"Every Scratch, Every Click, Every Heartbeat": The reference is to Elvis Costello's song "45" which, to oversimplify matters, conflates music and life. All the same, "bass and treble heal every hurt" and though this series doesn't feature the dreaded soundtrack to my life, it might be said that each entry spotlights "a song to sing to do the measuring." This time around we're "A Million Miles Away" with the Plimsouls.
It’s a song that will have you have you inching up the car’s volume control or heeding – if you hadn’t already — the album’s directive “made to be played loud.” That is, if record companies were still stamping that particular bit of technical data on album covers in 1983, in this case Everywhere at Once (File Under: Raucous and Rambunctious).
It’s an album that had its firm garage band-grasp on the sixties, its get up and go-go and farfisa-fied sound in which you could almost hear between the grooves the Sky Saxon sneers here and the psychedelic too-much-to-dream wah-wah there. The on-again off-again Plimsouls, led by the multitalented and restless Peter Case, who went on to a acoustic folk career too, recalls the raw power and stripped-down skills of such bands as the Standells, the Leaves, Blues Magoos, the Count Five, and the Sir Douglas Quintet.
But Case seemed to save much of his power-pop punch for “A Million Miles Away,” not only one of the best rock songs of the ‘80s but also one of the most timeless ones, too, one that doesn’t seem stuck in that decade, let alone the ‘60s. Twenty-five years later this well-deserved classic, a mixture of wistfulness and resilience, still packs a wallop with a potently perfect merging of escapist musicality and words that will indeed carry you away for three minutes and thirty-four seconds of hard-driven delirium punctuated by swirls of Roger McGuinn-like guitar that leans toward the “Eight Miles High” life:
Friday night I'd just got back
I had my eyes shut
Was dreaming about the past
I thought about you while the radio played
I should have got moving
For some reason I stayed
I started drifting to a different place
I realized I was falling off the face of the world
And there was nothing left to bring me back
I'm a million miles away
A million miles away
A million miles away
And there's nothing left to bring me back today
Whether eight miles or a million miles away from the matters at hand, “A Million Miles Away” seems to transcend such quotidian concerns until you’re metaphorically and evocatively “falling off the face of the world.” You’ll be transfixed and transported — that’s what good music should do, and that's just what the Plimsouls indeed accomplish with their classic.