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 03 – “Broadway”
In the early fall of 1996, the Old 97’s flew to New York City to consummate our courtship with Elektra Records. The following morning, we were scheduled to appear on one of the top floors of Rockefeller Plaza to finally meet CEO Sylvia Rhone and “ink” the deal. We landed the evening before and rode in a limousine to the Paramount, a swanky hotel “just off Times Square.” The lobby was as massive as the rooms were tiny, and everything about the hotel seemed to ooze the kind of hipness that inflates the nightly rate by about 80%.
My room looked out across a narrow street, into the large windows of a dance studio where a ballet class was in full swing. If it is possible to fall in love with twenty-five women simultaneously, that is what happened to me the moment I looked out that window.
As I stood in that tiny room, I did the math. I could live for a month in my East Dallas garage apartment for the amount of money Elektra was paying per night at the Paramount Hotel. Granted, my accommodations in Dallas were humble to say the least, but this was some serious opulence. If you ever wonder why the old “major label” business model failed, look no further than the money lavished on our little Texas rock band by the dozen or so labels that wooed us that summer. Ridiculous.
I had my guitar, a bunch of nervous energy, and an hour to kill before dinner. So I did what I often do in such a situation. I wrote a song. I wanted to impress the A&R folks at dinner, sure, but more than that I wanted to capture the feeling I had at that moment – the feeling of being on the brink of something huge. My life was changing right before my eyes. The dream I’d fostered since adolescence was coming true.
The song “Broadway” came out quickly. It seemed to chronicle a starry-eyed innocent suddenly faced with a transformation. He would leave behind the “working class” and become “a monster.”
I am the innocent of the song, but I’m not. I have always been too aware to be “unaware.” That night, even as my dreams were coming true, I was laughing at the silliness of it all, the overblown nature of these things we build up, these goals to which we attach ultimate significance. You know what’s real? This moment, this breath, a long and lonesome high note, and that lovely roomful of dancers.
PS: Have your own memories of “Broadway” or Too Far To Care in general? Tweet them at me.