:: Monday, August 30, 2004 ::

Punk Rock Countdown: No. 38
"Middle of the Road," by the Pretenders

Note: Effective after this link (wav file, no bugs), I'm discontinuing the practice of posting links to lyrics or sound files for these songs, because I spent much of Saturday afternoon getting rid of spyware that found its way onto my computer while I was searching for mp3 files to accompany this countdown.

Some of my favorite punk tunes deal with two universal rock'n'roll themes: selling out and growing old. "Middle of the Road" deals with both. From the band's 1984 album Learning to Crawl, "Middle of the Road" is a rocking paean to the end of the New Wave era, and a song about identify for a band that was going through some struggles (the death of one founding member and departure of another). Now lead singer Chrissie Hynde, an Ohio native who escaped to the UK to hang out with Malcolm MacLaren and the Sex Pistols at MacLaren's Sex shop, finds herself "standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me." Exchanging her trademark snarl for the world-weary tone of one who's seen it all, played all the tiresome games, she laments the conditions of the world around her: the "fat guys" wearing "big diamond rings and silk suits," driving "past corrugated tin shacks full up with kids" in "a big chunk of the bloody third world." She despises the middle of the road -- straddling the fence between commercial success and concern for social ills -- and concludes that the rock'n'roll lifestyle just doesn't leave time -- or energy -- to deal with issues of social justice:
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 got a kid, I'm thirty-three, baby...

Some might argue that this song is not truly "punk," and that punk had died a good five years before "Middle of the Road" hit the airwaves. Fair enough. But the Pretenders -- and Hynde in particular -- are a product of the UK punk scene and influenced by the political focus of several UK punk bands. That influence continues with this song.

:: Andrew 12:33 + ::

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