Label: MCA and Mailboat Records
Horn Arrangements by: Amy Lee, John Lovell and Tom Mitchell
Engineered by: Alan Schulman & Chris Stone
Studio Manager, Crew Chief, Drums, Percussion & Steel Drum Tech: J.L. Jamison
Mixed at 17 Grand Studio in Nashville, TN
Ralph MacDonald appears courtesy of Antisa Records
Design & art direction: Kosh
Where is Margaritaville?
It’s in the tropics somewhere between the Port of Indecision and Southwest of Disorder, but no parallels of latitude of longitude mark the spot exactly. You don’t have to be a navigator to get there. Palm trees provide the camouflage. Ocean breezes bring the seaplanes are not required. Island music rules. No waiting in lines for anything. There is a beach and a thatched roof bar perched on the edge of the turquoise sea where you can always find a barstool. There are lots of lies and loads of stores.
Where is Margaritaville? Follow this album into your player and you’ll be transported there.
A New Coat of Paint On Some Old Favorites
I arrived in Key West yesterday afternoon from a week in Panama to begin tracking for this album. The band came in later from Nashville and New York. It is good to be working again in Key West at Shrimpboat Sound. The neighborhood has become a little more upscale but the funk is till in the ‘boat.
In The Shelter
Savannah Jane actually came up with the idea to do this old song with a reggae arrangement. Nice call, Savvy!
Son of a Son of a Sailor
Well, time to visit an old friend. This song first appeared back in ’78 on the album of the same name. The thing I remember most about doing that album was doing to cover. That was back when covers had budgets like albums, and we of course didn’t care that they charged the whole goddamn expense of the session back to me. Fortunately, I got a little smarter after that. My daughter shot some of the photographs for this package with her digital camera. We took the money we saved from not having to do a fancy photo shoot and bought some fancy wine. See how smart you get when you get older. P.S. This is still one of my favorite songs.
In approaching this type of collection, it is a unique thing to find yourself re-doing your own material. Joseph Campbell said that good myth is like an old car that was built to last. It just needs a good coat of paint every coupe of years. We have been playing this song like for a good number of years and after a few passes, I think it was Ralph who suggested that we “let it breathe”. It worked. As I sang the song for the ten thousandth time ( I am not complaining), it was like singing a new song, and I found myself able to not just sing, but to tell the story.
This song is about family and a seafaring heritage that I was lucky enough to be born into. I recently visited the family cemetery in Pascagoula when my aunt died. I hadn’t been there since my grandfather’s death over thirty years ago. The first thing that I noticed was that there were a lot more dead Buffett’s in the plot then when I was last there. It was a more than suitable reminder that life is not a rehearsal. We only get to do this once.
I think this song has held up because it is a story about real people who I knew very well – my grandfather and my father. I have been lucky enough to sail a few boats across numerous oceans and I think it is wonderful to be back in Key West singing sailing songs again. For me, that is what re-doing these songs is all about. Putting that fresh coat of paint on a good old legend.
I have always wanted to re-cut this song. When it was originally done, I didn’t even have a band, much less a horn section; and on the original recording, the arrangement that I wrote for the song featured the most predictable spot for a baritone solo, which came after the line “big baritones,” etc, etc. For some reason, my producer at the time filled the hole with a bass solo. It never really worked for me, so not, thirty years later, we did our horn solo as God intended it. We decided to re-work this arrangement and take it to New Orleans where it should have been all along. What a fun new groove! I added a little old Stratocaster rhythm direct into the amp like the old days. Hell, we all want to be Keith Richards every once and awhile.
Sail on Sailor
I always liked the Holland album and especially this song. Maybe it was because it was partially written by a fellow Mississippian – Van Dyke Parks. It has lived like a lot of songs in my subconscious for a long time. Then the other day, I am in buying some wax from Rick Wentley at the Boys Club Surf Shop in Palm Beach and he says “You ought to cut “Sail On Sailor,” and he lends me his vinyl copy of the album. I took it to my surf shack, put it on my record player (yes, a real record player), and sat back and listened. Next step was to download the chords and the lyrics from some Brian Wilson internet site. Now that is how you mix technology.
Recording is a team effort just like a sport, and there are levels of performance. I am blessed to be working with real pros. Everybody in this band is capable of producing a record and playing way beyond what is required of the material, yet the magic lies in collaboration and innovation. I remember standing in this studio a couple of years ago and watching in amazement as Brian Wilson recorded his vocal tracks for a song we wrote together called “South American”. I will not reveal the secret of that Beach Boys’ sound that I was lucky enough to witness, but I can tell you that it was innovative when they first did it and it still works today. So here we are trying to do another Beach Boys song.
This has always been one of my favorite songs by one of my heroes, Fred Neil. “Goin’ where the weather suits my cloths” to me is one of the best song lines ever written. However, as we start to run it down, we take it a little more to a Bossa Nova feel. I have always done this song straight-forward, the way I heard Fred do it and how Jerry Jeff Walker taught it to me, but this fresh coat of Brazilian paint feels pretty good.
He Went To Paris
I never get tired of hearing Mac McAnnaly play acoustic guitar, and I wanted to try this song much simpler than it was originally recorded, and with Jim Mayer playing acoustic bass. Don’t tell anybody, but we are a folk trio for this tune. This is our Kingston Trio version of “He Went To Paris”.
Knees of My Heart
This song is about Lent and confession. It seems more often than not in my life, I have been looking for a little forgiveness.
The Captain and the Kid
This came out amazing. I was singing this song of family for my dad, who isn’t doing too well these days. I got quite emotional. We did it with just a piano and bass. It seems to be a worthy tribute to my old man.
Heading home as the sun was setting, I thought to myself that there really isn’t any other reason to make a record anywhere else. Shrimpboat Sound is cranking again and hopefully the music will never stop. Key West floats on the horizon and the flying fish are leading the way home. Ain’t life grand? If there is one thing, it’s that I have a few more stories to tell and a few more trips to the coastal confessional in my future.
Jimmy, With a Capital L
Who is the man still building on a thirty-year career, with forty greatest hits you never heard on the radio? How does he pack major concert venues coast-to-coast? Magnetism? Has he case a spell on his audience?
It’s more like he’s given his listeners an incentive to dream.
Here’s the story: His command post is a beach hammock between two palm trees with a sunrise to on side, a heart-stopping sunset on the other. He’s navigating a traditional schooner, piloting a Cessna Caravan floatplane. Or wandering the Bahamas’ Out Islands in search of historic lighthouses. He is burning up a laptop with a 90,000-word novel. Bringing 40,000 people to their feet within the first ten seconds of a song called “Fins”.
From time to time, all of this is true.
People have called him a tropical troubadour, a balladeer with a country feel, and easy rocker with a Caribbean beak beat. None of that captures it. He’s always been impossible to classify, in his music and lifestyle. Author P.J. O’Rourke once described him as a “one-man Spring Break”. Even Jimmy has trouble defining himself. In A Pirate Looks At Fifty he told his like story in 400 words, then thought again and wrote 400 pages. Where did that get him? He is one of six authors in the history of the New York Times Best-Seller Lists to have had Number One Best-Sellers in both fiction and Non-Fiction, Two others were Steinbeck and Hemingway.
Spinng tales has always been his glory. He basks in a storybook existence, living a future lyric. Call his songs fictional poetry, his vignettes musical short stories, his actors true characters, and all of it more than believable.
What kind of life does he lead in this new century?
Buffett has learned well from the hectic rock and roll trail. He approaches every day as a blank slate that must overflow. Jimmy’s lifestyle absorbs his natural surroundings, family, friends, work, books, travel, art, food, and fun, and layers it with social responsibility. He’s out there paying attention so his lyrics can reflect the world around us all. Always bubbling under the surface is a gleeful stroke of off-the-wall behavior, spontaneity and a reminder to kick butt because we’re only here for a little while. To him, it’s Life, capital L.
Here’s the real inside stuff. Jimmy secretly enjoys taking care of business. He’s been that way since before “Margaritaville” hit the charts a quarter century ago. Amidst the rock craziness of the late seventies, Jimmy would hide in hotel rooms to organize receipts and invoices, fearful that someone might catch him in the act, might tarnish his already-growing party image. But if he hadn’t done drudge-work through all these years, he might have wound up a one-hot wonder, getting by on a bushel of re-written memories. Instead, he gets to host three dozen of the best parties in the nation each year. His concerts are legendary inside the music business and out in the world of fans.
Who is that audience? Grandmothers, who first heard Jimmy while in college; high school seniors whose parents taught them to read by coaxing them through “Jolly Mon”; business leaders who ever though they would ever work at a nine-to-five gig; grade-schoolers who know that the words of many songs by heart. They are “Parrotheads”, the die-hard perennial fans, full of awe, curiosity, and humor. They are all ages, brought by word of mouth, because over the years we never saw blatant hype or anything but “take me as I am.”
Parrotheads? Surgeons in grass skirts, sorority women with huge rubber hats shaped like shark fins and cheeseburgers. They are missionaries, shocked yet secretly pleased when they find someone unaware of Buffett’s music and career. They get to draw another co-conspirator into the fold. Manufacturers of Hawaiian aloha shirts love it, for certain.
And around the world, listening? Commuters, kids doing math homework and dreaming of travel, people chartering sailboats in Kauai or St Croix, or on photo safari in Africa. Folds who might not have imagined that dream vacation had they not tuned into Jimmy.
His friends hear it every days: “You know Jimmy? You are so lucky. One time in my life, I’d just like to sit down , share a beer, and have a one-on-one for thirty minutes.” If Jimmy had shared every one of those beers and half-hour chats, he’d still be working on his third album.
Bottom line, he connects with each fan through his music, books, and lifestyle. He always finds an anecdote that guides us to optimism. For many, his songs have been a spark, guiding statements , something to take the ups and downs of our existence seriously, but not too seriously. His words, moments of self-deprecating humor, touch each of us in some new way that gives us our own insights and inspiration.
Longevity? Jimmy’s been on the road for so many years that members of his crew and band have closed out their careers, retired to fish off bridges in the Florida Keys, upstate New York , and Northern California. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s rehearsing new songs, planning his next tour.
Work your way through the stories in this two-CD set, and listen carefully. A picture is worth a thousand words? Jimmy can make you laugh and put tears in your eyes. Make you think or be silly, read a book, take a hike, or donate time or money where you think it’ll do the most good. Jimmy paints postcards in single four line stanzas. Beach scenes. Mountaintops. Far sides of the worlds.
Jimmy Buffett’s fans are dreamers who listen, then act.
Take one lesson from all of this: Embrace Life so that you too can capitalize the world.
Tom Corcoran, 2003