Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Buffet’

The Freedom of Music: Parrothead Party

September 18th, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Summer is in the rear-view mirror, labour day a few weeks past and the kids back to school. The work week, just weeks ago shorter, whether by shaving a few hours off the Friday or grabbing a day off mid-week to enjoy the few months of warm sun we Canadians get, is now back to full. sidebar-1

In July I made the long drive to New York, spending a day at some favourite haunts, and returning two days later for a concert in Toronto. Arriving at Ontario Place half hour before curtain-up, the parking lot was full of people in colourful shirts, bird hats and sandals. The beer was flowing freely, and at the entrance to Ontario Place there was a massive stack of plastic beer cups, confiscated on the way into the park.

Jimmy Buffet was in town, and a Parrothead Party was on.
For the uninitiated, Jimmy Buffet is a singer who’s songs are a mix of folk, rock, country and calypso. It is somewhat unique, and being based on Caribbean sounds, it runs on themes of drinking, sailing and the beach (his 4 CD boxset was subdivided into 4 types of songs: Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads). His songs are very well crafted – Buffet is writer enough that he has written a book of short stories, two novels and an autobiography each of them good – and their summer themes resonate with his fans.

The fans show up en-masse at his shows in beach attire: Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts and hats decorated with colourful parrots or drinking paraphernalia (socks are virtually verboten). His concerts are an event as much as a show, and the fans are as much a part of the show as they are with any performer. Buffet, for his part, is the consummate performer, always playing his big hits, offering a minimal amount of new or unknown material. He is known to say mid-show, it’s his job, and a great job it is, to play the songs the fans want to hear.

In a list this summer of top ten boating songs by the American recreational boating industry’s awareness program, Discover Boating, Jimmy Buffet had two of the top five songs:

  1. A Pirate Looks at 40 – Jimmy Buffet
  2. Come Sail Away – Styx
  3. Redneck Yacht Club – Craig Morgan
  4. Southern Cross – Crosby Stills & Nash
  5. It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson

Of those five songs two are Buffet songs and another, Southern Cross, has been a concert staple for years. And the second Buffet song, It’s Five O’CLock Somewhere is really a drinking song. A Buffet fan could easily produce better sailing songs: Son of a Son of a Sailor, Fins or One Particular Harbour.

That aside it’s true, as far as it goes, that if your throwing a beach party or cruising in a boat, Jimmy Buffet is the perfect companion. But you don’t maintain a 40-year career singing Margaritaville every night. Buffet is a craftsman when it comes to song writing, offering up some of the nicest songs wrapped around the poetic ideas of travel, beaches and blue water. Take, for example, the number one song on the above list.

A Pirate Looks at 40 is the story of a modern day pirate, sailing the seas in search of a reason d’etre:

Mother mother Ocean, I have heard your call.
Wanted to sail upon your water, since I was three feet tall,
You’v seen it all. You’ve seen it all.

Watched the men who rode you, switch from sails to steam.
And in your belly you hold the treasures few have ever seen.
Most of ’em dreams. Most of ’em dreams.

Yes I am a pirate, 200 years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over 40 victim of fate
Arriving too late. Arriving too late.

I’ve done a bit of smuggling,
I’ve run my share of grass,
I’ve made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast.
It‘s never meant to last. Never meant to last…

Mother mother Ocean, after all these years I’ve found.
Occupational hazard be my occupations just not around
Feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown.

It’s pretty, it’s poignant, and it’s great song writing. Buffet’s catalogue is full of great songs, always in the storytelling tradition. He Went to Paris chronicles a life lived, happily and tragically; Son of a Son of a Sailor chronicles his family tree; Jamaica Mistaka tells the true story of his sea plane being shot down, mistaken for a dug runner, by Jamaican Authorities.

False Echoes is among Buffets finest pieces. By the mid 1990’s, his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s, the horrible brain disease that robs it’s victim of memory. The song tells the story of his father’s life, beginning with his birth:

The skies over Cuba, pink with the light.
And the waterfront ritual, began to ignite.
All the ships in the harbour, were warmed by the sun.
Twenty-fifth of November, 1921.

On the old Chicamauga, the signal jacks flew.
The signals they spelled out, caused a great bally hoo.
Every ship in Havana, then hoisted away.
All the pennants were flying, for my dad’s first birthday.

In the chorus, Buffet returns to the here and now, his dad suffering mid-stage Alzheimer’s. If you have ever had a loved one suffering with it, you‘ll recognize the stage where long term memory seems so vivid and now, short term memory, gone:

Enduring echoes, call out from his past.
Time ain’t for saving, no time’s not for that.
Chasing false echoes like a lost legionnaire,
He waltzes on memories, while he fades like a flare.

Jimmy Buffet is the ultimate summer concert experience, but when your looking for music that going to touch you deeper, that’s actually Buffet’s strength. Wanna know how to sustain a 40 year career? Bring them in the door with Margaritaville, then give them Pirate Looks at 40. Great song writing will work every time.

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Cool for Cats Friday: Boats Beaches Bars and Ballads

September 16th, 2011
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Here’s a sneak preview of what I write about in this weeks Freedom of Music. Bottom line thesis, there’s more to Jimmy Buffet than Margaritaville and drunk fans.

Ballad: False Echoes, a song about his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time he wrote it.

Boats: This is a gorgeous song, one of my all time favourites and Discover Boatings #1 boating song.

Beach: the beach Buffet called home for a long time was the Florida Keys, and what better way to celebrate the keys but Lauren Becall, just because she made the movie Key Largo a must watch movie:


Bars: since we’re on the subject of Bogie movies, “of all the gin joints, in all the towns…”


Was there ever a more beautiful woman than Ingrid Bergman?

Of course, we can’t finish a Jimmy Buffet post without his most known beach and bar song, Margaritaville, at my favourite beach, Manhattan:

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Cool For Cats Friday.

May 6th, 2011
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It turns out I’ve been married for 20 years. Seems strange that someone so young, fit and with such a nice full head of hair could be old enough to be married so long, but I have been. And lady Hespeler, who honestly looks the same as when I met her, how she could be married 20 years is beyond my limited imagination. Where does the time go anyway?

For our anniversary, we are off to Paris for a celebration in style (or a holiday on the cheap – your choice). (**warning: if you are thinking, “oh good, now I can go and rob the Hespeler towers,” think again. I have left an attack mother-in-law behind. Seriously, you want to wait until I get back).

As my anniversary gift, the Lady Hespeler got me a pair of tickets to see Jimmy Buffet when he rolls into Toronto. In honour of Jimmy Buffet and Paris, here is “He Went to Paris.”

I used to sing my daughter to sleep with that song, followed by Tom Cochrane’s Avenue A:

You know, the daughter would love to go to Juilliard (and Paris). Makes you wonder how much they absorb.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: Like A Rockstar Edition

January 29th, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorLast year Bob Seger suggested on a Detroit radio show that a fall tour was in the works. The fall shows never happened, apparently because Seger put the kibosh on them at the last minute. This year he surprised his people by telling them, reschedule for the spring.

Seger will be hitting select venues in select cities with the Silver Bullet Band, working 30 – 40 dates around drummer Don Brewer’s schedule. Reportedly he will be playing classic Bob Seger music as well as songs from a new, unreleased, unfinished album.

fluffincolorWhen Bob Seger hit’s the stage, he should take to heart the warning that Jimmy Buffet provides: Buffet was unconscious for ten minutes and spent a couple of days in hospital after falling off the stage in Sydney Australia this week.

Buffet stepped to the front of the stage at the Hordern Pavilion and misjudged where the stage ended, falling 30 feet to the concrete floor below. No word on whether the little birdies circling Buffets head were flying clockwise or anti-clockwise

fluffincolorRock star rumble: In an article in Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, Robert Plant, justifying his choice to make mediocre adult contemporary instead of reuniting with his old mates, Led Zeppelin, said:

There’s nothing worse than a bunch of jaded old farts, people who have written their story… I don’t deal in that, and I don’t deal in people who deal in that.

Who could he be calling out here? I’m sure we could all think of a few names, but Alice Cooper wouldn’t have been one.

None the less, step right up, Alice Cooper:

Jimmy Page wants to do it. John Paul Jones wants to do it. And they got Bonham’s son, who is a killer drummer. All they need is Robert Plant. But what is Robert Plant out there doing? Playing folk music! What is he doing?

Careful Robert, he’s got a snake.

fluffincolorMotley Crue singer Vince Neil was sentenced to 15 days house arrest Wednesday after pleading guilty to DUI. He was arrested for driving his Lamborghini 60MPH in a 40 zone in Los Vegas last June, and found to be over the legal alcohol limit. And Wednesday was a good day for Neil this week.

By Friday, reports had surfaced that Neil is being investigated for up to $1Million tax evasion.

Tax evasion is no 60 in a 40 zone, as Wesley Snipes can testify.

fluffincolorNot a rock star, but Charlie Sheen think he is one. This week Sheen went on yet another bender, this one ending with TV’s highest paid actor in the hospital. Very Rock Star.

His hospital stay is being reported as a hernia, which is, alas, very not rock star. Sorry Charlie.

fluffincolorShe may not be a rock star, but she plays the daughter of one on TV. And now, for the second year running, Miley Cyrus is listed as AOL’s’s “worst celebrity influence.”

See Charlie, that’s how Rock Stars do it.

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