Song of the Day #4,945: ‘Middle of the Road’ – The Pretenders

Before now, I’d never heard a Pretenders album all the way through. I finally made the leap with Learning to Crawl, the latest album I’m including in my ‘Decades’ exploration of the year 1984.

Learning to Crawl was the rock band’s third album, and their first with a new lineup, after two of the original four members died of drug overdoses. Lead singer/songwriter Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers eventually enlisted guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster to flesh out the band for the album’s recording. But first, another duo recorded the single ‘Back On the Chain Gang’ backed with ‘My City Was Gone,’ two songs that would number among the band’s most popular.

In addition to those tracks, Learning to Crawl featured singles ‘Middle of the Road,’ ‘Show Me,’ the cover ‘Thin Line Between Love and Hate,’ and ‘2000 Miles,’ which became a Christmas staple in the UK.

The album offers a refreshing blend of alternative rock, New Wave, rockabilly, and even something resembling funk in ‘My City Was Gone,’ a track Rush Limbaugh used (without permission) to open his radio broadcast. Hynde later negotiated a financial settlement allowing Limbaugh to use the song in exchange for money that she promptly donated to PETA, an organization he hated.

I really enjoyed this album, especially the aforementioned singles. Hynde is a sharp lyricist and a nimble vocalist, and the band (rotating members and all) gives her music urgency and bite. This listen has me interested in checking out their first two, equally celebrated, albums.

Middle of the road
Is trying to find me
I’m standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me
But I got a smile
For everyone I meet
Long as you don’t try dragging my bay
Or dropping the bomb on my street

Oh, come on, baby
Get in the road
Come on now
In the middle of the road, yeah

In the middle of the road
You see the darnedest things
Like fat cats driving ’round in jeeps through the city
Wearing big diamond rings and silk suits
Past corrugated tin shacks full up with kids
And man, I don’t mean a Hampstead nursery
But when you own a big chunk of the bloody Third World
The babies just come with the scenery

Now come on, baby
Get in the road
Come on now
In the middle of the road, yeah

The middle of the road
Is no private cul-de-sac
I can’t get from the cab to the curb
Without some little jerk on my back
Don’t harass me, can’t you tell
I’m going home, I’m tired as hell
I’m not the cat I used to be
I’ve got a kid, I’m thirty-three, baby
Get in the road
Come on now
In the middle of the road

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,945: ‘Middle of the Road’ – The Pretenders

  1. Reb says:

    Great song, great band. IMO, the debut album was head and shoulders above the second, although there are a couple of fine tunes on that one.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I was drawn into the Pretenders’ sound, though I never ventured beyond the hits.

    I love that she donated the Rush money to PETA, though I had always hoped she would just force hi to stop using the song.

  3. Peg says:

    Love the PETA donation 👏

  4. Amy says:

    I’ve never listened to their music though I’ve always admired her. After reading today’s post, I admire her even more.

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