99 Bottles Of Beer

Songfacts®:

  • This repetitious drinking song about downing bottles of ale one by one until they're gone (that's when you "go to the store and buy some more") became a popular road trip singalong among North American school kids in the mid-20th century. It's a controversial song choice that seldom has an opportunity to be sung all the way through. Not because it encourages children to merrily embrace alcoholism, but its relentless chanting drives adult chaperones batty.

    Written by an anonymous author, the folk tune is often linked to the traditional UK nursery rhyme "Ten Green Bottles," which teaches kids to count backwards from ten by removing one bottle at a time. Unlike the American variation, the bottles aren't filled with booze, at least not overtly. It also resembles the folk song "Ninety-Nine Blue Bottles," which was first published in 1910.
  • Some variations sidestep the dilemma of kids partaking in imaginary beer. Instead of taking one down and passing it around, they count each bottle as it falls from the wall. ("If one of those bottles should happen to fall, 98 bottles of beer on the wall...")
  • American actor/comedian Andy Kaufman sang the song in its entirety during some of his stand-up routines in the '70s.
  • The Tennessee rock band Atticus recorded a live version at The Cathouse nightclub in Glasgow, Scotland. It's included on their 2001 album, Figment.
  • According to Modern Drunkard magazine, some claim the tune is actually rooted in an encryption procedure called "The Beer Bottle Cipher," created in the 1800s to protect The Order of Skull and Bones, a mysterious drinking society at Yale University.
  • Donald Byrd, a computer scientist and professor at University of Indiana Bloomington, collected and wrote several variations of the song to help teach mathematical concepts such as Euler's identity, the Fibonacci sequence, and continuum hypothesis.
  • In the 2018 short horror film 99 Bottles Of Beer, directed by Antonio Lowry Edward and Joy Y. Lin, a young man who is held captive in a basement must sing the entire song in exchange for his freedom.
  • In the 1990 movie Ghost, Patrick Swayze's character sings repetitive songs like this and "I'm Henry The VIII, I Am" to irritate a fake psychic (Whoopi Goldberg) who is reluctant to help him. The song is also featured in the 1995 fantasy comedy Casper, where it's sung by the Ghostly Trio.
  • On The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Famous" (1994), Principal Skinner and Martin are the only ones singing "99 Boxes of Bottles of Beer on the Wall" during a bus ride.
  • The Minions sing this in Despicable Me 3 (2017).

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