How the Pretenders Attempted to Move Forward With ‘2000 Miles’
Not every holiday song is happy. Elvis Presley waxed poetic about his yuletide loneliness in "Blue Christmas," Joni Mitchell cursed herself for leaving an incomparable lover in "River," the Eagles begged for their baby to come back in "Please Come Home for Christmas."
And the Pretenders mourned the loss of one of their own in "2000 Miles." "The snow is falling down / Gets colder day by day / I miss you," Chrissie Hynde sings in the first verse, but she likely wasn't thinking about a former lover.
"2000 Miles" was written following the death of Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott. In 1982, at the age of 25, Honeyman-Scott was found dead, the result of a drug overdose. It was a crushing loss for the rest of the band, and particularly for Hynde. Though they'd only known each other since 1978 — four short years — there had been an unequivocal musical connection between them.
"James Honeyman-Scott is the reason you're even reading this," she wrote years later in her 2015 autobiography, Reckless, "because, without him, I'm sure I would have made only the smallest splash with my talents – probably nothing very memorable."
The Pretenders, Without James Honeyman-Scott
Sometimes, the thing that makes life the most bearable in the face of loss is the simple continuation of it.
For Hynde, part of that meant trying to reconcile with the way the previous four years had gone. The Pretenders had enjoyed a good deal of success — their 1980 self-titled debut went to No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 9 in the U.S., Pretenders II in 1981 also made the top 10 in both countries, plus plenty of TV appearances and hit singles.
When asked in 1981 if fame was what he'd imagined it to be, Honeyman-Scott didn't hesitate: "Oh, yeah! Non-stop partying, yes. Yes, it was exactly as I imagined it – it all happened."
That was the year before bassist Pete Farndon was fired from the band due to his escalating drug use. His departure date fell on June 14, 1982. Two days later, Honeyman-Scott was dead. It was the exact scenario Hynde had hoped to avoid and would later feel she didn't exactly do much to stop.
"Well, I didn't discourage the drug-taking, and I was part of it," she told Record Collector in 2023. "So, you know, not that I was their mother, and we went on the road, and it was very hardcore." (Farndon himself died at the age of the 30 the very next year, having drowned in the bathtub after a heroin overdose.)
"I am guilty," Hynde said. "It's not a big word if you are guilty. It's big if you feel guilty and you're not guilty. But if you really are guilty, then you should put your hand up and say, 'Guilty as charged.'"
Watch the Pretenders' '2000 Miles' Video
Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers were left with little choice but to push forward with the Pretenders, recruiting guitarist Billy Bremner and bassist Tony Butler to step in for at least the interim. Shortly after that guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster entered the picture, effectively creating the more permanent lineup that would be credited on the Pretenders' third album, Learning to Crawl.
Learning to Crawl's closing song wound up "2000 Miles," released as a single on Nov. 18, 1983, and eventually peaking at No. 15 on the U.K. singles chart. An accompanying music video depicted Hynde in a snow-filled setting. By the end of the video, she's frozen still. "2000 miles is very far through the snow / I'll think of you wherever you go," she sings.
Though the Pretenders very much persevered, in Hynde's mind, things were never the same, saying in 2023: "Since Pete and Jimmy died and because I've had to replace people, it’s now kind of like a Pretenders tribute band, named the Pretenders."
Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde Albums Ranked
Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci