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“Break Away.”

Art for Art’s Sake, our trawl through Art Garfunkel’s Seventies recordings, returns. Still on Side One of 1975’s Breakaway.

There ought to be a club for people who have had at least three singles make the U.S. Top 40 between Nos. 30 and 40.

It would be an assemblage of people who are popular enough to keep scoring, but not img_2617littlepopular enough to climb off the lowest rung without bringing their A-game.

There’d be some pretty good company at that party, like the Ohio Players (“Ecstasy,” No. 31; “Sweet Sticky Thing,” No. 33; “Fopp,” No. 30) and B.B. King (“Rock Me Baby,” No. 34; “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss,” No. 39; “Ask Me No Questions,” No. 40; and “To Know You Is To Love You,” No. 38.)

Our man Art Garfunkel would be there too, in his Saturday suit.

I Shall Sing” topped out at No. 38 in the spring of 1974; “Second Avenue” reached No. 34 that autumn; and the subject of today’s sermon, “Break Away,” peaked at No. 39 in 1976.

Basically, Art spent 1974 through 1976 in much the same manner as Felix Millan — a couple of big hits, interspersed with a whole bunch of twelve-hoppers back over the mound and into center field.

Of course, that’s strictly from a Top 40 point of view; I am selling “Break Away” short by other measures. It was a Top Ten hit in Doylestown, Pennsylvania (not far from me as I write this) and Brunswick, Maine (too far from me as I write this).

More significantly, in February 1976, the song became Art’s second of five Number One hits on the Adult Contemporary chart, preceding a two-week run at the top by somebody named Paul Simon.

(There ought to be a club for people who’ve scored five Adult Contemporary Number One hits. Art is no Felix Millan in that club; he’s a regular Reggie Jackson, or at least a Nate Colbert.)

So what about “Break Away,” already?

Well, in between a wicked phased electric piano in the intro and David Crosby and Graham Nash singing backup on the (quite catchy) choruses, it’s got all the Seventies soft-rock mojo anyone could require.

And, like a lot of Seventies soft-rock, it’s a little bit patronizing and a little bit self-pitying.

Our Narrator tells his ladylove how hard it is to face the day now that she has repaired to Barcelona, or Mumbai, or Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!, or someplace equally foreign.

But, he assures, it’s “just a phase you’re going through.

Clearly, he’s confident that she just has a few Issues To Work Out, like seemingly everyone did in the Seventies. He’s OK with her working them out — “fly across your ocean,” he tells her, as if she needed his permission.

He seems confident that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the long run but cuddled up in a hot tub with him.

And anyway, what woman could resist a man with a lifetime membership and a poolside pass to the Nos. 30 through 40 Club?


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