The Breeders—that female-fronted alt-rock supergroup forged long before Boygenius came along—are currently on tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their post-Nevermind, platinum-selling, grunge-pop triumph, Last Splash. They’re also boasting an “original analog edition” of the album which made them a mainstream success in 1993 and which, in 2022, came out #35 in Pitchfork’s Top 150 Records of the 1990s. That means, of course, that they’re giving “Drivin’ On 9” another bask in the sun. The record’s country-tinged anomaly may not have been a single, but it sure turned out to be a deeply loved, radio-friendly classic and a signature Breeders song—their second most popular track on Spotify, in fact, between “Cannonball” and “One Divine Hammer.”
It’s a song, furthermore, that the band continue to wheel out for significant public appearances, recognizing it as a towering presence in their catalog. They performed it in bed for Bedstock 2017 in support of MyMusicRx. They also played it in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lobby in September 2023, to console a few hundred people when forced to cut short their “Rock Hall Live” outdoor show due to a storm. Kim Deal wrapped her uniquely dirty-pretty voice around it for the thousandth time. Jim Macpherson tapped along on a nearby surface. Kelly Deal broke off her inaudible guitar plucking to play the solos on her phone. And Kim joked that she’s like Stevie Wonder, the whole thing being a funny, intimate, shambolic delight—shared on YouTube—that was nothing short of quintessential Breeders.
But here’s a thing:
- The Breeders did not write the song. That’s according to @carriebradleyneves1839, who was quick to affix to the Rock Hall YouTube clip: “Words and music by Dom Leone and Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, published by Buck Tempo, copyright 1989.”
And here’s a bigger thing:
- It’s a cover. That’s contrary to cover-song oracle SecondHandSongs, which notes “Steve Hickoff, Dom Leone” as the writers, but stamps “Original” on the Breeders release of August 30 1993.
So what’s the unofficial story of the perky yet strangely melancholy strummer that the Breeders made famous?