As the 97’s celebrate the 15th anniversary of the release of Too Far To Care, I will take the opportunity to dig into my addled memory for some stories and insights. I’ll start with a track-by-track retrospective of the album’s thirteen songs. I will address them in reverse order, finishing appropriately with “Timebomb”.
Track 08 – “Big Brown Eyes”
In the year before the Old 97’s made Too Far To Care, I lived in a garage with my friend Clark Vogeler. He played guitar in Melt, which later became Funland, and he would go on to play in the Toadies. Clark and I also played together on a roller-hockey team, The M Street Monarchs. Clark was a high-flying, high-scoring winger in the style of our hero, Mike Modano. I was a stay-at-home defensemen with no real talent beyond a willingness to lay down in front of opponents’ shots.
At home, with an almost religious fervor, we watched as Bob Gainey coached our Dallas Stars to greater success each season. And we ate pizza. Almost exclusively. We were two single dudes, living in near-squalor. And it was great.
I wrote “Big Brown Eyes” while sitting at the window in the upstairs kitchen of that garage. I could see the twinkling lights of Lower Greenville through the trees that lined the alley. I was lonely. I missed someone. I had apocalypse on my mind. My friend Robert and I had just enjoyed a long discussion with Robert’s eccentric father. He was, and still is, convinced that the world will end at any moment, that these are the end days.
I imagine that a lot of listeners don’t understand the reference in the line, “I’m calling Time And Temperature just for some company.” Allow me to explain. The phone in our kitchen had a twenty-five foot cord that stretched throughout the upstairs of the garage. Not only was this before cell phones, it was before the ubiquity of the cordless land line. That phone, with its unending silence, mocked me. I still remember dialing 844 and then any four numbers in order to discover the time and temperature. The internet has since rendered such a service laughably archaic. At the time, though, the voice at the other end of that number soothed me in a way I can’t quite explain. She was a constant in a mad, quickly changing world. And when I called, she would always answer.
“Big Brown Eyes” contains buried references to songs I love by The Kingston Trio and Loretta Lynn. Can you find these Easter Eggs?
PS: Have your own memories of “Big Brown Eyes” or Too Far To Care in general? Tweet them at me.