J.P., Chrissie and the Fairground Boys
How do you approach a legend? In most cases it's with reverence. But fawning fans, as much appreciated as they are, can be boring. But just chatting, as if equals, especially if both parties are tipsy can work too. That's what happened when J.P. Jones saw Chrissie Hynde, the founder of The Pretenders, at an '08 party in London.
Hynde, frontwoman of The Pretenders, had been a major figure in Rock since the late-70s. She was not just one of the premier women in Rock, she was an icon regardless of gender.
"I just wanted to tell her I thought she was awesome," said Jones. Holding up the bar, Hynde remembered being approached by "some scruffy-looking guy."
"He was pretty hammered too, but we managed enough of a conversation for me to ascertain that he was a musician who had recently gone solo after his band split, and that he grew up on a fairground in Wales."
Jones parents had opened an arcade on the fairground when Jones was a child. "I worked at a neighboring arcade on the beach every holiday and summer vacation," said Jones.
The fairground is a world of its own, where things seem to workout, almost magically (likely an unfounded perception), as if there was 'fairground luck'.
Hynde gave Jones her number and told him to call her. The two kept in contact while The Pretenders were on tour to support their "Break Up The Concrete" album.
Prior to a Pretenders concert Jones texted Hynde wishing her "All the fairground luck for your show tonight." She replied: "Write a song called 'Fairground Luck.'" So he did and played Hynde a demo.
"His voice stopped me in my tracks — what a voice!" Hynde said. "And the song was like something I'd never heard before — I was totally seduced."
Jones and Hynde began a May-December romance. But the age difference and divergent wants and needs caused the couple to split.
The situation was addressed in the song "Perfect Love." "He was learning to stand/when I was wearing my first wedding band." Still, they decided to continue their working relationship.
The Jones/Hynde creative partnership grew to the point where it necessitated starting a band. Jones was friends with a group called Big Linda and band members (plus Sam Swallow) became the Fairground Boys. The '10 debut album by JP, Chrissie And The Fairground Boys was titled "Fidelity."
"We've proven that two people can love each other, override their base desires, and distill the love into something musical, something elevated, something Rock and Roll," concluded Hynde.
The question regarding any project involving Chrissie Hynde is, "how much does it sound like The Pretenders?" Ironically, the track on "Fidelity" that comes closest, "If You Love," Jones is heard first.
There have been so many iterations of The Pretenders that even Hynde once joked they'd become a tribute band to their 70s - 80s incarnations. So it was wise on her part to make a break and share the fronting duties with Jones - who has his own impressive strengths. Hynde's worldly-wise emotive vocals are balanced by Jones' more raucous style on this acoustic leaning album.
Given the Hynde/Jones romantic link it's not surprising that "Fidelity" focuses on personal relationships. "Perfect Lover" is seductive yet recognizes the need to move on. "If You Let Me," not surprisingly, is the set's uptempo gem while "Fairground Luck" pairs Jones and Hynde's vocals for a classic male/female duet.
If "Fidelity" were a Pretenders album critics and fans would be praising it as one of the group's best in years. But with or without The Pretenders connection the album stands on its own merit.