Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
There are two things at fault for me posting a Jimmy Buffet discography.
1.) Famed poet, and generally good human, Sam Mercer posted a confession that they'd reached the point in life where they found themselves enjoying Jimmy Buffet.
2.) Two days before my body imploded in 2019, and I had to refigure my way back into my life, my mother, her husband, and I went out for a day of minigolf and dinner just outside of Universal Studios. Dinner was at Margaritaville. Despite the fact that I hadn't been cognizant of hearing a Jimmy Buffet song since 1995 (I'm sure I heard snippets here and there in groceries store and from passing cars), I knew every lyric of every song that played while we ate. And they were all, of course, Jimmy Buffet songs.
I will forever know all of them, even when riddled with dementia and confused about my husband's name.
This, I think will be a two disc journey. Possibly, a third? There are songs past Jimmy's greatest hits that I'm familiar with, and enjoy, but there are now 28 years of his music that I haven't yet been exposed to, and I, therefore, can't tell you whether or not I enjoy it. Time will tell.
But here is the album of songs that I can never forget. Whether I can blame the jukebox where I went to high school, the coworker who played Songs You Know By Heart non-stop in the summer of 1993, the coworker that convinced me to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert in 1994, or my grandfather who used to play the eight tracks of some of Buffet's 70s albums when we were on his boat (natch).
1. What, did you think I was going to start out with "Margaritaville"? Nah. We'll get there. This is the ridiculous song where Jimmy Buffet plays guitars and sings like he always sings, but when he gets to the chorus, people put their hands together over their heads to resemble shark Fins and move them to the left and the right, as if it was a dance. Look, most old white people can't clap on rhythm, and this is at close as most of them get to dancing. Let them have this.
2. I think this is the only cover on the album but Brown Eyed Girl is one of those few songs that is definitively associated with both the original artist, Van Morrison, and a particular artist, in this case Buffet, who didn't slow the tempo down or speed it up, didn't change any of the lyrics, just included some steel drums at the beginning and end, and that somehow also made it his song. I don't know how these things happen, how is "Smooth Criminal" so closely associated with both Michael Jackson and Sum 41?
3. Our first ballad on the album comes in on a slow harmonica. A Pirate Looks At Forty is a beautiful boat ballad. I don't have any snark for this. Like most of his famous slow songs, it borders on country while still having his distinctive tropic Florida flair.
4. Drunk people screaming is a good way to power out of the last track and into the very silly The Weather Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful. Right near the beginning of the song, Buffet pronounces mosquitoes in the most puzzlingly obvious ways I've ever heard. Like they're parasitical charcoal from Texas. If you asked me what this song is about at any point in my life, I wouldn't be able to tell you, but if you start playing it, I'll be able to sing along with every word. Somehow.
5. He might not be able to pronounce mosquitoes but at least he sings Manana properly. He's probably helped more white boomers learn how to properly say this word than Duolingo. This is a sweet take on the Don't Leave Me song that every balladeer rocker or country artist wrote in the 70s and 80s. At one point, he tells the band to make the song Reggae, and they are about as successful as Sting or UB40 on that front.
6. If you're ever at one of Buffet's Margaritaville restaurants, and you hear the opening strums of Volcano, be prepared for the sirens to go off, for the drunk Parrotheads to start chanting like they're at a WWE live show, and for "lava" to pour out of the faux volcano, and into the Vat of Margarita that lives behind the bar. I'm sure the rumors that the lava come from a pipe in the bathroom are just hyperbole. The song, itself, is pretty catchy, in that 70s AM sigalong way that Buffet is such a master of.
7. Love And Luck is probably the least known song on this album, if you're not a Parrothead. The beginning just reminds me so much of Toto's "Africa" that I couldn't help but love this song in high school. It veers pretty quickly into its own thing, but that familiarity, and the requisite 80s horn riff just call to me from 1984 and will not let me go.
8. When I was in high school and had to own every artist's complete discography on CD, as opposed to just having the Greatest Hits albums, even if those were the only songs I knew, Changes In Latitude, Changes In Attitudes, was the first Buffet album I bought. If we weren't all crazy, we would go insane was pretty much the slogan of the dorm I lived in.
9. The previous song just perfectly transitions into Cheeseburgers In Paradise, probably Buffet's second most well-known song. In a world where we didn't constantly reward songs about heartbreak and overcoming adversity, this ode to a very American food would probably have been a #1 hit. The breakdown is delightfully stupid.
10. Taking it down a notch, we get to Grapefruit, Juicy Fruit a ballad about chewing gum and daydreaming that sounds more tropical and breathy than it probably deserves.
11. I think I was in the midst of reading Tom Robbins's Skinny Legs and All for not the first time when I first heard When Salome Plays The Drums, which may be why I enjoy it so much. Or it's the background vocals, or the line about setting phasers to stun.
12. One Particular Harbor is very Eaglesy (Buffet did open for them near the end of their initial career). The Tahitian intro translates to Nature lives (life to nature)/Have pity for the Earth (Love the Earth). It sounds much more environmental than the navel-gazing about the meaning of time's passage English lyrics.
13. Every 80s singer songwriter has to have some love song with a very instantly dated chorus that places it solidly in the cocaine and Rubik's Cube era. Money Back Guarantee, with its, obviously, saxaphone riffs, and a reference to Ginsu knives. is Buffet's.
14. I didn't know where to put Boat Drinks for the longest time. It's one of the few Buffet songs where I can always recognize the lyrics, but can't recognize whichsong it is from the intro music. It's a weird little ditty about cabin fever that features at least the second Star Trek reference on this album.
15. And that brings us to ...drum roll, please... Margaritaville. Now the name of his tiny empire of resorts in Florida, as well as the name of his restaurants. His most famous song. The most famous song about salt. The second most famous song about tequila. The first 1970s song I ever heard that seemed to be anti-misogynist without aggressively and almost falsely being anti-misogynist. It's a nice change of pace from songs about how women are always hurting male singers' feelings.
16. Pascagoula Run is a lesser-known Buffet track about being adventurous in world travel and love. And it gives time to women being adventurous and promiscuous, too, wthout casting any judgement. It's another outlier in 70s songwriting.
17. But, you know, let's flip that well-meaningness and get into the very silly, but pro-consent Why Don't We Get Drunk. I had a coworker who had three jobs working with children, who loved Jimmy Buffet, and would always play the Songs You Know By Heart even when the kids were around. But she always sang "...IN A LIGHTBULB" after the word screw. Because promoting alcoholism to children is fine.
18. Seeing death as just being Incommunicado is a fascinatingly immature way to way approach it. Buffet talks about his reaction to the death of John Wayne, while Buffet is on a road trip, and how real people rarely day with the bravado of characters in literature and cinema.
19. The Great Filling Station Holdup can be seen as part two of Incommunicado. Buffet is still driving, but he stops at a gas station and robs it because gas is expensive. FIFTY CENTS A GALLON. Ooof. Anyhow, Buffet realizes that the haul from the gas station wasn't really worth it.
20. In the previous song, Buffet lamented he wished he was somewhere other than here. Now he wishes he had a Pencil Thin Mustache. The song is about nostalgia for childhoold, a common Gen X and Millenial theme, but his references (from a song about nostalgia written in the 70s) are soon going to be a think only nerds specializing in early-mid-20th century America trivia know. It also includes one of the only ad jingles as song lyrics you'll hear in any artist discography that I post.
21. The honkey-tonk piano leading into the 80s bright horns and guitarr rifs at the beginning of Domino College are the big draw for me. I only go back to school in nightmares. Haunted background vocals or not.
22. Son Of A Son Of A Sailor is the beginning of the cooldown to the end of the album, not that I'd call any of the songs on this album anything more than humid. It's on theme with "A Pirate Looks At Forty" as a song of self-reflection with a focus on traveling to exotic (read: non-American) places.
23. The long distant love song is a 70s/80s classic. Guaranteed to involve a pay phone reference. If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me is Buffet's take on how he can't call the one he loves and misses because he's on a boat in the ocean. Like that's his entire persona. He can't call you. Cell phones had barely been invented, and certainly didn't get any bars in the middle of the ocean.
24. Now it's time for Buffet to miss a lover who is away from him. He's not away from her. She has gone away for an entire four days, and he has a big sad about in Come Monday (no, not like that).
25. Closing out the album is Buffet's controversial bisexual anthem about how the man that he also loved has also taken some time away. He Went To Paris is a tearful reminder about how in the 70s, what happened at sea, stayed at sea. Not really. Can you imagine? It's actually about the life of a Spanish Civil War veteran who ends up living his life traveling by sea. Bob Dylan said it's one of his favorite Jimmy Buffet songs. I get that. It is a smooth way to close out this album of songs whose lyrics are embedded forever in my brain.