Peter Granville “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 city 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 an increasing drug problem resulted in his being dismissed from the group on 14 June 1982.
Farndon’s musical influences included Stanley Clarke and Jeff Beck. 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.
Farndon joined the Pretenders in early 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.” A guitarist was still needed, and Farndon recruited lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott into the group that summer. Farndon, Honeyman-Scott, and bandmate Martin Chambers all hailed from Hereford, England.
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.”
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”. 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.”
By early 1982 Farndon’s drug use was causing increasingly strained relations with his bandmates. He became increasingly belligerent and, according to Hynde, “was in bad shape. He was really not someone you could work with.”. At the urging of Hynde, band manager Dave Hill fired Farndon 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. Without Farndon and Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders were left with only two of their original four members.
Farndon began working with former Clash drummer Topper Headon, guitarist Henry Padovani, organist Mick Gallagher, and vocalist Steve Allen (formerly of Deaf School) in a short-lived band they called Samurai.
On 14 April 1983, his wife found Farndon drowned in the bath at his home in London, having overdosed on heroin and lost consciousness. Pete Farndon is buried at St. Peter’s Church, Withington, Herefordshire, England.
- The Bushwackers
- 1976 – Murrumbidgee
- The Pretenders
- 1980 – Pretenders
- 1981 – Pretenders II