The success of the Pretenders' debut album in 1980 created a great demand for more material from the fledgling band; however, a lack of songs precluded the quick release of a follow-up album. In the UK, the band released two hit singles in 1980 and early 1981: "Talk of the Town" and "Message of Love," respectively. In the US, where standalone singles had become rare, these tracks were combined with three others for a stopgap EP release called Extended Play, in March 1981. Their second album, Pretenders II, was released a scant two months later, to mixed critical reception, partly because two of the better songs on the album had been previously released, and partly because many of the songs were viewed as overly-similar (though not quite as groundbreaking) to the band's debut. Nevertheless, several of the album's songs became hits and the album has increased in critical stature with time.
The album is notable for the inclusion of a cover of The Kinks' "I Go to Sleep" (they had covered that band's "Stop Your Sobbing" on their debut album, and band leader Chrissie Hynde would have a personal relationship with Kinks' frontman Ray Davies), as well as the sexually-forward tunes "Bad Boys Get Spanked" and "The Adultress". Perhaps the album's most ambitious track, "Day After Day" spins a common second-album narrative of unaccustomed celebrity, with the band rushing from gig to gig, hotel to hotel, head-spun from the swiftness of it all. The song ends suddenly, mid-guitar-solo, with the sound of a crashing fighter plane. The song "Louie, Louie" is an original composition and not a version of identically titled and often covered song by Richard Berry.
The album would be the final release from the original line-up of the band, as shortly afterwards the band would be fractured by the drug abuse that would take the life of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon, leading to a long recording hiatus.
Twenty years after its release, it was certified gold (500,000 sold) in 2001.
This is the first album to be released while their producer, Chris Thomas, was working with Elton John.
Rhino released a re-mastered edition of Pretenders II in 2006, including with it a second disc of live tracks and outtakes. On disc two, tracks 1–3, 5–6, 8–13, and 15 originally appeared as a Warner Bros. promotional live album, Pretenders Live at the Santa Monica Civic, from 1982. Tracks 4 and 7 appeared as b-sides to the single release of "I Go to Sleep". Tracks 14 and 16–18 are previously unreleased.
Specialist label Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs known as MFSL or MoFi released a re-mastered version in 2010. Using their in-house GAIN II process in the remastering process it is also presented in the Hybrid SACD format but omits any 5.1 option. Packaged in a high quality replica vinyl sleeve, this is for those demanding the absolute best in reproduction. The track listing however reverts to that of the original release i.e. no bonus tracks.
The front cover portrait was photographed by Gavin Cochrane.
Pretenders II - WIC 5028 (Condition 75-80%)
Pretenders II, Chrissie Hynde , Pete Farndon, Martin Chambers, James Honeyman Scott, Chris Mercer, Henry Lowther, Jim Wilson, Geoff Bryant & Chris Thomas
Rhythm Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums, Lead Guitar, Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet & French Horn