S-Tier Songs, Vol. 18

Gonna hit up the S-Tier songs list one more time before year’s end. For a look at the other songs on the list and a bit about how it all works, head to this page.

Today I’m switching genres and offering up the first country song to appear on the list. It was a hit in the early 90’s, a time in country that is now being looked back on fondly. The song and artist both had a degree of crossover appeal, which lent to some exposure to a wider audience.

Dwight Yoakam – A Thousand Miles From Nowhere

Today’s song hails from Dwight’s 1993 opus This Time, which was a multi-platinum hit. It had three singles each hit number 2 on the Billboard Country singles chart. The album itself peaked at number 4 on the country chart and hit number 25 on the mainstream chart, no small feat for a country record.

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is a bit of a departure from “pure country” standards, though Dwight Yoakam has always been a bit off in left field anyway. He’s perhaps the poster boy for the phrase “too rock for country, too country for rock.”

Our song today is a sad tale, though, not a number to rock out to. The song puts its narrator in the aftermath of a break-up and the desolate feelings associated with that. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of someone drifting along, remembering what was said at the end of their split. This is a completely broken person who has nowhere to be and isn’t even at nowhere.

The song is almost the literal opposite of the hit from The Proclaimers, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). The latter sees someone willing to walk a thousand miles for their love, while Dwight is so far gone that he’s a thousand miles from nothing. And in a bit of an ironic twist, The Proclaimers’ song would hit the charts in a second life just after Dwight’s song released.

The music video for A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is noteworthy. It is a simple yet visually breathtaking film that sees Dwight singing while riding in a train car across the Arizona desert. The beautiful simplicity of the shots lend weight to the sad song. For a bit of trivia, country singler Kelly Willis is the woman standing in the stream as Dwight’s train crosses a bridge at about 1:35 in the video.

I am extending myself a bit here as my memory of 30 years ago isn’t going to be spot on, but I am pretty sure the video got airplay on MTV. It was not common at all for MTV to play country but again, Dwight hasn’t always fit the country mold. I know I saw the video quite a bit when it released and I never watched the country music channel so I’m assuming MTV is where I saw it. It sounds logical, as MTV played Chris Issak frequently and this song sounds like one that could slot perfectly alongside his work. I’m happy for any correction to this from anyone who knows for sure, but I can’t imagine where else I would have seen the video as much as I did back then.

The song would appear in two movie soundtracks – the 1993 film Red Rock West used a demo recording of it as the film hit theaters before the song and album were released. And the 1994 comedy Chasers used the tune as well. In 2018 the song came up again, this time as a cover version from artist Jesse Woods used in a Yeti coolers ad.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is a somber tale of loss and rejection. It paints its images vividly, the words pour out the heartbreak and desolation. The video adds to the presentation with its majestic scenes of a lone man traveling across the gorgeous desert. Everything adds up to an expression of how sad can be beautiful.

3 thoughts on “S-Tier Songs, Vol. 18

  1. Caught him here in town I think back in 89-90. Had to go as he was a pretty big draw and he came to town. I also saw Willie Nelson here a year before Dwight as well. Outside of my metal box but these dudes esp. Nelson are icons so when they do it make it here me and my buddies would go..

    Liked by 1 person

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