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“99 Miles from L.A.”

I make no promises that there won’t be additional Status Quo content, but for right now, we’re back to Art For Art’s Sake, the song-by-song trawl through Art Garfunkel’s Seventies recordings.

I’ve taken note of a couple of songs in the Garfunkel catalog that were first cuts, on the img_2617littleassumption that being the first (major) performer to record a song is of no small importance when you’re more of an interpreter than a songwriter.

Here, in contrast, we have a song that was a significant hit for someone else, mere months before Garfunkel released his version.

Albert Hammond, who co-wrote “99 Miles from L.A.” with Hal David, took it to Number One on the U.S. easy listening chart for the week of May 24, 1975.

Hammond was unable to get any higher than No. 91 on the pop charts with the song, which was still a better chart achievement than his previous single, “I Don’t Wanna Die In An Air Disaster.” The most that can be said about that one is that it was briefly popular in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Art’s website confirms that at least some of the Breakaway sessions took place in May 1975. Presumably, he liked the song enough that its status as someone else’s very recent hit didn’t bother him.

“99 Miles From L.A.” is in some ways a twin to “Waters of March.” They’re both melodically simple songs that draw their power from lyrical twists — in this case, the way the common details of a highway trip remind a man of the woman he hopes will be there when he arrives.

The sweeping strings are a highlight, as is the mildly jarring point at about 2:45 when the double-tracked Garfunkels are ever so slightly out of alignment with each other. And does Art sound properly yearning? Of course he does.

Not much more to say about it; it works. Nice change from all that bloody Status Quo, too.

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