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Reckless: Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde in 1988
The sisterhood is still reeling in shock and anger. In her new autobiography, Eighties rock chick and feminist icon Chrissie Hynde reveals that she was raped by a gang of bikers when she was just 21.
Not only that, she says it was her fault. She was out of her mind on drugs, behaving flirtatiously and hopelessly naive.
In remarks that have provoked a litany of ugly abuse on Twitter, she writes: ‘This was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f*** about with people, especially people who wear “I Heart Rape” badges.’
This week, in an interview to promote her book, she went further — criticising women who go out when they are drunk and provocatively dressed, and then complain if they end up in trouble.
‘If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk . . . who else’s fault can it be?’ she said. ‘Come on! That’s just common sense.
‘You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him. If you’re wearing something that says “Come and f*** me”, you’d better be good on your feet.’
For good measure, Hynde — who calls herself ‘the poster girl of feminism’ — asked with faux naivete: ‘I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial, am I?’
Her remarks inevitably provoked fury — not to mention disappointment among her feminist admirers, who certainly didn’t expect such supposedly ‘anti-women’ views from her — but they also pose questions.
So what exactly happened when Chrissie Hynde encountered the biker gang? And what effect did such a brutal experience have on her life?
The woman who would one day become the lead singer of The Pretenders, one of the most critically acclaimed rock bands of the Eighties, instinctively rebelled against her highly respectable middle-class, Middle-American upbringing in the Ohio city of Akron.
Apart from drugs, alcohol and rock’n’roll, she was attracted to bad boys. And as she reveals in her book, she certainly found them that terrifying night back in 1972.
Provoking fury: The Eighties rock chick, pictured on stage in 2009, said being raped by bikers was all her fault
She had met the bikers — from her description of their winged insignia, they were the Hells Angels — a few years earlier when they were providing security at a rock concert in Cleveland.
She and some friends had been invited back with the band to their clubhouse. She remembers that swords, crossbows, whips and Nazi regalia hung on the walls, and that the musicians were discussing drug deals with the bikers.
On that occasion, the girls were spared any predatory advances from their thuggish, leather-clad hosts because, Hynde later concluded, they were under-age teenagers.
This wasn’t the case a few years later when she met the crew at the Cleveland Municipal Jail, where, like them, she had been visiting friends.
The then 21-year-old Hynde was stoned on Quaaludes, a strong sedative pill that was a popular drug in the Sixties and Seventies.
The bikers invited her to a party and Hynde agreed to go — although a girlfriend who was with her ‘recoiled in horror’ from the invitation.
Biker gang: File image of Hells Angels in 1970
She met the bikers at their run-down clubhouse, a different one this time. It was so sinister, writes Hynde, that it had ‘Jeffrey Dahmer written all over it’ — a ghoulish allusion to the lair where the notorious U.S. serial killer dispatched his victims.
The Hells Angels, she says, unchained a series of padlocks to reveal a ‘dark and noticeably empty house’, and she gradually realised what might be about to happen — or, as she put it, ‘the party was going to be hosted exclusively by yours truly’.
She was led upstairs to a poorly lit room where one of them ordered her to ‘get your ****in’ clothes off’.
When she protested, they threatened to beat her so badly ‘you’ll make some plastic surgeon rich’.
They ordered her to perform sex acts on them, and when she hesitated, they lit matches and threw them at her naked body. She remembers the burning matches ‘bounced off my rib rack and underlit their stony expressions before dropping to the forensically soiled carpet’.
She eventually gave in to their demands. The next day, one of them — an ‘ugly’ blond biker — drove her home, patting her on the thigh and telling her she ‘ain’t a half bad chick’.
Rather than go to the police after being gang-raped, Hynde didn’t appear to complain to anyone. Indeed, she suggests in her book that she put the whole thing down to experience — something she craved after her stable but dull upbringing.
Not only that, she then started a brief relationship with the blond biker. On one occasion, she recalls, she was farmed out to his ‘bro’ — presumably another biker — who started knocking her about in ‘what I learned was a form of sexual foreplay’.
When she complained, he hit her so hard that she could see white stars exploding around the room.
At this stage she realised she wanted to get out. But it was a dangerous process — she had heard how a woman who left her boyfriend in the Cleveland bikers’ gang re-encountered him again a year later. He picked her up and took her to his home, where he forced her to strip before shooting her in the leg and telling her: ‘Now call an ambulance.’
Hynde is now 63 and had never previously discussed this dark episode of her life. But perhaps we should be inured to shocks from her. For, as she reveals in her memoirs, she ‘out rocked’ most of her male peers when it came to hard living.
Dark episode: Chrissie Hynde reveals she ‘out rocked’ most of her male peers when it came to hard living
Even at the tender age of 16, the rock ’n’ roll obsessive was charming her way into the hotel suites of the stars visiting Ohio. Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood were among the first who succumbed when they toured with the Jeff Beck Group.
Hynde recalls Stewart suggestively prodding the neck of his guitar into her rear. ‘But sexual innuendo was lost on me,’ she insists, adding that she was still playing with dolls in those days. They ended up simply getting stoned and playing silly word games.
Moving from Ohio to still-swinging London in 1973, Anglophile Hynde briefly worked as a journalist for the New Musical Express, claiming she was hired largely for her sex appeal. Her first piece was a review of a Neil Diamond record so caustic that she received death threats.
She then got a job as an assistant at SEX, the Chelsea clothing store run by punk pioneers Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. She took industrial quantities of drugs, moved into a Chelsea squat and hung around with other wannabe rock stars who would later start bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
Revelations: Chrissie Hynde's new autobiography
John Lydon, aka Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten, was an early ally and — impossible as it is to imagine — they occasionally earned money together as domestic cleaners.
As her friends became famous — and infamous — musical success still eluded Hynde. She did menial jobs, but her life revolved around drugs, including heroin.
A favourite drug-taking comrade was Lemmy, front man of the heavy rock band Motorhead. Hynde recalls that the first time they met in a shop on the King’s Road, neither exchanged a word as he dipped a silver tube he wore around his neck into a bag of white powder, shoved it up her nose and walked out. She sniffed the tube’s contents and was high for three days, she recalls.
Her ugly encounter with the Hells Angels in Cleveland hadn’t put her off bikers, it seems, as a boyfriend in those years was the ‘sergeant-at-arms’ of its London chapter. Nor had she stopped taking the most stupid risks with her personal safety. During a brief period living back in Ohio, she cadged a lift from a motorist in a dodgy part of town.
The driver gave her some mescaline, a powerful psychedelic drug, and the next thing she knew, she found herself naked in a grotty hotel room whose door her new ‘friend’ had blocked with a wardrobe.
He threatened to strangle her with a lamp cord if she tried to escape, and they ended taking a shower and going to bed together, with Hynde tripping badly throughout.
He eventually took her home — after stealing all her money — but she is shocked now by her recklessness. ‘It was grim but it was my own damn fault: what kind of idiot jumps in a car with a stranger?’ she writes.
Finally, she found the success she craved after joining up with three Englishmen in 1978 to form The Pretenders. But the band were quickly undone by drugs.
Pete Farndon, the bass player and Hynde’s lover, was sacked from the group in 1982 over his drug-taking. Two days after he left, the band’s guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, died of heart failure following a cocaine overdose. Farndon himself died the following year, drowning in his bath after overdosing on heroin, a needle still in his arm.
The Pretenders: From left to right, Pete Farndon, Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers
Hynde insists she has never got over losing Farndon. ‘I’d taken him into my reckless world and lost him there,’ she writes. Although she delights in relating what she regards as the highpoints of her life — such as her brief dalliance with her idol, Iggy Pop, while they were both on tour — she doesn’t neglect the lowpoints.
These include her ill-fated two-year relationship with Ray Davies, lead singer of The Kinks and father of her daughter, Natalie, now 32.
Hynde and Davies, a manic depressive who has also struggled with drink and drugs, had a tempestuous time together — once, she threw his clothes out of a hotel window and they were picked up by a passing tramp before they could be retrieved.
Idol: Hynde had a brief dalliance with Iggy Pop
They arranged to get married at Guildford register office in the early Eighties. For the big day, Hynde wore a white silk suit with matching white, button-up ankle boots. ‘Ray wanted to have the ceremony in Guildford. I wanted to get a cab there — you know, a little bit of luxury on the day, with me all decked out in my suit under a raincoat — but he wanted to take a train so we got the train,’ she writes.
When they got there, she says, ‘the guy in the register office took one look at us and suggested we come back another time.
‘I guess mascara smeared all over my face was the giveaway. Even a stranger could tell we were making a mistake, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting turned away before’.
They took separate trains back to London.
Although the later years are not covered in her memoir, Hynde married Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr in New York in 1984 after they met while touring in Australia. She says she was attracted to him by his vegetarian lifestyle — the marriage lasted five years and produced her second daughter, Yasmin.
By then, she had become a self-styled ‘militant vegetarian’, calling for killing animals and eating meat to be outlawed — she insists she could never so much as kiss a man if she knew he had been eating meat.
Hynde was also a supporter of the Hare Krishna movement, regularly visiting their temples and inviting devotees to her home.
She was persuaded to put her life down on paper by her old friend John McEnroe. Whenever he played at Wimbledon, she’s said, he would get in contact. ‘He’d always call me because he knew I had pot. He used to come around and hang out.’
However, celebrating drugs is the last thing she wants to do in her book, she insists.
Now that so many of her hard- living friends are prematurely dead, she is today anything but a fan of rock ’n’ roll excess.
The ‘moral of my story’, she writes at the end of it, is that drugs ‘only cause suffering’.
Like her blunt, battle-hardened views on rape, it’s an opinion her liberal admirers may find hard to stomach.