The Story Behind “Double Nickels On The Dime”

People often wonder about the meaning of the album title Double Nickels on the Dime. The phrase refers to driving exactly 55 miles per hour.

You see, before he became the drummer for the Minutemen, George Hurley was Sammy Hagar.

And as “Sammy Hagar,” Hurley wrote and recorded a song called “I Can’t Drive 55,” which was about how much he loved to drive over the speed limit in his black Ferrari, which was a gift from SST Records founder Greg Ginn:

(At the 2:30 mark, you can see members of Black Flag start a courtroom riot.)

In fact, before they decided to call themselves the Minutemen and sing songs about Central American politics, D. Boon, Mike Watt, and George Hurley performed as “The Lamborghini Brothers,” and sang songs about their Italian sports cars:

1. “Jesus And Tequila And My Maserati Quattroporte”
2. “Political Song For My Testarossa To Sing”
3. “Working Men Are Pissed (That They Don’t Get To Ride In My Ferrari 365 GT4)”

(For more information, see the book “Our Band Could Be Your Lamborghini,” which is an oral history of the Southern California exotic-car-punk music scene.)

Anyway, when SST Records demanded that the band record a double album, the Lamborghini Brothers changed their name to the Minutemen (in honor of how long it takes to swap out a Maserati Merat’s catalytic converter) and recorded 832 songs in four days.

They initially planned to call the album Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Rice-Burners, but agreed to change the name when label-mates Saccharine Trust (an easy-listening group that had been discovered on Ed McMahon’s Star Search when Greg Ginn was a celebrity judge) took offense.

The Minutemen’s second choice for an album title was Triple Nickels on the Dime, which referred to the pleasures of driving 555 miles per hour on California’s Highway 10. But this was controversial as well, as SST band Tom Troccoli’s Dog (still one of the best-selling American groups of all time; who doesn’t own a Tom Troccoli’s Dog album?) had just released a record called We Love Driving 555 Miles Per Hour, which had shot to the top of the pop charts. The Minutemen didn’t want to risk a lawsuit.

So the band compromised and named their album Double Nickels on the Dime.

The iconic cover photo of the album features Mike Watt behind the wheel of his Lamborghini Countach. He’s smiling because he hit 55 mph in first gear.

I’ll post more true facts about this amazing record during the week.