Who could forget the rousing "woo-hooa-a-hooas" that helped define the Pretenders' 1984 smash hit "Middle of the Road"? In a decade that saw synthesizer-oriented pop music arriving on U.S. soil from England, singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde and bandmates tear it up on this classic example of pure, unadulterated rock music. The Pretenders' offering successfully maintains a formulaic rock pattern, with drums that beat on at a driving frenetic 4/4 pace and guitar riffs that induce foot stomping by the most conservative crowd. By the time the harmonica solo kicks in toward the track's end, "Middle of the Road" has worked itself up into such a musical romp that it challenges anyone to remain sitting down. There is no technical or instrumental trickery to be found here, no "secret sauce"; the song is very much in your face. Its rollicking music and lyrics that paint a picture of a journey make anyone want to hop into the car and take off for the open road. "Middle of the road, is trying to find me/ I'm standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me." You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn't identify with that sentiment. The Pretenders zeroed in on one of humankind's most basic, secret desire � to get up and go � and backed it with an equally driven musical arrangement. And that's what makes this recording a timeless classic.
from Learning To Crawl (Sire 2-23980), available on CD
A key track from Julian Cope's fragmentary second solo album, 1984's Fried, "Bill Drummond Said" is the only song on the album that resembles the swirling psych-pop of his old band the Teardrop Explodes. This is no doubt intentional, as the lyrics take aim at the group's former manager, Bill Drummond (later half of the Timelords, the KLF, and the JAMS), albeit in a typically vague way. The lyrics are skeletal enough that several interpretations might be brought to them, but they seem to recount a dream in which Cope witnesses his former manager in the act of strangling an unidentified woman to death. In contrast to the vaguely unpleasant lyrics, this is by far the catchiest and sweetest tune on Fried, with a dreamy folk-rock sound to its ringing 12-string guitar riffs and breathy harmonies. Coming between more disjointed and edgy tracks like the bizarre fairy tale "Reynard the Fox" and the Syd Barrett-like ramble "Laughing Boy," "Bill Drummond Said" sounds downright bubblegummy. Unsurprisingly, the always combative Drummond got in the last word with his answer song, "Julian Cope Is Dead," a sarcastically folky acoustic tune from his odd 1986 solo album The Man in which Drummond claims that in the waning days of the Teardrop Explodes, he had suggested that Cope commit suicide to make the band famous and laments that the singer didn't take him up on it.