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Vinyl Tap: The Plimsouls – “A Million Miles Away”

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I raid my record collection and randomly rediscover the tracks of my years…

Skinny ties and Farfisa riffs couldn’t contain them. The jingly-jangly mourning that befell with the bittersweet breakup and manic thrill of the power pop icons the Plimsouls’ last album, 1983’s Everywhere At Once, still packs a timeless wallop while often drawing on the past.

Evoking enough ’60s traces with its firm garage band-grasp – smacking of Sky Saxon sneers here and psychedelic snippets of too-much-to-dream wah-wah or raga there — Everywhere summons up the raw power and stripped-down skills of such bands as the Standells, Seeds, Leaves, Blues Magoos, Sir Douglas Quintet, and Count Five. Indeed, the two rather obscure ‘60s covers in this runaway steamroller of a record, the Equals’ “My Life Ain’t Easy” and Mouse and the Traps’ “Lie, Beg, Borrow and Steal,” are interwoven seamlessly with the newer songs written or co-written by leader and lead singer Peter Case, who went on to have a notable folk, blues, and rock solo career. (Indeed, while there was a brief Plimsouls’ reunion and album in 1995-’96) the restless and rudderless Case showed all the signs of an ambitious artist who himself wanted to be everywhere at once.)

The edgy and trenchant tracks on Everywhere were really just precursors to the justly-deserved classic “A Million Miles Away,” not only one of the best rock songs of the ‘80s but also one of the finest ever. Over 25 years later it still packs a frenzied, crescendoing wallop and the promise of passage — sounding great cranked up on the car radio, too — 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 inclined toward the “Eight Miles High” life, as Case kicks in with impassioned, ragged vocals.

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

“A Million Miles Away” had some moderate but keenly-received New Wave exposure before its appearance on a full-length album. After the Plimsouls had initially self-financed the song as a single in 1982, it was picked up by prominent Los Angeles FM station KROQ, notably influential DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who facilitated local smashdom, which led to wider recognition. The inclusion of “A Million Miles Away” on the soundtrack to the film Valley Girl – the Plimsouls had a cameo in the movie – furthered the band’s popularity.

In any case, “A Million Miles Away” will take you, metaphorically and evocatively, ‘everywhere at once.’ You’ll be transported and transfixed, or find yourself “falling off the face of the world.” That’s just what the Plimsouls indeed accomplish here with their power to mesmerize. For at least three minutes and thirty-four seconds.

 

About Gordon Hauptfleisch