Garage Sale Vinyl
Garage Sale Vinyl: Jimmy Buffett

Garage Sale Vinyl: Jimmy Buffett

Son of a Son of a Sailor / ABC Dunhill / March 1978

In 1978, it was downright dangerous to be “out” as a KISS fan at my beachside Florida high school. Why? Well, us five “KISS Freaks” were shamed AND outnumbered by “Buffett Bullies,” 300 to 1 — literally. Ironically, unbeknownst to the varsity first-stringers and the pompom princesses, I actually loved Jimmy Buffett more than they did.

As a rock-crazed teenager, I found Jimmy Buffett’s musical portraits appealing, for sure. His palette had a wider array of colors than many of his contemporaries, and he used ‘em all. Sometimes he’d even mix a few paints together to create something really intriguing.

But for a young, aspiring scribbler, Buffett was particularly inspiring. He wasn’t merely a gifted songwriter, he was a master storyteller. He possessed a well-known zest for living, he was well-traveled, and his subsequent life experiences were massive. Through his compelling tales, Jimmy Buffett took me to faraway places and introduced me to fascinating characters. For a 15-year-old who’d not yet gone anywhere beyond “third base,” Buffett was an incredible tour guide, an effective communicator, and a qualified teacher — sort of a sunnier Ernest Hemingway.

Last weekend, I attended a standup comedy show near my swanky Cocoa Beach abode. It was just two nights after Buffett’s shocking and heartbreaking passing. Oddly, the show was being held inside a retro-themed thrift-type joint. While waiting for the show’s 8 pm commencement, I perused the shop’s near-endless bins of used records. Still feeling the sting of the recent tragic news, I thought I’d check to see if there were any Buffett titles still in stock. And there it was — a pristine vinyl copy of my all-time favorite Buffett release, Son of a Son of a Sailor.

Son of a Son of a Sailor, ABC Dunhill, March 1978
photo by Christopher Long
Son of a Son of a Sailor, ABC Dunhill, March 1978

Naturally, I’d bought the LP when it was released initially during the spring of ‘78. Where that copy is now, I have no idea. Sometime later, I purchased it again on CD. Then from iTunes. Then I discovered this used vinyl copy. In the dimly lit thrift shop that night, I couldn’t make out the hand-written price on the little sticker pasted on the protective plastic outer sleeve. “How much?” I asked the tattooed cutie pie working the register. “Ten bucks,” she replied. “SOLD,” I fired back. “Do you take cash?’

Overseen by acclaimed producer Norbert Putnam, Son of a Sailor was Buffett’s eighth studio effort. From the magical maritime authenticity of the title track, to the high-octane confessions of “Fool Button,” to the signature-style humor of the Top 40 single “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” the ten-song set found Buffett navigating his ship at full throttle.

Written and released at a time when male musicians “engaging” underaged girls was accepted, even expected, “Livingston Saturday Night” was a robust, braggadocious rocker, while “Cowboy in the Jungle” was a blameless, paint-mixing highlight.

Despite Buffett’s cemented songwriting cred, two of the record’s notable, familiar-feeling tunes actually were outsourced, as “The Last Line” and “Coast of Marseilles” came courtesy of celebrated singer / songwriter Keith Sykes.

One of the things I admired most about Buffett was his ability to keep his thumb placed firmly on the pulse of current pop culture. As a result, many of his most endearing tunes serve as vivid snapshots of the era. In that regard, “Mañana” remains a perfect Polaroid, circa ‘78 — And I hope Anita Bryant never ever does one of my songs!

But it was the record’s epic finale, “African Friend,” that truly captivated me as a kid. And for a fella who continues pursuing various writing endeavors, it’s personally inspirational to this day — an extraordinary example of Jimmy Buffett at his poetic apex.

In the spirit of total transparency, I gotta say that 45 years later, Jimmy Buffett’s records, especially Son of a Son of a Sailor speak to me louder than the KISS albums that “Biff” used to beat me up over. Sail on, Captain!

(5/5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Son of a Son of a Sailor, ABC Dunhill, March 1978
photo by Christopher Long
Son of a Son of a Sailor, ABC Dunhill, March 1978

Son of a Son of a Sailor Track List

SIDE ONE

  1. Son of a Son of a Sailor (Buffett) – 3:23

  1. Fool Button (Buffett) – 2:47

  1. The Last Line (Sykes) – 3:38

  1. Livingston Saturday Night (Buffett) – 3:09

  1. Cheeseburger in Paradise (Buffett) – 2:51

SIDE TWO

  1. Coast of Marseilles (Sykes) – 5:02

  1. Cowboy in the Jungle (Buffett) – 5:06

  1. Mañana (Buffett) – 4:00

  1. African Friend (Buffett) – 4:21

Jimmy Buffett


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