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Music / Old 97's

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The Old 97's are an Alternative Country band from Dallas, Texas. Formed in the early '90s, they have twelve studio albums plus a holiday album:

  • Hitchhike to Rhome (1994)
  • Wreck Your Life (1995)
  • Too Far to Care (1997)
  • Fight Songs (1999)
  • Satellite Rides (2001)
  • Drag It Up (2004)
  • Blame It on Gravity (2008)
  • The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1 (2010)
  • The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2 (2011)
  • Most Messed Up (2014)
  • Graveyard Whistling (2017)
  • Love the Holidays (2018)
  • Twelfth (2020)

Rather incredibly, their line-up has stayed consistent for twenty years:

  • Rhett Miller (vocals, rhythm guitar)
  • Ken Bethea (lead guitar)
  • Murry Hammond (bass guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals)
  • Philip Peeples (drums)

The band also appears in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special performing an original song, and a new version of one of their Christmas songs with Kevin Bacon.


Provides Examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: Quite frequently. Hitchhike to Rhome in "Stoned" ("Hitchhike to Rhome / Take a Greyhound to Fredericksburg"); Too Far to Care in "Streets of Where I'm From" ("I've been down too far to care"); Satellite Rides in Drag It Up's "In the Satellite Rides a Star"; Drag It Up in "Smokers" ("I'm a smoker, dragging up all my extra store"); Blame It on Gravity in "No Baby I" ("Blame it on gravity / Blame it on being a girl").
  • Alma Mater Song: "Friends Forever," though it's mostly about how much being a high-schooler sucks:
    "The twelve years after five are years you're lucky to survive."
  • Auto Erotica: "Bel-Air." ("I'm drowning in the back seat of a '61 Bel-Air / I've got a mouthful of your hair, a handful of skin.")
  • Ballad of X: "This Is the Ballad," which is the ballad of...a lot of things.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bawdy Song: A lot of 'em.
    "Barrier Reef": "We went through the motions / With her on top and me on liquor."
  • Big Apple Sauce: "Broadway" and "Manhattan (I'm Done)," but neither make New York sound that great.
  • Break-Up Song: Again, a lot of 'em.
  • B-Side: "The Villain," the B-side to "Nineteen," ended up on the band's live album.
  • Car Song: "If My Heart Was a Car."
  • Celebrity Song: "Ray Charles."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Nashville," and by extension, Most Messed Up.
    Rhett Miller: "I went up to Nashville and got put up with a co-writer, this guy John McElroy, just kind of this old Nashville writer. And I went in, and he had this line. He said: “I been watching you on YouTube, and I think your audience would really appreciate it if you just walked out on stage and said ‘Fuck.’”
  • Cover Version: Murry Hammond sang a number of these in the early days: "Mama Tried," "My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin'," and "Let the Train Blow the Whistle." Miller did Jon Langford's "Over the Cliff" and "You Belong to My Heart" from, uh, The Three Caballeros. The band also covered The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., and others on 2010's Mimeograph EP.
  • Drunken Song: Oh my, yes.
  • Dying Town: "Buick City Complex," which is about the titular, now-shuttered automobile factory in Flint, Michigan. This being a Rhett Miller song, he turns it into a come-on, and the song opens, "Do you wanna mess around?"
  • Epic Rocking: Mostly averted, as their songs are generally pretty short. "Longer Than You've Been Alive" is their longest studio track at 5:53.
  • Friendship Song: "Friends Forever," of course, but also "The One."
  • Grief Song: "No Mother," about the band's roadie who died young.
  • Hypocritical Singing: "No Simple Machine," arguably.
  • Instrumentals: A few: "Ken's Polka Thing" from Hitchhike to Rhome and "Marquita" from The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2.
  • Intercourse with You: "Rollerskate Skinny" ("Do you wanna meet up at the Pickwood Bowl? / We could knock nine down and leave one in the hole").
  • Let's Duet: "Four Leaf Clover," with X (US Band)'s Exene Cervenka.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "King of All the World" sure sounds like a cheery, even ebullient, Power Pop song. It's not until the fifth or sixth time through it that you realize the narrator is threatening suicide at the end:
    "If I wander out a picture window,
    Write below my name,
    'There goes the king of all the world'"
  • Money Song: "The One."
  • Murder Ballad: "The Other Shoe."
  • New Sound Album: Fight Songs marked a transition to a poppier sound. The alternative country purists were not pleased, especially with the single, "Nineteen."
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Nashville."
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Stoned," "Cryin' Drunk," "Let the Whiskey Take the Reins," "Let's Get Drunk and Get It On," "Wasted," "Intervention," and so on.
  • One-Woman Song: "Victoria," "Doreen," "Ivy," and "Adelaide."
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: "Here's to the Halcyon," which opens, "Get me through this, Lord, and I'll do anything you say."
  • Rock Star Song: "Longer Than You've Been Alive."
  • "Setting Off" Song: "The One," which compares getting a major-label deal with robbing a bank. Subverted in that it wasn't officially released for a decade after said major-label deal.
  • Signs of Disrepair: The Texas Department Of Transportation once gave out bumper stickers with the slogan "Don't Wreck Your Life" - Philip Peeples applied the sticker to the bumper of the band's tour van, but for the sake of dark humor he removed the first word, thus inspiring the album title Wreck Your Life.
  • Singer Namedrop: Kind of, in "No Baby I": "Sing it like a train-disaster song." (The band is named after the most famous train-disaster song, "The Wreck of the Old 97.")
    • In "Barrier Reef", Rhett Miller drops his full name, introducing himself to a prospective one night stand with "My name's Stewart Ransom Miller, I'm a serial lady killer".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Murry Hammond sings a song or two on every album. Ken Bethea had one on Drag It Up with "Coahuila."
  • Take That!: Hammond's "Crash on the Barrelhead" is a shot at Ryan Adams, who was at that time a rather notoriously mean-spirited drunk.
    "You're gonna die the way you lived
    And the way you drink, you're like a river
    Bound for falls, not much fun
    You're gonna crash on the barrelhead, son."
    • Not as much as a shot at Adams as it is more of a tough-love warning that he'd probably die early if he continued the lifestyle.
  • Teenage Death Song: "The Fool," depending on how old its protagonists are.
  • This Is a Song: "This Is the Ballad."
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Broadway" and "How Lovely All It Was."
  • Train Song: Well, they are named after one. Murry Hammond in particular is wild about trains, and many of their songs are explicitly about riding the rails: "Old Familiar Steam," "Let the Train Blow the Whistle," "W. TX Teardrops," "Please Hold on While the Train Is Moving," "I'm a Trainwreck," and many other references in lyrics.