Chrissie Hynde: I know where you bought that Elvis t-shirt
Chrissie Hynde was the fascinating subject of a superb hour-long television programme that saw her in Paris, then London, New York (I think) and perhaps Nashville – as well as in Akron, Ohio – the town in which she grew up. The beautifully made film also featured her in concert including bits and pieces of archive footage. We also saw her in one of those stylish and defiantly American cars. Was it a Buick 6, or a Ford Fairlane? No: it was a 1970s Pontiac with a V8 engine – the kind of car anyone would love to have – in metallic green – the sheeny-green that makes you think of 60s or 70s record covers. She was filmed in Regent’s Park, London too – in a rose garden …
It seems as if a film-maker and crew had attached themselves to Chrissie throughout a year or so – and we were lucky enough to get some idea as to how she saw the world as well as the conclusions she had reached about her life.
I particularly enjoyed the way she expressed herself. She spoke clearly and was always intelligible. In fact, her way of communicating is charming. There’s a certain kind of American way of speaking English that has a distinct rhythmic cadence. She chose her words carefully.
The film opened with her singing a song and concluding with the words: ‘I like being alone.’ And this proved to be the leitmotif running throughout all the subsequent content. She prizes her independence and her freedom from the constraints of ‘a relationship’. (I can understand this.) She told us that she thinks ‘being alone is a real luxury.’ It helps her paint (she’s a good artist), meditate and appreciate the things she thinks are worthwhile. She knew someone who ‘was never alone because she’s always got herself’ and she thought this was a ‘great attitude.’
She was often insightful: She said that ‘all songs are written on basically the same events – the subject of which is human relationships’ and they end with ‘you broke my heart, I broke your heart, Oh no, I’m alone again…’ She told us that ‘once in a while you meet someone who is in charge of their looks’ – who consistently manages their appearance well – such as the New York Dolls, and Bob Dylan. Who else? Well, she named Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Maria Callas. She also recognised that every once in a while a singer’s voice so transcends the music that the words they are singing scarcely matter; Tim Buckley was such a singer. And she adored Julie London’s ‘Cry me a river’.
She was sometimes forthright about her likes and dislikes. She likes cows, and the idea of people having a rose named after them. She likes hotels because they are really all ‘about moving’ and being on the move. She likes cemeteries (or at least the cemetery in Akron Ohio) and trees. She doesn’t like the word ‘empowerment’. She loathes the art world. She seemed to dislike it because it has become all about ‘investment’ and not art. The values of art have become distorted – perverted even. (I’m not surprised. I’m not sure about the art world either.) She gets fed up with people and remarked: ‘I just wish everyone would f*** off.’
I thought this was a really important documentary. Chrissie Hynde emerged as a very clever and powerful character – someone who is very much her own person – who is always beguiling, honest, witty and attractive. She’s in her sixties – and on occasion I thought many of her views co-incided with mine. (I was even thinking of her as a kind of soul-mate!) She demonstrated how it is perfectly OK to be on one’s own and to forge a fulfilling life for oneself.
And where did she buy her Elvis t-shirt? Well, it was in an airport – perhaps in the departure lounge. But which airport? Was it London or Paris or New York or Nashville? I don’t know: But it was such a great t-shirt …
Footnote 1: The photograph shows her on a plane – going somewhere …
Footnote 2: The film was in the BBC’s ‘Arena’ series and was entitled ‘Alone with Chrissie Hynde.’