature their original lineup: Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards), Pete Farndon (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Martin Chambers (drums, backing vocals).
On this day in 1981, the band performed at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, Calif., where they played hits from their two albums including a cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing.” They performed new tracks like “The English Roses,” “Bad Boys Get Spanked,” “Birds of Paradise” and “The Adultress,” which all became hugely popular thanks to regular album-radio play.
After the album release, a shockwave was sent through the band after the drug-related deaths of Honeyman-Scott and Farndon, which put the band on indefinite hiatus until they returned with another album in 1984. The success of the band and their 1981 record endured as it was first certified Gold back in 2001. The Pretenders’ songs centered on Chrissie Hynde’s powerful contralto vocals and her countercultural, punk spirit, and her band’s influential music truly made them “a band’s band.”
Listen to The Pretenders’ full concert at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium back in 1981 below.