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Biography

Pete Farndon (12 June 1952 – 14 April 1983) was an English bassist and founding member of the rock band The Pretenders. Farndon attended Hereford Cathedral School in his home town of Hereford, before embarking on his musical career with The Pretenders. In addition to playing bass with the group, Farndon sang backup vocals and co-wrote two of the group's songs ("The Wait" and "Space Invader"), before being dismissed from the group on 14 June 1982 (Uncut, 1999).
Farndon and bandmates James Honeyman-Scott (guitar / vocals / keyboards), and Martin Chambers (drums / vocals / percussion) hailed from Hereford, England. Prior to joining the Pretenders, Farndon played with Cold River Lady until the summer of 1976, and then toured with Australian folk-rock band The Bushwackers prior to the Pretenders in 1978 (Melody Maker 1979; Rolling Stone 1980). Farndon's musical influences included Stanley Clarke and Jeff Beck (Rhino Entertainment Group, 2006).
Farndon joined the Pretenders in the Spring of 1978, and was the first member of the 1978-82 lineup to be recruited by Chrissie Hynde. Farndon recalled their first rehearsal: "I'll never forget it, we go in, we do a soul number, we do a country and western number, and then we did 'The Phone Call' which is like the heaviest fuckin' punk rocker you could do in 5/4 time. Impressed? I was very impressed." (Rolling Stone, 1980). A guitarist was still needed, however, and Farndon recruited lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott into the group that summer (Rolling Stone, 1980; Uncut, 1999).
Martin Chambers worked with Farndon to adjust to Hynde's timing: "Pete and I did a fair amount of work on our own, in terms of the rhythm section being able to play Chrissie's odd timing things. So Pete and I would come in a couple of hours ahead of the others and baby talk our way through the songs. You know, 'da dad da, boom boom.' She didn't count in the traditional way so we had to reinterpret the counts. Once we made the adjustment and learned to go with her flow, so to speak, it became second nature. It's the bedrock of Pretenders music." (Rhino Entertainment Group, 2006)
Farndon played a large role in shaping The Pretenders' tough image, often wearing his biker clothing, or later, samurai gear onstage. Hynde later acknowledged that two Pretenders' songs, "Biker" and "Samurai" had "references to a Pete Farndon type of character" (Uncut, 1999). As a performer, Hynde recalled that "Pete was fantastic. Pete was blagging it a lot because technically he wasn't any kind of great musician. But he had real heart, like in boxing terms, he could win the fight on heart alone. And he had a great energy, borne of a kind of desperation." (Rhino Records, 2006).
Farndon's distinctive bass guitars also played a role in shaping his image and included a Fender Precision Bass, Rickenbacker, and at least three Hamer guitars. The first Hamer was a double cutaway model in 1950s pink. Later Farndon switched to the Hamer 'Cruisebass' model, including one with a distinctive Japanese "Rising Sun" battle flag graphic (Dantzig Design Group, 2006).
By 1982, Farndon caused increasingly strained relations with his bandmates due to his drug use. He became increasingly belligerent, and he, according to Hynde, "was in bad shape. He was really not someone you could work with." (Uncut, 1999). He was fired on 14 June 1982. Two days after Farndon's dismissal, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was found dead of heart failure caused by a cocaine overdose. Farndon himself was found dead on 14 April 1983 by his American model wife, Conover; he had passed out and drowned in his bathtub following a heroin overdose. At the time of his death Farndon was in the midst of forming a new band with former Clash drummer Topper Headon - who was also battling heroin abuse and had also been kicked out of his band due to his inability to cope with it. Farndon's death left The Pretenders with only two of its original four members.

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