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  #1  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:23 AM
It's Not Rocket Surgery! It's Not Rocket Surgery! is online now
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Why is Jimmy Buffett SO successful?

I suspect I might get flamed for this, but I need to ask:

Why is Jimmy Buffett such a popular touring artist? He's had only a few hits (and only one song that would be considered an all-time classic based on airplay: "Margaritaville"), but he sells out every concert, in reasonably large venues (here in the Cincinnati area, his concerts are the the first ones to sell out every summer at Riverbend), and has a huge fanbase (Parrotheads). He even has his own satellite radio station, and a restaurant connected to his fame (Cheeseburger In Paradise).

So, what makes him a permanent tour draw over a thousand other musical acts who have had the same level of radio success? Is it that he's successfully marketed his tours as a "brand" featuring the concept of mellow music, good times and summer drinking? Is it the constant touring? Is it dumb luck? Is it just that he's gotten the same 5,000 fans who have the money and inclination to follow him around on tour, thus giving the impression he's popular in all these cities?

Dopers, Parrotheads, countrymen (and women), lend me your answers!

Last edited by It's Not Rocket Surgery!; 08-27-2009 at 10:24 AM.. Reason: Capitalization - Know it, love it.
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  #2  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:30 AM
Crotalus Crotalus is offline
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He presides over a concert experience that people really enjoy, one that has little to do with singing well or having radio hits. He is a very engaging live performer.
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  #3  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:30 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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Originally Posted by It's Not Rocket Surgery! View Post
Is it that he's successfully marketed his tours as a "brand" featuring the concept of mellow music, good times and summer drinking? Is it the constant touring?
These. He's a laid-back analog of the Grateful Dead. The Dead didn't have any Top 40 hit(s) until very late in their career, but they always sold out concerts. Jimmy tours constantly, his shows are always entertaining, the fellowship and party atmosphere is contagious, and who doesn't like dressing up and acting like a fool every once in awhile? Jimmy is also an excellent businessman. He has parlayed his musical career into an empire. Granted, it's an empire that has a lot of dross. Never buy "Margaritaville" branded anything. It's crap. But the restaurants are fun and have good food. He is also a very successful author.

silenus - Parrothead since the Key West days, when the Coral Reefer Band was just Jimmy and "Fingers" Taylor.

Last edited by silenus; 08-27-2009 at 10:33 AM..
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  #4  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:55 AM
kelly5078 kelly5078 is offline
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There's an attraction to the whole beach bum thing, much like the Dead attracted people who were into the sixties counterculture, as it was called at the time. It doesn't matter if you've never been to the beach, any more than it mattered that a lot of deadheads weren't even born when there actually was such a thing as a hippie.

That, and that he's a talented, engaging, consistent performer.
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  #5  
Old 08-27-2009, 11:07 AM
Transistor Rhythm Transistor Rhythm is offline
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Yes. It's essentially about everything but the music. Jimmy Buffet is the equivalent of a traveling amusement park or "adult playpen" like the popular Dave and Buster's chain - it's a bottled "vacation" for the average person who has sold themselves into the 9-5 existence. It's a license for prim secretaries and office schlubs to "let their hair down" and "get loose" with a lei and a marguerita.
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:14 AM
DoctorJ DoctorJ is offline
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Buffett sells a cartoonish version of debauchery that's ultimately inoffensive. His biggest fans like to think that deep down they're rascals on the high seas who get drunk on the beach and fornicate with strangers by night, even though they're cube-dwellers in Iowa with 2.5 kids and a mortgage. He lets them feel a little bit dangerous without any actual danger.

And, of course, he's written a shitload of great songs that are fun to sing along with.
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:28 PM
The_Peyote_Coyote The_Peyote_Coyote is offline
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I saw him a couple of weeks ago in Chicago, although I would not describe myself as a Parrothead.

He played a lot of well-known songs ("Fins," "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?", etc.), some songs that only his hard-coare fans would know ("Banana Republic"), a couple of new songs ("Surfing Through a Hurricane" really rocked) and a few covers like "Rocky Raccoon" and "Yellow Submarine."

He threw in a lot of references to the Chicago area.

His band included several accomplished musicians and his rapport with his audience was incredible. He is a very good showman, and I wouldn't hestitate to go to another concert.
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  #8  
Old 08-27-2009, 01:52 PM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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Do his concert-going fans mostly look like Tommy Bahama threw up on them? In my head they do.
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  #9  
Old 08-27-2009, 01:58 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Parrotheads

Parrots

Head

Me, I just dress like I usually do.
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  #10  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:11 PM
An Arky An Arky is offline
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He's a fucking hack, and his most ardent followers are numbnutted zeroes. He's popular because he's safe, or more specifically, safe faux reckless abandon schtick.

Having said that, I actually think he's got an interesting voice, is capable of writing some decent lyrics, and some of his lesser known songs are really cool.

All in all, there are definitely worse things that millions of people mysteriously like, so I don't have any real problem with him. But I'd still like to see a big circle A get spraypainted on his Hawaiian shirt, figuratively speaking.
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  #11  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:21 PM
Zakalwe Zakalwe is offline
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Originally Posted by An Arky View Post
Having said that, I actually think he's got an interesting voice, is capable of writing some decent lyrics, and some of his lesser known songs are really cool.
So he's got an interesting voice, he's written decent lyrics, and some of his songs are cool. How does that add up to "fucking hack"? The man has been writing and performing for over 40 years. Just out of curiousity, who else with that kind of record is/are fucking hacks? Stones? Beatles? Pink Floyd? Dylan? Paul Simon? Give me some context please.

To answer the OP, Jimmy is, first and foremost, a storyteller. As a storyteller, he often works through song. He is also a damn fine live entertainer. He is also, apparently, a bit of a dick when it comes to business, but hey, nobody's perfect.
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  #12  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:26 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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Parroting (heh) The Peyote Coyote, I saw him in Chicago in summer of 2002. I'm no fan, in fact I used to have a strong aversion to him since I had a college roommate who played him all the time. Usually at 3am and with a drunken accompaniment.

That said, the concert was fun and the people were obviously enjoying themselves. He was a good performer and made me like the songs despite myself. My only complaint was that he mentioned 9/11 and sang "City of New Orleans" as a tribute, mangling the lyrics in a couple places. My complaint was the mangling, not the 9/11 mention or tribute.
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  #13  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:39 PM
appleciders appleciders is offline
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So he's got an interesting voice, he's written decent lyrics, and some of his songs are cool. How does that add up to "fucking hack"? The man has been writing and performing for over 40 years. Just out of curiousity, who else with that kind of record is/are fucking hacks? Stones? Beatles? Pink Floyd? Dylan? Paul Simon? Give me some context please.
I wouldn't call him a hack, but I have some of the same feelings as An Arky, so I'll jump in.

I really hate the faux-Caribbean beach bum attitude, and I really dislike many of his well-known songs like "Margaritaville", "Fins", and "Cheeseburger in Paradise". I also think that many of his fans are purely buying into that beach bum image (though I'm not equating those who wear costumes to those who buy into the image; I enjoy a good ridiculous costume for the sake of absurdity myself). And it's definitely a money-making operation, though that's no sin. But I do think that when he gets away from the attitude, he's a talented musician and performer; I really like his album Barometer Soup, which has more music and less attitude.
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  #14  
Old 08-27-2009, 02:41 PM
joebuck20 joebuck20 is offline
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You could say the same thing of the Grateful Dead. The only song of their's that ever made it into the top 10 of the Billboard 100 was Touch of Grey, which doesn't even really sound like a Grateful Dead Song. They also had a few hits on Billboard's other charts like Mainstream Rock and Adult Contemporary, but the songs their fans most associate with them, Sugar Magnolia and Truckin' only made it respectively to 91 and 64 on the Billboard 100.
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Old 08-27-2009, 02:47 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Me, I just dress like I usually do.
The goggles -- they do nothing!
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  #16  
Old 08-27-2009, 03:03 PM
buttonjockey308 buttonjockey308 is offline
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Ditto DoctorJ and, as a mid-level parrothead who has yet to attend a show but listens to them on sat. radio, Buffett sells escape on CD. I like his music because you can sing along with it, without having any real musical talent and be fairly good.

However, I think he's a snore of an author. I tried to read A Salty Piece of Land on an actual beach where he actually goes (in the Netherlands Antilles) and it put me to sleep. I think he's a shrewd businessman and a force in the music industry despite his lack of so-called 'hits' and classification of his music (is it country? Rock? Folk?). He succeeds because what he puts out there is harmless but takes enough of a stand that it makes people believe. Look up "A Lot to Drink About". That's his most recent political song and though he smears just about everybody, he does it with a merry word and rhythm, soft southern charm and happily slips your money out of your pocket while you're singing his song.
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  #17  
Old 08-27-2009, 03:08 PM
Hippy Hollow Hippy Hollow is offline
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Are there sizable numbers of Black Parrotheads? I remember when I was teaching, I had a posse of colleagues who were middle-class kids from the 'burbs. We were grilling something one day, and "Margaritaville" came on the radio and they all freaked out and sang along. Thus I learned of the Jimmy Buffett stranglehold on White, middle-class culture. I mean, I've literally heard "Margaritaville" on the radio a handful of times, never once heard another one of his songs, but all of these kids - whether they were into hip-hop, reggae, or rock - knew Buffett and thought he was the shit.

This should be listed on "Stuff White People Like," alongside the Violent Femmes, Dave Matthews, and the Eagles.
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  #18  
Old 08-27-2009, 03:21 PM
An Arky An Arky is offline
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Originally Posted by Zakalwe View Post
So he's got an interesting voice, he's written decent lyrics, and some of his songs are cool. How does that add up to "fucking hack"? The man has been writing and performing for over 40 years. Just out of curiousity, who else with that kind of record is/are fucking hacks? Stones? Beatles? Pink Floyd? Dylan? Paul Simon? Give me some context please.

To answer the OP, Jimmy is, first and foremost, a storyteller. As a storyteller, he often works through song. He is also a damn fine live entertainer. He is also, apparently, a bit of a dick when it comes to business, but hey, nobody's perfect.
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Originally Posted by appleciders View Post
I wouldn't call him a hack, but I have some of the same feelings as An Arky, so I'll jump in.

I really hate the faux-Caribbean beach bum attitude, and I really dislike many of his well-known songs like "Margaritaville", "Fins", and "Cheeseburger in Paradise". I also think that many of his fans are purely buying into that beach bum image (though I'm not equating those who wear costumes to those who buy into the image; I enjoy a good ridiculous costume for the sake of absurdity myself). And it's definitely a money-making operation, though that's no sin. But I do think that when he gets away from the attitude, he's a talented musician and performer; I really like his album Barometer Soup, which has more music and less attitude.

That's about the context. I know calling him a fucking hack sounds bad, but I say that about a lot of artists, even ones I like, if they're like that (out there schlepping the same schtick ad infinitum)...
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  #19  
Old 08-27-2009, 03:32 PM
Stana Claus Stana Claus is offline
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Well, I was a college student in Mobile, AL back in the day when Buffet was just getting started. He was still unknown enough that he played the local bars on a pretty regular basis and I came to enjoy his music. I still enjoy his old songs, mostly in a nostalgic flashback sort of way, but I absolutely refuse to go to one of his concerts these days. If I'm going to pay good money to attend a musical event, I want to hear the performer perform, not some unruly mob of inebriated strangers who insist on singing along with every damn song. And while I'm at it, you kids get off my lawn!
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Old 08-27-2009, 04:00 PM
Jamicat Jamicat is offline
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Well for one thing he started back when singers and song writers were en' vogue.
No one else did calypso type music, cept' maybe the reggae stuff was close.
A lot of people go to the Beach for Vacation and that's what is usually playing on a jukebox someplace in a corner.
He never stop touring for 40 years, I guess, I don't keep track.

Personally I don't like it. Well, that "Come Monday" song is OK, cause it's normal music.

I live on the Beach and have to hear it all the time, and anytime I played someplace, they ask for Buffet, I wouldn't play it. Owners get Mad and don't hire me again...Oh Well.

Nothing wrong hearing and old tune on occasion but...

Some people twitch and get mean when they don't get their Buffet. Especially when it's half price Margarita Night.

Last edited by Jamicat; 08-27-2009 at 04:03 PM..
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  #21  
Old 08-27-2009, 04:07 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Some people twitch and get mean when they don't get their Buffet.
Me, for one. I get real upset if I've paid for the buffet and don't get to eat it.

I've also been buffeted at a Buffett concert. But I've never been buffeted at a buffet for some reason.
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  #22  
Old 08-27-2009, 04:28 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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Because people feel they can get drunk to his performance. People love booze, and when they hear Buffett it gives them a chance to get loaded and say "Hey I'm just having fun."
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  #23  
Old 08-27-2009, 05:28 PM
Sitnam Sitnam is offline
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pot
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  #24  
Old 08-27-2009, 06:25 PM
Southern Yankee Southern Yankee is offline
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It's escapism. Most of the points have been made already, but there are lots of people who want to be on the beach when they can't be, and his music makes you feel like you're there. I think he writes some great songs with clever lyrics, many of which are less known than his bigger hits. Floridays is one of my favorite CDs.
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  #25  
Old 08-27-2009, 08:50 PM
ctywkr ctywkr is offline
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silenus - Parrothead since the Key West days, when the Coral Reefer Band was just Jimmy and "Fingers" Taylor.
Well, that explains the shirts!!
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  #26  
Old 08-27-2009, 09:11 PM
Unintentionally Blank Unintentionally Blank is offline
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It must be cool to slam something other people like. You don't like Buffett, therefore he must suck, and by extension, so does his audience. You know...kinda like comic book guy.

Buffett has found a niche. And without catering to the music industry he's leveraged that niche into quite the empire. I can't say anything about his blender (my goal used to be to buy a cheap blender, and wear it out before the end of the summer), but Margaritaville mix is great, and his restaurant on the Vegas Strip is a required visit every time I'm there. Their top shelf Marg and the cheeseburger in paradise taste better there than they have any right to.

Is he my favorite musician? Nope. But there are times where the only thing that'll scratch that certain itch is Buffett.

We used to go to his concerts here in Denver, we'd get general seating on the lawn. I'd be amazed that we'd show up 90 minutes before tickets were on sale, be sixth in line, and 12 people in line would get tickets before they sold out. Took, like, 15 minutes.

The last concert we vowed that the next one we'd get normal seating as we'd get crushed and stood on just as soon as the concert started.

Still. I like his stuff, don't blame him for his successes, and think the world's better for him being here.
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  #27  
Old 08-27-2009, 09:22 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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I saw him around 1987 and the place was 1/2 full ( ~10k people) , that was before he hit it big. Not long after that he would come to town and sell out 3 nights - 60,000 tickets. I always wonder what changed for him in that time span.
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  #28  
Old 08-27-2009, 09:24 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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and his restaurant on the Vegas Strip is a required visit every time I'm there. Their top shelf Marg and the cheeseburger in paradise taste better there than they have any right to.
Have you ever stopped by for breakfast? Their French Quarter omelet is my favorite way to start the day. A 3 egg omelet made with andouille sausage and topped with a jambalaya sauce that has just the right amount of snap. One of those with a cup of coffee and a Bloody Mary and I'm ready to face another day in Paradise.
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  #29  
Old 08-27-2009, 09:54 PM
gonzomax gonzomax is offline
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My Timeshare in Key West used to be his home when he lived there. I have been to Parrothead Fests . They shut down Duvall Street and erect a stage. From noon on there are singers doing mostly his songs. The Parotheads have a great time singing and drinking. With some regularity , he shows up and sings a set or two. It is harmless fun . There is no reason to be mean to him or his fans.
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  #30  
Old 08-27-2009, 10:00 PM
Unintentionally Blank Unintentionally Blank is offline
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Have you ever stopped by for breakfast? Their French Quarter omelet is my favorite way to start the day. A 3 egg omelet made with andouille sausage and topped with a jambalaya sauce that has just the right amount of snap. One of those with a cup of coffee and a Bloody Mary and I'm ready to face another day in Paradise.
No, but I know what I'll be doing on my next trip.
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  #31  
Old 08-27-2009, 11:42 PM
Frostillicus Frostillicus is offline
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Jimmy Buffett has written a lot of very good songs over the years that non-Buffett fans have probably never heard of. For example:

- Pencil Thin Mustache
- The Wino and I Know
- Boat Drinks
- Tampico Trauma
- Incommunicado
- If the Phone Doesn't Ring, Its Me
- A Pirate Looks at Forty
- Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude
- The Great Filling Station Holdup

etc, etc, etc.
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  #32  
Old 08-28-2009, 12:24 AM
dogbutler dogbutler is offline
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Jimmy Buffett has written a lot of very good songs over the years that non-Buffett fans have probably never heard of. For example:

- Pencil Thin Mustache
- The Wino and I Know
- Boat Drinks
- Tampico Trauma
- Incommunicado
- If the Phone Doesn't Ring, Its Me
- A Pirate Looks at Forty
- Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude
- The Great Filling Station Holdup

etc, etc, etc.
I'd rather listen to "Peanut Butter Conspiracy " than "Maragaritaville" any day.
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Old 08-28-2009, 12:25 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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"A Pirate Looks At Forty" should be required listening for anyone "of an age."
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  #34  
Old 08-28-2009, 12:38 AM
Rick Rick is offline
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I thought it was.
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Old 08-28-2009, 01:14 AM
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... a force in the music industry despite his lack of so-called 'hits' and classification of his music (is it country? Rock? Folk?)
I've heard it called Gulf + Western.
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  #36  
Old 08-28-2009, 03:18 PM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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I saw him around 1987 and the place was 1/2 full ( ~10k people) , that was before he hit it big. Not long after that he would come to town and sell out 3 nights - 60,000 tickets. I always wonder what changed for him in that time span.
His fans started making money and could afford the tickets.
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  #37  
Old 08-28-2009, 10:25 PM
Pearson Flyer Pearson Flyer is offline
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I'm a long-time Parrothead, although I've never been to one of his concerts. His Sirius station is the default in my car, and my music collection is about 20% Buffett.

My wife doesn't like it much, but she puts up with it. I think Jimmy is just one of those singers you either love or hate.

He's got some great songs (most especially some of his lesser-known ones, my favorite being the Ballad of Spider John). Listening to his music always makes me want a vacation - to me, it's a great temporary escape from work and the everyday hassles of life. And if a musician can do that (instead of booze or what have you), I think that's a sign of a pretty successful musician, regardless of the type of stuff they're singing/playing. If the goal of music is to make you feel something, and it is, then Jimmy, to me, hits all the right notes.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:32 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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I've always said that if I ever opened a bar, it would be called "Spider John's."
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:53 PM
Frostillicus Frostillicus is offline
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I'd rather listen to "Peanut Butter Conspiracy " than "Maragaritaville" any day.
Margaritaville doesn't make my top 100 Buffett songs. And Silenus? Awesome bar name!

Last edited by Frostillicus; 08-28-2009 at 10:53 PM..
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  #40  
Old 08-28-2009, 10:58 PM
Frostillicus Frostillicus is offline
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Other great Buffett tunes:

Desperation Samba
They Don't Dance Like Carmen No More
Ballad of Spider John (thanks silenus!)
He Went to Paris
Tin Cup Chalice
Knees of my Heart
Nautical Wheelers
The Captain and the Kid (sooooo sad)
One Particular Harbor
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  #41  
Old 08-29-2009, 12:28 AM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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This should be listed on "Stuff White People Like," alongside the Violent Femmes, Dave Matthews, and the Eagles.
More specifically, like the Eagles he's "Stuff White People Who Qualify For AARP Like."
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  #42  
Old 08-29-2009, 09:52 AM
Serenata67 Serenata67 is offline
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I have yet to figure out the JB phenomenon. I don't like him at all and my fiancee loves him. She when we take road trips and let the MP3 players go, I promise him Spice Girls in exchange for no Jimmy Buffett. (Hey, I don't think the Spice Girls are musical geniuses or anything... I'm nostalgic when I listen to them. Reminds me of middle school when I didn't have any problems.)
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Old 08-29-2009, 11:24 AM
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Not a fan. I do enjoy that lifestyle, but it kind of wrecks a nice beer on a Caribbean beach when the bar has his CDs on constant rotation.

There's one song where he raps. That was a deal-breaker for me.
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  #44  
Old 08-29-2009, 11:37 AM
Martini Enfield Martini Enfield is offline
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I've never actually heard a Jimmy Buffet Song, nor have I ever met someone in this part of the world who could be described as a "Parrothead"- which surprises me, because Australia has a rich and vibrant "Beach Culture" and you'd think a guy who sings about getting drunk on the beach would be a National Icon here, even if he was an American.

Last edited by Martini Enfield; 08-29-2009 at 11:38 AM..
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  #45  
Old 08-29-2009, 12:07 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Martini, try these for an idea:

A Pirate Looks At Forty

One Particular Harbor

Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?
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Old 08-29-2009, 09:46 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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In two weeks, I'll be breakfasting at Margaritaville. I can already taste that omelet!
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  #47  
Old 08-29-2009, 10:02 PM
Martini Enfield Martini Enfield is offline
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I think the "Gulf + Western" description sums it up pretty well, actually. Not my cup of Ceylon's finest, but it's inoffensive enough and I can see how it appeals to the "working in a Mid-Western/North-East office" demographic.
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