Brace yourself. Today’s post is going to be a lengthy one, for two reasons: one, the amount of images that will be shared, and, two, the recounting of the adventures experienced following the band during a handful of dates on the Pretenders‘ 1981 tour of the States.  There will be a few extra readings to share, at the very end of this post, as well, to try and give the reader an idea of the buzz that the band generated at the time, both good and bad.

This post has been delayed many times in the past, partly because I had planned to include several images of mementos from these experiences, but they are still buried in storage, and inaccessible for the time-being, so it is time to move on ahead with what I have, at hand, to share.

For those of you who would rather skip right to the shows which feature my photos, choose one of the following “jump” links:

Part One: Nashville

Part One

Part Two: Chicago

Part Two

Part Six: Pittsburgh

Part Six

The following “jump” links will take you to the other individual dates covered over the duration of this post:

Part Three: The Kinks

Part Three

Part Four: St. Louis

Part Four

Part Five: Columbus

Part Five

Supplemental Articles



Part One: Nashville Theater, Nashville, Tennessee [August 16th]

Some of you may recall my post, from a few years ago, on the group’s appearance in Louisville, Kentucky
See: The Pretenders at Memorial Auditorium, Louisville KY [9-4-80] ].

Well, I had come away with a handful of very satisfying images from that show, and in spite of briefly meeting up with Chrissie Hynde afterwards, and getting contact information to send some prints to their London office, I was just barely getting by in those days, and simply did not have the extra funds to follow through with that idea/offer.  So, when it was announced that the group was returning to tour, in the summer and fall of 1981, I made my mind up that I would attempt to contact the band and try to receive permission to photograph them, as they rolled through our area.

First, I called the London offices to gain permission, but I was politely informed that since I was an unknown entity, there would be no such arrangement made, from afar.  In spite of that disappointment, I was told that I should attempt to contact the group, as they came to town, and ask their tour manager, Stan Tippins, for such permission. While on the phone, I was able to get the proposed tour dates, and it turned out that the closest the group would get to us [as published, at that point in time… late July/early August], was Nashville, Tennessee, at the Nashville Theater, and another September date, in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Now aware of this information, I devised a plan, which involved trying to get permission to take pictures through the publisher of a local music publication, in Nashville, for that date, in case I could not manage to speak to the band directly, beforehand. Unfortunately, the publisher/editor had a habit of not taking my calls, or was “out” of his office, every time I attempted to contact him about free-lancing [and possibly publishing some of my earlier work].  So, as a result, I would have to “wing it”, as I had when the band came through Louisville, in 1980.

My circle of friends and I had been avidly listening to the first lp and the “Extended Play” release that had come out, in the meantime, in anticipation of the release of the next LP and subsequent tour, so when the dates were confirmed, it was decided that we just had to go and see them again – even if it meant several hours of driving to get there.  Johnny, his wife Christy, and John’s sister Sherry and I, all piled into their car, early on the morning of August 16th, and made the drive down to Nashville, and arrived about 2:30 in the afternoon.  After stopping to find directions to the venue, we finally rolled up at about 3:00 or so, and found the road crew for the band working on moving gear out of some trucks, and into the venue.

The first order of business was to locate the band and their manager, so while the others stood back and listened, I started asking the first man who seemed to have some authority, about where and when could I locate them.  He was working with drum equipment, and he politely responded, in a very thick (Scottish?) accent. “They’ve already left“.  When asked where I might find them, he responded, “Eh, they’re staying at the Raddison, and won’t be back until soundcheck.”  Now, one of my previous jobs was working for the biggest competitor of the Raddison Hotels – the Hyatt Regency – so I recognized the name – immediately – through his heavy accent.  The others could not believe I could understand what he was saying, they later told me, as they listened to me verifying the details by repeating what he told me, for confirmation [all those early Beatles‘ television appearances, and healthy doses of Monty Python had come in handy!]…. Not wanting to bother the busy man further, I thanked him profusely, and then it was decided that we would go and find the hotel, and get a bite to eat, before returning for the soundcheck, before my attempt to get permission to take photos that night [we had already purchased our tickets in advance, so that was no problem, to at least see the show].

We found the hotel; had a quick look inside, and determined that no one from the band or crew was anywhere to be found, so went for our meal, and then headed back to the venue.  Upon arriving, everything was locked up tight, and not a soul in sight.  By now, it was 5:00 PM, and, normally, someone from the venue or crew would be coming or going, but not on this occasion.  So, we killed some time before the doors finally opened, and with me discreetly concealing my camera gear, we made our way to our seats.  Luckily, I had an aisle seat, and as the opening set unfolded, I would take a few shots of Rodney Crowell and his band.  They were supposed to open for The Pretenders, at the Louisville show, the previous year, but cancelled, for some unknown reason [and I still don’t recall who ended up opening for them, instead?].

I was quite familiar with Mr. Crowell‘s work, first, as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, and now, as a solo artist, he was becoming more popular with each release [and each cover of his songs by more popular country artists, at the time].  The set was quite pleasing [as his band featured some ace Nashville players of the day: Larrie Londin on drums, Hank DeVito on guitar and pedal steel; and Richard Bennett on lead guitar; as well as Emory Gordy Jr. on bass guitar], and went over well with the local audience. As the photos below attest, it appeared that my plans to take photos seemed to be right on track, with “Plan B“….

The set finished and once the house lights went back down, the energy level of the place immediately changed.  The Pretenders came out and the band kicked into high gear. Everyone, except Martin Chambers, perhaps, had undergone quite a visible change in personal presentation & attire, and while there was a slight amount of tentativeness to Chrissie’s demeanor, at the start, as the set unfolded, that vanished, and she became far more assured.  The band were “all business” for this show, and there was very little banter with the audience, as I remember it.  Well, after the first number, I decided to try to take a few snapshots, but within moments, I was spotted from the stage, and someone came up and grabbed me by the shoulder, and started grilling me about the camera.  I told him that I had spoken to the man who ran the local music rag, and was told it was okay to take photos, as I had done with Rodney Crowell‘s set…. He wasn’t having it; he kept saying that I had the right name[s], but something wasn’t right about me…. So, after some back and forth, he agreed to let me keep my film, but I could not take any more photos, or he’d confiscate my film. I capped my camera lens, shouldered it, and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the show, without risking anything further.  I only managed to snap a handful of frames of Chrissie Hynde [and no one else] before being shut down, but only a couple of them came out somewhat satisfying…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde looking right through the
Uh-oh, I was spotted almost from the start

As soon as the show was over, we decided that we had to make our way back to the hotel, and hopefully make contact with the band, somehow.

As it happened, we took a seat in some lobby chairs, and decided to wait [not thinking that we’d be asked to leave…].  Within 45 minutes, we noticed a flurry of activity: a handful of others who had a similar idea to wait; and then, in a flash, James Honeyman-Scott was there – and gone – heading straight up to his room; followed shortly by Pete Farndon and a couple of women on his arms, strolling through the lobby and straight to the elevators, as well.  I do not remember seeing Martin Chambers, but, just about that time, we saw Chrissie Hynde and a couple of others with her, come through the lobby.  Not having worked out exactly what I would say to get her attention [and not blow it], I was about to say something, when Christy suddenly broke the ice, and called out to Chrissie, saying something about it being a great show [confirmation of details, Christy?], and that her friend had some photos that he would like to show and give her….  That got Chrissie’s attention, and she told us to follow her into the hotel’s bar/lounge area.

Immediately, Christy and Chrissie Hynde started talking as if they were old friends, and discussion soon turned to the fact that we’d seen the band play in Louisville, the previous year, and we had made the drive down to see the show that evening.  Also mentioned, was the fact that we were going to see the Kinks play, the next month, at a show in Ohio, and that I had some related photos to give her [I was aware that she and Ray Davies were an item, having been a Kinks‘ fan for well over a decade, at that point – this was long before the rapid spread of info on the Internet]… That is when I presented a couple of images of Ray Davies, that I had taken, also at a Louisville show, in 1980, to Chrissie.  She was quite appreciative – appreciative enough, that she asked if we had ever seen many informal pictures of Ray, off-stage?  To which, of course, I/we honestly said, we had not.  About that time, she dug into her bag, and pulled out a couple of film strips: the kind you pay a dollar or two for, and have taken in those small booths you see at airports, and such.  Just like that, she was sharing her snapshots of her and Ray together, taken in such a booth, and having a laugh, along with our drinks.

Pretenders blurb Philadelphia_Daily_News_Tue__Sep_22__1981_ copy

The conversation was quite relaxed, throughout, because most of it was between Christy and Chrissie, and when we asked if she often did this [lounging in the hotel bar after a show], she replied that this actually was the first time she’d done so, on the tour, so far.  It was at this point that I presented the photos of The Pretenders that I had taken the previous year, and as she looked them over, she remarked, “Why didn’t you send these to us?  These are good enough that we could have used them on the new album!”  My heart sank, and then I told her about my limited funds situation; quickly changing the subject to the purpose of our trip [besides seeing the band]: I wanted to know if I could get her permission to take pictures during this current tour, telling her that I knew how much she hated cameras, but that I wanted to do it the proper way, and with her blessing.

Just then, she called over Stan Tippins, the tour manager for the band, and she simultaneously said to me, “How many shows do you plan to come to?  You guys should come to Memphis [the next night], because there is going to be a record label party afterward, and it will be a lot of fun!”  The four of us just looked at each other, in total surprise, and I said we’d have to think about it, since it was another long drive [and not sure if I could take off work or not]. Chrissie encouraged us, again, to find a way to come to the show in Memphis, and then she explained that she could not say exactly when she would give me permission to take the pictures, but as long as we showed up before soundcheck, and informed Stan, he would put our names on the guest list, and then she would make a decision, on the evening of whatever show it was, as to whether or not she felt it was okay to take my photos of her and the band.  That’s when Chrissie told Stan to get our names, and she repeated to him that we were guests to whatever show we came to, as long as we followed those instructions. It was then, that Chrissie stood up, and bid us a goodnight, and told us that she really was glad she’d stopped and chatted with us [I think all of this lasted barely an hour, in total, as I recall].  She made her way to the elevators, and then Stan and I started to talk about these arrangements.  Something about Stan’s name rang a bell inside my head, and after trying to pinpoint what album I’d seen his name on, in my collection, I asked him, “Did you have something to do with King Crimson? I seem to remember your name associated with them, for some reason…”  Stan grinned, and replied, “No, I was tour manager for Mott the Hoople for many years.”  To which, I said that he must have a ton of stories related to their years on the road, and recalled how many times they had popped up on USTV, years past, not to mention how great their albums had been.  Another smile, and after Stan finished taking our names, he then explained to me that getting Chrissie’s permission to take the pictures was not going to be easy; that it was important that I realize that she may decide not to give it, in the end.  As long as I was prepared for this, then come to the gigs before soundcheck, make sure that he knew we were there, and he would let me know whether it was going to happen, or not, after talking it over with Chrissie.  We shook hands, and thanked him, and finished our drinks and soon hit the road home, “drunk” on what had just occurred that evening – thanks to a little persistence, and a great deal of chance.

It was only years later, with the advent of the Internet, that I learned more about Stan Tippins, and his place in music history: not a scene-maker, as many of his generation turned out to be, but is mentioned as having suffered a great deal with what was about to happen with the Pretenders over the course of the next couple of years, as detailed in parts of Chrissie Hynde‘s autobiography, “Reckless: My Life As a Pretender“.

CH - Reckless

A bit on Stan’s integral history with Mott the Hoople is found here: Mott the Hopple – Wikipedia entry

And a bit of Stan, himself, recounting his days with Mott the Hoople, as well as The Pretenders, and several other performers that he managed tours for, here:
Stan Tippins interview on

By the end of the ’81 tour, it dawned on me, where Chrissie lifted the line, “You there! In the front row! Yeah, You! With the glasses! I want you!“, that she would often say during live shows. I suggest you go back and watch some live Mott the Hoople clips, and listen to Ian Hunter‘s banter with the audiences [he, who would replace Stan as lead vocalist in the group] …..

Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes live [Vevo]


Part Two: Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois [August 22nd]

Wouldn’t you know it?!  The entire ride back to Louisville, we were fired up to go to Memphis and see the show [and take them up on attending the aforementioned party], but John and Christy’s car broke down after the return from Nashville, and it couldn’t be repaired in time to make the drive…..

After discussions amongst my wider circle of friends about how great the show and experience was, in Nashville, it was decided that we would make another drive to see the band – this time, in Chicago.  My best friend Gary joined for the trip along with Christy, John and myself, in hopes of trying out the kind offer made by Chrissie Hynde [we had to hope the show was not sold out when we arrived, as it was difficult to purchase tickets in Louisville, beforehand].  We made haste, driving much further, this time, to find the venue in the much bigger city of Chicago [mixing up the name of the venue with the Avalon, which threw us off track for a bit]. See a bit of info on the Aragon Ballroom, at this link: Aragon Ballroom list of shows

PRETENDERS BLURB - The_Pantagraph_Fri__Aug_21__1981_  The drive took longer than anticipated, and because we were unfamiliar with the city, causing us to become more than a bit anxious by the time we finally located the Aragon Ballroom. Once we parked the car, at the back of the venue, we stretched our legs and had a look around, hoping to see someone from the crew.  It was early afternoon, and hardly a soul could be seen, until a couple of guys came out of the load-in doors, and we struck up a conversation, asking when they expected to see the band and crew.  Turns out, these were security people for the Aragon, and one of the guys took a look at my camera slung over my shoulder, and remarked that if I wanted to keep it, I should not let it be seen, as the neighborhood was not the safest place to be, at times, in the city.  Point, well-noted: I immediately put it in a secure place in the car, where it would stay until we came back later…. the security guys did not expect to see the crew for some time, so we then took off to find something to eat, and so Gary could make a long-distance call to inform his workplace that he wouldn’t be coming in that night [he worked nights]. When we returned, it was about 4:00 PM, and it appeared that the crew had arrived, in the meantime, and had already loaded in….. More anxiety, as we kept our vigil in the parking lot at the back, between the warning about the neighborhood, as the day wore on, and the fact that we now knew that the show had sold out – and we were without tickets!

Finally, sometime around 6:00 PM or so, some cars started arriving, and the band and attendants quickly emerged, and made their way to the back entrance.  We made eye contact with a few of them, and upon seeing Stan, I quickly shouted out a “hello!”, and he briefly stopped, and returned the greeting.  I vaguely remember Chrissie Hynde spotting Christy, and she quickly remarked that she was surprised to see us here [in Chicago], and asked why we hadn’t come to the Memphis show, as she really expected to see us there!?  We hurriedly explained that the car had broken down, and this was the next closest show we could make it to, and was her offer still possible? [to get her permission to take photos], and that, unfortunately, we were without tickets for the show….  The rest of the entourage had already disappeared into the building, and then Chrissie and Stan exchanged brief words, and he told us to wait for him, and he’d see what could be done.  Off they went, and it would be a couple of nervous hours of watching people come and go, busily taking things in and out, in preparation for the gig, before we would see him again.  The ensuing wait was killing us, but we reassured ourselves that they had remembered us, and we might just get lucky [the two security guys who’d also been there, for much of the day, remembered us, and reminded us to just stay out of the way, and keep an eye out for unsavory types, who might want to cause trouble – like stealing my camera gear, or more, now that it was dark outside….].

Suddenly, Stan Tippins re-emerged from the building, and quickly told us, that Chrissie said we could get in, to the show, but no photo pass. As Stan ushered us in, he quickly told me that she wasn’t ready to give me permission to be at the front and take pictures.  I asked him if it was okay if I did so, from at the back, and he quickly advised me, not to be too obvious about it, and stay away from the front, or Chrissie would not be the least bit happy, and it might ruin any chance to do so, later. I quickly thanked him, and before he rushed off to attend to matters, he said he’d see us after the show.

By this time, we’d already missed most of the opening act, The Bureau [featuring many of the horn section of Dexy’s Midnight Runners], and the energy level of the audience was quite a bit different – there was an electric feeling from the crowd, in spite of the stifling heat inside the ballroom space.  The stage level was considerably higher than any other venue I’d been in before, and it made for good sight lines, from mid-way back, or further, once the band hit the stage – including some of the cubbyholes along the sides of the main floor, with their high archways.  From the time the Pretenders kicked into the first song, and for the rest of the performance, it was obvious that they were “on” for this evening, and the set was a very satisfying one.  You can imagine how hot it was for everyone, including the band, from some of the images that I did manage to capture…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde under the lights LG [The
Chrissie Hynde, early in the set, at the Aragon Ballroom [8-22-81]

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde vertical LG [The Pretende
The Pretenders Aragon Ballroom Chicago, Illinois 8-22-81

Michael Conen - [PROOF] James Honeyman-Scott and Hamer gtr 5 LG
James Honeyman-Scott, at the Aragon Ballroom Chicago, Illinois 8-22-81
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Pete Farndon and Rising Sun Hamer LG [Th
Pete Farndon and his Hamer Rising Sun bass, at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago 1981

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde vertical 2 LG [The Preten

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde sings in bright spots LG
Chrissie Hynde, the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago Illinois [8-22-81]
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde in shadows LG [The Preten
Chrissie Hynde in the shadows, the Aragon Ballroom Chicago, 8-22-81
Michael Conen - [PROOF] James Honeyman-Scott solos LG [The Prete
James Honeyman-Scott mid-solo, at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago 1981

Chrissie once again seems to notice a camera in the crowd…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde peers out above the audie
The Pretenders Aragon Ballroom Chicago, Illinois 8-22-81

Unfortunately, due to the very high stage level, and where I was taking the photos from, for most of the performance, it was nearly impossible to get a clear frame of Martin Chambers, in the lights, or without being blocked by the equipment.  I would fare much better, at a later date – but that is getting ahead of the story, so far.

After the show, we made our way to the stage area, where we managed to get the attention of Stan Tippins again, and briefly said “Thank you!” for squeezing us in to see the performance, and we told him that due to the distance we still had to drive, to get back home, we wouldn’t be staying very long.  Stan asked if we’d be coming to another show, and we told him that we planned on seeing them again, in Indianapolis, about a month later.  With that, we repeated our thanks to his working out a way of getting us in, in spite of the last-minute arrangements, and made our way to the car, and the ride back – stoked that we’d seen a really good performance, and that I managed to take photos for a good portion of the show, even if it was from afar.

Needless to say, the drive back was filled with lots of comparing notes on the performance, the venue, and the thought of seeing the band again, soon enough!


Part Three (Interlude)

The Kinks at Millet Hall, Miami University of Oxford, Ohio [September 19th, 1981]

This performance I will write about at greater length, on my other ongoing page “Where Was I?” I was here, on these dates: [ongoing], but it needs mentioning, because it was a tremendous show by my long-time favorite band [the 3rd time to see them in the last 3 years, and my notes state that they did 5 encores!], and the connections between the Pretenders, and the Kinks, were becoming stronger with the passing weeks.  By now, the music press was well-aware of Chrissie and Ray Davies becoming a couple, and it would manifest itself, decidedly so, at the next Pretenders show, we would attend…………


Part Four: Graham Chapel, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri [September 22nd]


Nearly a month had elapsed, and the Pretenders had long ago headed west to continue their tour, with stops in L.A., for a series of shows, which included dates in Santa Monica [thankfully, one of those shows was documented and made available for broadcast], and the now-somewhat-legendary appearance on the USTV program, “Fridays”.  The show, borrowed on the concept of SNL [Saturday Night Live], which was broadcast live [on the East Coast of the U.S.], from New York City; while “Fridays” would air, the previous night, live on the West Coast, from Los Angeles. The Pretenders’ profile was rising, quite a bit, and to see them appear live on television was a real treat, for those of us living in the States [how many years of my life would I spend trying to track down live footage of so many groups, from Europe??!!!].  However, it became a notorious event, thanks to the strangeness of the guest host that week, the late Andy Kaufman. His introduction for the second song performed that evening went on too long due to his adlibbing on the subject of the dangers of taking drugs. Meanwhile, the Pretenders were waiting for what seemed an interminable amount of time on the stage behind him; waiting for him to wrap up his introduction so they could launch into their planned song. The network eventually pulled the plug on the live feed, and took a commercial break. The show would resume, with another cast member quickly introducing the Pretenders, and they finally performed the second number. Awkwardness aside, at least their performances came off well, IMHO – especially “The Adultress”The Pretenders – The Adultress [Fridays, 1981] .  See the second song, here:  The Pretenders – Louie, Louie [Fridays 1981] [minus the Andy Kaufman bit].

[That show aired the night before attending the Kinks‘ performance in Ohio!!].

Pretenders & Bureau at Washington Uni AD complete

Soon enough, the band was making its way back through the middle of the States again, as the tour continued, but, in the meantime, the date in Indianapolis had been cancelled [lack of ticket sales was the reported reason given]. So, another bunch of us decided to get tickets to see the band perform at Washington University in St. Louis, at a venue called Graham Chapel Washington University in St. Louis, Graham Chapel events link .  This time, a new mix of old and new friends would be making the drive, in a large van.  They would include my girlfriend at that time, Ceci; my best friend Gary, who’d seen the show in Chicago; and more recent acquaintances, Sandy Campbell and his girlfriend [and future wife?] Donna, along with their friend Greg as well as another guy, named Morris.  I had gotten to know Sandy through our involvement with The Beat, a new music venue in downtown Louisville, where we both had fun deejaying and being “jacks of all trades”, while getting to see some of the bands perform. Many new groups were coming up, locally and nationally, and were booked to play there, in addition to bigger cities, like Cincy, to the north.  Sandy [aka “Fret Hondo”] was a veteran of the local music scene in Louisville, having been in The Blinders, amongst a few other line-ups When Punk Rocked Louisville – Article  and was keen on introducing me to a great deal of music that I was only vaguely aware of, at the time. My enthusiasm about the Pretenders had had a small influence on his deciding to go see them, and he would try [in vain] to get me to go see The Jam, less than a year later, when they played in Chicago [horns in rock groups have never really provided much of a thrill, for me].  More importantly, Sandy was the person responsible for me taking the leap from playing rudimentary guitar in the confines of my apartment, to playing rudimentary guitar in the original line-up of Louisville’s Poor Girls onstage, less than a year later [another story, for another time].

Expectations were running high, as everyone chatted about their likes and dislikes, concerning music, and our curiosity about what to expect from the venue itself, since it was called a chapel.  Sure enough, on arrival, it was clear that it was, indeed, a church building, and not a very large building, at that.  This time, we made the trip in plenty of time, and as the site of the venue was on a university campus, it was very easy to locate the crew, and track down Stan Tippins.  Once again, there was a small amount of surprise to see us, because we had not mentioned that we would be making this one of our intended destinations on the tour.  We had already purchased our tickets, and when the subject of taking photos came up, it was immediately shot down.  Stan apologized, saying that it wasn’t going to be possible, but he arranged some passes for a few of us, and instructed us that there would be two rows blocked off for those of us with passes, to watch the show from – we wound up in the second row from the stage.  If you looked at the previous link for Graham Chapel, you can see the wooden pews at the front left side [I think they had marked off the first 3 or 4 rows, in total.  Once we were inside, the anticipation that this could really end up being a special night grew, as conversations continued, and we gazed around at the interior of the chapel.  My one concern was whether or not the brick and concrete was going to create sound problems.  Little did I know that this would be the least of our concerns, as far as the sound……

The Bureau The Bureau – Wikipedia entry, once again opened, and by now we were becoming more accustomed to their set, but I do not think it really connected with too many of the audience, including myself. The band would sometimes get a nice boost, on some dates, when Chrissie Hynde would invite some of the members to join them for a version of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” The Pretenders – (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher

Our seats for this show were incredibly close, so you could see every little nuance, as well as get the blast directly from the onstage amps.  The sound was slightly muddy, as we were seated on Pete Farndon’s side of the stage, so we were getting more bass in the mix, but the sight-lines to see everyone were excellent [and I was thinking to myself, what a shame I couldn’t take photos!].  After only a few songs, it was evident something wasn’t clicking with the band, as James Honeyman-Scott, as he so often did, was making repeated eye-contact with Martin Chambers, and Chrissie, and would shoot glances at Pete, who wasn’t making much eye contact with the band, at all…  As the set wore on, Pete’s playing was becoming both slow [or off the beat], and not quite in tune, and at a certain point between songs, James Honeyman-Scott yelled at Pete to tune up.  Some time passed as James huddled with Chrissie and leaned over to talk with Martin, while Pete tuned his bass.  With some shaking of heads, the Pretenders resumed their set, but no matter what song they played, the band could not find their groove, as they had done, in previous shows.  Gary and I were commenting to each other, about the erratic nature of the show [but he did not think there was a problem, at all], and, about halfway through the set, someone’s figure, behind Pete’s stack of amps and equipment caught my attention……  could that be Ray Davies???!!  I nudged Gary, and pointed out the man’s visible head-and-shoulders in the shadows, and asked him for confirmation, but he told me it was just my imagination…… hmmm.  “That’s definitely him!”, I said to myself.

As the drama played out between the band members, and the set began to wear on, with little improvement, I found myself needing to confirm whether or not it was Ray Davies back there.  Finally, between a couple of songs, the stage lights went up, just enough for me to get a better look, and sure enough, it was Ray! As mentioned earlier, in “Part Three”, I’d seen the Kinks, just four nights earlier, along with Gary, Christy and John, so it was easy enough to recognize him. The show was nearing an end, by this point, and by the looks on the faces of Chrissie and James, it seemed to me, they were dying to get it over with.  Pete just continued to grimace as he played, and it was clear, something was wrong with him [could he be too drunk? or is it something else?].  In hindsight, of course, it is easy to assume that after the stay in L.A., Pete’s drug problem was plainly becoming an issue at this point, and affecting the band, but it was not so obvious to me/us, on the outside, at that time.  Once the set was over, Pete swung his bass off his shoulder, and slammed the body’s end on the stage in a fit of rage, and quickly stormed off, all to quizzical looks from those paying attention, while the rest of the audience was cheering for an encore.  As I recall, there was no encore, in the offing, and as the house lights came up, I was again in Gary’s ear about Ray Davies being on the stage.

People started streaming out of the venue, but Gary had finally seen for himself, that I had been right, all along, and all-of-a-sudden he yelled out “Ray!”, and got his attention. Ray grinned and gave a sheepish wave, when Gary started motioning for him to come out from behind the stage, while he was shoving me forward to go and greet him.  A few moments passed as Ray came to the edge of the stage, and since we had our passes, I stepped up, shook his hand and grinning, started saying how we had just seen them a few nights ago, and how fantastic their sound had been, in spite of it being in a gymnasium. They had performed so well, that the audience got them to come back and the Kinks then played several semi-obscure covers, such as “Bird Dog” by the Everly Brothers, “Louie Louie” and perhaps numbers by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley & Buddy Holly [all of which were mentioned as being rehearsed during sound-check, according to Doug Hinman’s book, “The Kinks – All Day and All of the Night”].… I mentioned how much fun the band seemed to be having, and asked whether or not there had been a plan to sing a song with Chrissie and the band, on this night, when a young kid, probably 13 or 14, suddenly interjected, and shoved a piece of paper between our faces [a leaflet from the Pretenders’ show? – a napkin??], and he asked for Ray’s autograph.  Ray Davies quickly dashed off the signature; handed the paper and pen to me??! ; and while I shook my head, “What the…?”, I then passed the items back to the kid who’d interrupted; and then Ray quickly gave an approving nod, and begged his forgiveness, as he needed to catch up with the band and Chrissie, since they were immediately leaving the venue, and he had a flight to catch, later.  He departed, just as the small circle of people had quickly become a larger gathering. Then, there was a brief moment of everyone basking in the glow of “being there”, and suddenly it was time to leave, as the crew had been urging us to do….

Needless to say, the drive back to Louisville was filled with mixed assessments on the night’s performance: a couple of us were let down by the sub-standard performance, while others saw no problem with the set. Gary loves to relate one of the conversations which took place on the ride back. At some point, the subject of James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar playing came up, and while many in the party were approving, Morris made the comment that he was unimpressed. Gary then said, “Don’t worry. Your musical tastes will mature one day.“….

The surprise of seeing and speaking to Ray Davies, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, softened the disappointment [for me, at least].  Looking back, the fact that Stan and Chrissie had not allowed me to take pictures on that occasion, probably came down to, both, the fact that Chrissie didn’t want any intrusion of her privacy with Ray there, and the sudden problem with Pete’s condition.  Fair enough.  But I was determined, more than ever, not to give up on the idea of getting permission to take those concert photos……


Part Five: Mershon Auditorium, Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio [September 25th]

Two days later, and Christy, John, Sherry and their friend Kim had agreed to make another drive to see the Pretenders, once last time, in spite of the reports from the gig in St. Louis.  This time, we would make the drive to see them at another university/college venue, in central Ohio.  Once again, the Bureau would be opening.

Pretenders Ad - Mershon Auditorium [Ohio State Lantern]

Fueled by the continued good graces of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders’ tour manager, Stan Tippins, we made a point of getting an early start for this show, because we wanted to be sure we had tickets…. just in case.  Arriving in town, we made our way to a local record store, and quickly got directions to the auditorium, and arrived in the parking lot in the early afternoon, to find the crew slowly moving equipment into the loading doors of the venue.  By this point in time, a few of the regular crew members recognized us, and one of them, whom I soon learned was known as “Tattoo Dave”, their sound man, struck up conversation with us.  I told him of the impressions that I had taken away from the St. Louis gig, and my hopes that the band would bounce back, and continue to deliver, as they had, in the past.  Dave took a moment to respond, and then said that he wished that were the case, but the band weren’t in such a good mood the last couple of days.  I inquired “why?”, and he said that everyone had been without anything to smoke for that amount of time, so the resulting mood wasn’t necessarily a pleasant one. John and I quickly looked at each other, and after a brief discussion, told Dave that maybe we could help out….. Half-apologizing when it was passed on to share with the band and crew, [it was some measly homegrown], we expressed the hopes that it might be enough to help out, since everyone had been so kind to us at every show we’d been to.  Dave shook our hands, told us thanks, and then headed off to let Stan know that we were there, to see about attending the show, and maybe taking those photographs again

A few hours later, Stan had arranged passes for us to get in, and once again said that Chrissie wasn’t ready to let me take photos.  However, he stressed that it would be important for us to come to the hotel after the show, no matter what.  None of us had a problem with that, thinking that we might get to have a word with some of the band. At the very least, we could thank Stan for trying so hard to work it out for me to get that permission from Chrissie, and for being so cool about letting us in to so many shows!

Come showtime for the Pretenders, half the band came out with huge lit spliffs dangling from their lips, and we were so close, we could smell the familiar aroma of that particular variety wafting from the stage, and over the heads of those down front.  Any fears that there would be another “off” night, were quickly put to rest, as they played with a great amount of enthusiasm: much more smiling and lots of comments from Chrissie occurred between songs. James Honeyman-Scott would even change guitars several times more for this show, than he had at the previous gigs we attended, where he pretty much stuck to his Hamer guitars, and maybe the Zemaitas or Stratocaster for a song or two. At one point, either right at the end of the show, or during the encore, he even broke out a tiny guitar, which I recognized from some Guitar Player ads – a Chiquita!  Here’s an image of James taken for those ads:

Chiquita gtr color ad

This venue was quite easy to move around and find a “sweet spot” for the sound, because there were no floor seats, so I wound up about 20 – 30 feet from the stage, dead-center, enjoying the sights and sounds, when, at a certain moment, Chrissie threw a tambourine out from the stage.  Suddenly, I realized it was headed in my direction, and a couple of people in front of me jumped to grab it, but it glanced off their fingers and continued on its way – smacking me right in the forehead and bouncing off, and up, into the air just above my head!  It spun there for a short moment, and I reacted quickly enough to grab it – only to have it wrenched out of my hand, from behind, before I could bring it back down….  A couple of moments were used, to check out my forehead, which revealed a bit of blood, but no major damage – and then it was right back to enjoying the show again.

Pretenders review Mershon Auditorium [Ohio State Lantern]
The review of the Mershon Auditorium show, as it appeared in the Ohio State Lantern, the university paper [thanks to Jackie Blaney for sharing this!]

I’ve never been one to write down set lists from the shows I have been to, but the unverified songs played, for this show, can be viewed here: Mershon Auditorium Song List [ website].  I’m not quite certain this includes all of the songs, considering the encores mentioned in the review……  In any event, it was the best performance that I’d seen, so far, and it was great to see them bounce back, after the debacle in St. Louis, and the audience was definitely into it, as the review describes.

After quickly meeting up with the others, we made our way to the hotel lobby & bar, where we soon found the band members, and their circle of friends, in the midst of merry-making.  A few moments went by, and suddenly Chrissie Hynde was again talking to Christy, while Stan made his way over. Chrissie was asking whether we had enjoyed the show, or not, and I remarked that everything about it was great, but that she should be more careful about throwing those tambourines out into the audience…. pointing at my forehead, which now had a scab over the reddened area where one had ricocheted from. A moment of concern washed over her face, and she apologized, but conversations quickly shifted back to the night’s performance, and much laughing and excited chatter ensued. Chrissie soon bid us “goodnight”, as she wanted to head back to her room, and then, Stan asked us whether or not we were coming to tomorrow’s show, in Pittsburgh.  I responded that that had not been part of our plans, as I, for one, was supposed to work my shift at the record store, the next day.  Stan immediately said that we should definitely go, and, then he told me that it was very possible that Chrissie would finally agree to the photos, if we were to attend.  Well, Christy, John, Sherry, Kim and I, all looked at each other, and while shrugging our shoulders, the comment came up that we really didn’t have a place to stay overnight, as it wasn’t really within our budget.  Without hesitation, Stan said that wouldn’t be a problem, we could stay in the roadies’ rooms, since they would be gone within an hour or two; after showering, they would be moving on to Pittsburgh, overnight.  Stunned by this offer, we didn’t answer right away, but Stan repeated we could stay in those rooms, as they were already paid for, and we’d just have to be out of them by 11:00 the next morning. And besides, Stan said, Pittsburgh was only a couple of hours drive away, so we should definitely go!  A rapid exchange between our circle followed, and then we told Stan “okay!”.  He then told us to hang on a minute, and he’d get us the keys.  The five of us could not believe what had just happened: the show itself, and now, this!?!  By this time, only Martin Chambers, and a few friends were still talking, and most of the others had already left the lobby/bar area, and when Stan returned with the keys, he gave us final instructions, and then we grabbed a few things from the car, and found our way to the two rooms [one for girls, and the other for boys, we had decided].  Another hour or so of excited chatting between John and myself, and then we arranged our wakeup call, and then it was off to sleep….


Part Six: Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [September 26th]

AD - PRETENDERS STANLEY - The_Pittsburgh_Press_Sun__Aug_30__1981_

The next morning, after showering, we were off to catch a breakfast/brunch, and then hit the highway, on our way to find the Stanley Theatre, in Pittsburgh Stanley Theatre [a short history].  Of course, there was the little matter of missing work so I could attend a Pretenders‘ gig for the last time, so I made that call, just before we started out, and told the manager that I was feeling too ill to make it that day.  That taken care of, I only had to get more film for my camera, with the expectation that this would finally be my chance, after all, to take those pictures of the band, from up close.  We made good time on the drive, and there was no lack of discussion about the gigs, past, and present.

Michael Conen - [PROOF-snapshot] Christie Smith & Kim near Stanl
Christy and Kim in Pittsburgh

Once we located the Stanley Theatre, we immediately saw the tour buses parked along the street, and went around the back side of the building to see if we could locate Stan.  As we came to the load-in area, we spotted Pete, James and Martin, all leaning against the building, having an amusing chat.  Our little group made eye contact with them and exchanged “hellos”, and as it seemed they recognized us, a few short conversations struck up… Mine was with James Honeyman-Scott, and I commented on how surprised I was to see him playing the Chiquita guitar, the night before.  He was equally surprised that I even knew what brand of guitar it was, and asked me how I knew about it.  I explained that I’d seen several ads for them in Guitar Player, and he smiled, and remarked that his wife was the model in the ads! He then asked how it sounded, and I told him that it had a bit of a “dirty” sound to it, to which he chuckled… This line of discussion only went on for a couple of minutes before a signal came from a road crew member who stepped out from inside, and they all dashed off, saying they’d see us later, and to enjoy ourselves.

A couple more stills for Erlewine Chiquita guitars Erlewine Guitars official featuring  James Honeyman-Scott, and his wife, Peggy Fender

A short time later, Stan Tippins appeared, and after cheerful greetings, he told me that everything had been worked out with Chrissie, and she had agreed that I could shoot this performance, under certain conditions – the most important one being: do not approach the stage area, at the start of the set.  Wait a few songs before discreetly taking a position to one or the other side of the stage, to give her time to settle in and focus on the performance.  As long as she did not give any “dirty looks” or comments as to me being there, then it would be fine.  Stan then gave us our passes, and told us to come back just before showtime, and we would be let in to take up spots in the orchestra pit, at the front of the stage [except for me, as per the other instructions].  We enthusiastically thanked him, and then left to find a bite for dinner.  All systems were “go!”

PRETENDERS BLURB - The_Pittsburgh_Press_Thu__Sep_24__1981_ copy

Dinner taken care of, and camera gear at the ready, we were let in, and while Christy, John, Sherry and Kim headed for the front of the stage, I headed toward the back of the floor seat area, on the left side, and listened intently as the show started.  There was a huge contrast between the previous night’s venue, and this theater.  The show in Columbus was much more intimate, and seemed closer to a club show, as far as the atmosphere was concerned, while the Stanley Theatre was much more formal and spread out, with its reserved seats and balcony.  As the band took up positions on a much larger stage, the audience immediately responded enthusiastically, and as the set began, the energy level was quite positive, as if a long wait had just ended, and now was the time to let the band know it.  The Pretenders responded, in kind, and after a few numbers had gone by, I slowly made my way down the outside aisle, to the left side of the stage, on Pete’s side…..

Crouching down, and sliding to the lip of the stage, as discreetly as I could, I took about 3 snapshots, when, all of a sudden, I was pounced upon by a guy, who stood me up, and whirled me around, pulling me a bit more to the side of the stage edge.  He started saying that no one was allowed to take photos, and what was I doing with a camera?  I immediately pointed to the pass that was stuck to my left shirt pocket, upon which Stan had written in bold black marker “Photo Pass“, but the taller gentleman with glasses and longish hair [I had long hair, myself, at the time], just kept yelling over the music that I had to come with him, because I wasn’t allowed….  About that time, the Pretenders had finished playing a song, and Pete Farndon had gone to his amplifier stack and grabbed a beer resting on top, and had just started to take a drink when he locked eyes with me, and then stopped and made a motion, as if to say, “What’s going on?”.  I quickly pointed at my pass and then my camera, and shrugged my shoulders, as a response. Pete suddenly came toward the lip of the stage, beer in hand, and as the in-house security guy was still yammering at me to leave with him, Pete reared his right leg back, and then planted a kick squarely between the guy’s shoulder blades!  The security guy reeled around to see what the hell had just happened, when Pete Farndon leaned over and yelled at him, “He’s with us! Fuck off!!”  I was taking all of this in, as the guy beat a hasty retreat into the wings of the theatre, when Pete leaned over and handed me the beer, and nodded, with a big grin across his face – I grinned as big a grin as I probably have ever made in my life [aside from those shared with my infant children at times], and nodded with approval, as I raised the beer to him, in thanks!  A few moments passed as I took a long sip, and then passed the rest of the beer to John, who was laughing and giving me the “thumbs up”, when the band kicked into the next song, and the performance was underway again, with only a momentary sideshow that the rest of the band hadn’t seen, or taken notice of.  Security would not bother me again that night!

I made up my mind to steer clear of any further problems, by staying put, and shooting from the left side of the stage; then I began to pace when to shoot, as the light and angles allowed.  While I ended up with very satisfying images of Chrissie Hynde, there were fewer good results for the remainder of the band, due to lighting issues, and the fact that James Honeyman-Scott rarely ventured toward the left side of the stage, much less looked in my general direction on that night.  Similar issues arose with shooting Pete, because his side of the stage was much more often in shadows.  Not wanting to catch the attention of Chrissie, more than necessary, also meant I chose not to move to the right side of the stage to shoot from, in the end.  Those concerns aside, I still think I captured good ones, from everyone, including Martin Chambers:

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Martin Chambers with Pete Farndon in the
The Pretenders Stanley Theatre Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 9-26-81

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde rhythm guitar and sings 2

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde with James Honeyman-Scott

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Pete Farndon with guerilla bass singing
One of the few clear images [mostly] captured, of Pete Farndon
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde & James Honeyman-Scott gr
Decent frame with James Honeyman-Scott smiling
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers in red
The lighting limits should be quite evident in this frame, which “just” works
Michael Conen - [PROOF] James Honeyman-Scott in red profile LG [
An example of not getting quite the right angle to shoot from…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde in spotlight LG [The Pret
A nice image of Chrissie Hynde, in a very small spotlight window

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde 'the shot' COLOR LG [The
One of the better color slides from the performance

Two frames with Pete Farndon, but in dark circumstances

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde shimmies while James Hone

A partial image of James Honeyman-Scott playing a Newman guitar, for one song, at least, on this evening.  These custom guitars were known, as a result of Keith Richards favoring them, at one time, and his sponsoring their creator for a number of years.  More on that, here: Newman Guitars [official link] .

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Pete Farndon in red COLOR LG [The Preten

“The shot” of Chrissie Hynde – it was used for the back cover of the 1984 UK Tour Program, uncredited, due to time constraints. Another story behind that, for later.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Martin Chambers 'the shot' COLOR LG [The
A great frame of Martin Chambers, and one of the few to turn out, on this night.
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Martin Chambers, Pete Farndon & James Ho
Another frame that highlights the difficulty of getting the exposure right, with the lighting that was employed for most of that night’s show.
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Pete Farndon in the shadows with Rising
Pete Farndon, from just barely out of the shadows
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott
A decent frame with Chrissie and James, although you cannot see his face, unfortunately.
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Chrissie Hynde rhythm 'n' singing LG [Th
The Pretenders Stanley Theatre Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 9-26-81

The show finished to a roar of approval from the audience, and our little circle made our way to the backstage area, where we finally located Stan Tippins.  He smiled and asked what we thought of the show, which of course, was met with enthusiastic words of praise.  Then it was time for us to voice our appreciation for everything that he and the band had done for us, emphasizing that we would never forget it.  I took a moment to shake his hand and thank him for seeing to it that I had been given the opportunity to get close and take some photos, and that, this time, they would see some results, as I would be sure to send some prints to the band offices, in England, in due time.  Then, with some sadness, we apologized that we couldn’t stay any longer, as it was going to be a long drive back home, and could he pass on our thanks to Chrissie Hynde?  Then it was a final wave good-bye, and we were on our way.


Some great memories were created, and images captured, during these adventures; adventures that happened in simpler, more naive times for our little circle.  Life would change considerably for some of us, afterward, but it is with a great deal of fondness that I look back at this special time in my life.  It is my sincere hope that everyone who was involved with these moments, and who may be viewing these images, or reading my accounts of the events, enjoys what they discover [or see again].

My sincere thanks go out to Stan Tippins, and Chrissie Hynde, for making it all work out [and for helping me realize my first major – and international – photo publication, outside of local printed matter, a few years later – more on that, at some point…].

Dedications to Christy, especially, for being a driving force – figuratively and literally – in making these adventures happen, in the first place.  John, his sister Sherry, and Kim, for being kindred spirits, at the time. Gary, for continuing to be my best friend, after all of these years, and helping to get some of the facts straight on so many shows that we both attended, over our lifetime. And to everyone else who took part in these road trips, for better or worse.  I’m certain that they will have something to add, at some point.

I also want to add, that in spite of the misunderstanding that would occur with Chrissie Hynde, at the next Pretenders‘ show that I would attend, in San Francisco, on their return to the States in 1984, I have never lost my respect for her songwriting, singing skills and dedication to “fighting the good fight”, in her own inimitable way.  She has gone on to write some great songs, long after James Honeyman-Scott & Pete Farndon shuffled off this mortal coil.  One listen to “Isle of View” Isle of View live album – Wikipedia entry is proof-positive of just how much talent she has always had.  For further demonstration of her incredible voice, I recommend tracking down the “Prince’s Trust” performance, with Elvis Costello, doing Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Windows of the World”.

I hope she doesn’t wince too much, at these images that she finally allowed me to take, if she happens across them, all these years later!



Further reading material, for your pleasure, follows:

Pretenders ad The_Atlanta_Constitution_Sun__Aug_9__1981_ copy

Pretenders EP review Journal_and_Courier_Thu__Jun_4__1981_ copy


Pretenders II Review The_Gazette_Thu__Sep_3__1981_ copy


Pretenders article Philadelphia_Daily_News_Wed__Aug_12__1981_ copy


Pretenders review The_Tampa_Tribune_Thu__Aug_13__1981_ copy


Pretenders article The_Los_Angeles_Times_Sun__Jun_21__1981_ copy


Pretenders Live Review The_Orlando_Sentinel_Fri__Aug_14__1981_ copy


Pretenders article The_Los_Angeles_Times_Mon__Aug_31__1981_ copy


Pretenders review Austin_American_Statesman_Fri__Sep_18__1981_ copy




Pretenders article Clarion_Ledger_Sun__Oct_11__1981_ copy



Pretenders women in rock The_Observer_Sun__Sep_6__1981_ copy


Pretenders review The_Greenville_News_Sun__Oct_4__1981_ copy







While many of you who arrive here, to look at these photographs may get turned off to my use of watermarks [thinking they ruin the image], let me explain why I choose to do this.

No one paid for my camera equipment but me. No one paid for the film I used to take these photographs.  On occasion, when I free-lanced for a free monthly newsletter, and they published a photo of mine, the payment for each photograph barely paid for the fuel to get my vehicle to the show [when I *did* have a vehicle], and the film I used on that night. 

Not too many of my photos were published, at the time, because the artists I chose to capture images of, were not hugely popular then.  Hence, the old dictum, “Supply and Demand”; I had the supply, but the demand [pre-Internet], was not there. You can argue the relative merits of the quality of my work, and that is precisely what a blog offers:  a venue for discussion.

Back to the watermarks: no one is subsidizing my time to scan and then clean up the images I am presenting here. Start to finish, each negative will take approximately an hour-and-a-half to reach “proof” quality – which is what you will see here.  This is my labor of love, and until there is some measurable return on my efforts, what you see is what you get.