Monday, August 1, 2016

"Middle of the Road" by The Pretenders

Song#:  1736
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  50
Peak:  19
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Late in 1982, the band released the single "Back on the Chain Gang." It became their biggest hit going to #5 and staying there for three weeks. However, an accompanying album was still in the works. Another song that had been completed, "2000 Miles," got issued in the UK and went to #15. Yet despite the two singles, work towards a new album seemed to come to a halt thanks in part to issues within the band that led to the loss of two members. Leader Chrissie Hynde sought out replacements and the new line-up headed back into the studio. The completed album, Learning to Crawl, included the previous two singles plus this new one. It was an instant hit at Rock reaching #2 and it had a good showing at Pop hitting the Top 20. 

ReduxReview:  I fell for this blistering rocker right off the bat. I loved its retro rock/R&B feel along with the background "oo-oo-oo-oo-oo's" and Hynde's vocals/harmonica solo. It sounded rough and tough and I couldn't get enough of it. The album was released soon after the single and I immediately bought it. The LP quickly became a favorite and this song was a major highlight. I probably still listen to this album a couple times a year while a few of the songs are mainstays on my gym playlist.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Another song on the album, "My City Was Gone," also served as the b-side to "Chain Gang." It got enough airplay to reach #11 on the US Rock chart. Hynde wrote the song, which has her going back to her hometown in Ohio (Akron) and reflecting on how industrialized and polluted it had become. For anyone who has listened to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, the song will be familiar. The opening bass line serves as the theme to Limbaugh's show. In addition to liking the bass line, he thought using a tune that is totally from a non-conservative viewpoint for his highly conservative show was interesting. After a while, The Pretenders' record label didn't particularly like it since Limbaugh had not gotten permission to use the piece of music. They sent a cease and desist letter and Limbaugh complied. Weirdly enough, once Hynde found out about it, she said she didn't mind if he used the tune because her parents were Limbaugh listeners. The legalities were all sorted out and Limbaugh continued to used the song. Hynde ended up donating her royalties from the deal to PETA.


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