When you get a group of Old 97’s fans together, one topic of conversation inevitably comes up: Rhett’s hair. But you’ll also find a good bit of interest in the contents of the ultimate “intro to the Old 97’s” mix tape. (CD, probably, but it’ll always be a mix tape to me.) This is understandable, since most Old 97’s fans tend to be a bit evangelical, if you know what I mean.

I myself have put together a good dozen or more of these over the years. So I thought I’d share the perfect formula to increase your chances of converting the unenlightened masses out there.

1.  Niteclub. Lots of people will disagree with this one. They’re all wrong. It’s the perfect opener. The piano lulls the listener into this false sense of comfort. Hmmm, what’s this? Oh, how nice. And then, BAM. All four fellas kick in at once, with an avalanche of raw power. If you can’t smell stale beer by the chorus, you’ve never been in a bar.

2. Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You.) The second spot is always where the latest single goes.

3.  Rollerskate Skinny. The hit song that should have been.

4. Murder (or a Heart Attack.) I wouldn’t protest if you wanted to put Barrier Reef here. But you have to respect the 4th track. It’s batting cleanup. It’s often the point where the listener bails on the mix, and later when you ask they’ll just say “yeah it was nice.” We’re not going for nice here. We’re going for the jugular. Murder or Barrier Reef. One of the two.

5. Barrier Reef or Murder. What, you thought we’d just leave the other one off?

6. WoBeHoNoMo or Dance With Me. Again, cater to the recipient’s tastes. You do know his/her tastes, don’t you?

7. This one’s wide open. If I’ve left out a song you think is crucial, put it here. If it’s me, I’m going with either My Two Feet or Bel Air, probably.  Sometimes Jagged calls to me.

8. Cover song. They made it this far, reward them with a hint of familiarity. Anything from the Mimeograph EP will work. Though for the right recipient, Mama Tried works well too.

9. Slow song time. For the female recipient, Question. Male, Wish the Worst or Salome. Maybe something from TGTV1, if you’re ready for that. Either way, it’s a short two-song reprieve before we start building to the finale.

10. Valentine. An argument can be made for one of several peaceful Murry tunes, but why would you want to go there? Here is good.

11. A rocker. Your choice here, but you’ve got to shock them out of that Valentine headspace. Four Leaf Clover, Melt Show, State of Texas, Doreen, Over the Cliff — just have fun with it.

12.  Fast Murry song. Smokers or Can’t Get a Line. Building to the big ending here. Playtime’s over.

13. Big Brown Eyes. TFTC version. I’ve got issues. Yeah.

14. Timebomb. If  I have to explain this to you, you don’t get to make a mix tape. You need to attend a few more live shows first. Go on, now.

And there you have it. It’s painful to leave out so many good songs. But the beauty of it is, you can always make a sequel with all the songs you had to cut. Your friend will appreciate it. And maybe at the next show, you’ll have someone to fetch you a beer so you don’t lose your spot up front.