It is a song that has a 60s-style rhythm, and it peaked at #19 on the US pop singles chart and #2 on the US mainstream rock chart in January 1984, where it stayed for four weeks.
Hynde has stated that "Middle of the Road" refers to Tao Te Ching, which she interprets as "the middle way." According to Charles M. Young of Musician, the song is about "getting out there and mixing it up with the world." The number is at least quasi-autobiographical, with observations about the difference between wealth and poverty that she can see, but mostly she is seeing the changes in herself, as writer and lead singer Chrissie Hynde exclaims towards the end of the song, I got a kid, I'm thirty-three, baby! (In reality, Hynde turned 32 shortly before the single was released.) At the end of the song, she is heard playing the harmonica.
"Middle of the Road" uses a 4/4 time signature. Hynde has acknowledged that "Middle of the Road" uses the same chords as the Rolling Stones' song "Empty Heart" and that it doesn't have much melody. She says that it uses basic chords and that it is like "a regular R&B song," going on to say that "it's like taking a basic format, like the blues, and just giving it new lyrics." She describes Robbie McIntosh's guitar solo as "nifty."Audio Magazine compared the song's structure to that of Dobie Gray's "The 'In' Crowd."
Allmusic critic Liana Jonas calls "Middle of the Road" a "classic example of pure, unadulterated rock music." She says that the lyrics She ascribes this to the fact that the lyrics focus on people's innate desire to "get up and go" and the "driven" music backs up the sentiment. Fellow Allmusic critic Mark Deming calls it a "furious rocker."
^Guitar World (May 1, 2012). "Guitar World Presents Dear Guitar Hero: The World's Most Celebrated Guitarists Answer Their Fans' Most Burning Questions". Backbeat Books. ISBN9781476813592.Missing or empty |url= (help)
^ abcdYoung, C.M. (1994). "The Pretenders Change Diapers and Wrestle Death to a Draw". In Scherman, T. The Rock Musician: 15 Years of the interviews - The best of Musician Magazine. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 144–145. ISBN9780312304614.