THE POMPITOUS OF MARGUARITAVILLE
No one would argue that Steve Miller or Jimmy Buffet is a great musician. At least, no one should. I daresay even the two crooners themselves would have to admit that they are not Pillars of Musical History. Still, everyone knows at least one song by each man. Many of us at one time probably owned an album by one or the other, or both. There is a good chance that you, Gentle Reader, have gone to a concert for one or the other, or both. But let us acknowledge that it is bad music. However, I believe it is right and just to say that Jimmy Buffet is more worthwhile to listen to than Steve Miller. I say this, despite the fact that I have never owned anything by Jimmy Buffet.
The great case of Miller v. Buffet
Some background: I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Not a cutting edge town, though the Cincinnati Zoo, Art Museum, and Playhouse in the Park are top-notch, internationally recognized institutions. The radio stations, however, have been terrible for about as long as I can remember -- in fact, when I am back in the environs that produced me, I tend to tune into the Oldies stations. In a town where the rat-tail haircut is still not an uncommon sight, it should not be a surprise that by the time I was a freshman in high school, I owned a copy of Steve Miller's Greatest Hits,. You know the one. Yeah, "The Joker" was a rocking song. Some people call me Maurice -- whhhiit whooooo, 'cause I speak for the pompitous of love. And it was cool to know when to clap and when not to clap on "Take the Money and Run." You could sing along with every single song on that album, and the radio stations certainly did their part to keep the songs in regular circulation.
Cincinnati is also Jimmy Buffet's biggest fan base. His concerts sell out there in minutes. Minutes. It's where the Parrothead movement started, with all the headware and Hawaiian shirts. It is a place where many high schoolers have their first taste of a "margarita." I think there is some addendum in the town charter that stipulates that any Cincinnati-born resident must attend a Jimmy Buffet concert at some point in life, preferably in high school, akin to the Muslim mandate that adult believers make the Hajj. My introduction to Mr. Buffet's work came in eighth grade, when for music class my friend Graeme did a dramatic reading of "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Funny stuff. (Interestingly, Graeme was named after a member of the Moody Blues.)
So, one summer in high school, it was quite natural to find myself on my way to a Jimmy Buffet concert. It was a fine time, and I remember that the previous day's rainstorm had reduced the field into a mud pit, and you could watch dancing women in white jeans slip and fall into the muck. Much of the music was forgettable. In fact, almost all of it was. But it set a nice background atmosphere as I hung out with friends. Sure, there was a group of devotees who did the whole "Fins to the left, fins to the right" bit, but for most of us, it seemed to feel like a nice summer party with a never-ending theme song.
A lot of people hate Jimmy Buffet's music. They think it worthless. While I could agree (though I find some nice poignancy in the song "Pirate Looks at Forty"), I posit that while Buffet's music may be worthless, Steve Miller's is actually detrimental. Yes, detrimental. While Buffet is a neutral shade of nothingness, Miller's music actually devolves. It moves contrary to progress, and it masquerades as some sort of good time rock 'n' roll. Bleh.
Consider the lyrics to "Swing Town." Actually, don't consider those lyrics; as they're full of "oooooooos" and "rum-pum-pums." Consider "Fly Like an Eagle." "Feed the babies who don't have enough to eat, shoe the children with no shoes on their feet, house the people living in the street, oh-oh there's a solution." What a social commentary! And that's the only verse to the song. The rest is inane chorus, framed by the insightful, "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future." So, time keeps on slipping into the future? Wow, that really puts things into perspective for me.
Look at the title to another song, "Rock'n Me." Yeah. Rock'n me. And the lyrics are what you'd expect: "I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., Northern California where the girls are warm, so I could hear my sweet baby say, 'Keep on rock'n me baby. Keep on rock'n me baby. Keep on rock'n me baby. Baby, baby, baby…keep on rock'n." Garbage. Many of his lyrics come from other artists' songs, a fact that his agent doesn't really deny. He can't even come up with original garbage -- he sifts through others', and then puts it on the table as a fresh offering. In the case of "pompitous," he actually copped lyrics from another songster, but couldn't quite hear them correctly. The correct word, apparently, is "puppetness." Search for it on the internet. Go ahead, don't take my word for it.
It seems to me that the reason there is any discrepancy over who is less worthwhile is due to fan base. Yes, I grant that Buffet's fans are uniquely annoying. People who wear tailored white jean shorts are offensive even before they open their mouths. Steve Miller's fans tend to be a more assimilated group. They have a wider spectrum of music they listen to, which allows them to pass unnoticed through life. They own Eagles t-shirts and think that Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water," is a positive point in classic rock. So, while everyone can spot and hate a Buffet fan at 50 yards, Miller's fans are more subtly sinister. You may work with them. You may have dated them. You may be related to them. God forbid, you may have given birth to them. And there they go, out into the world, spreading their poor musical taste and jamming up the request lines. They sneak into your life and get "Jungle Love" stuck in your mind. Yuck.
There are so many good musicians out there. There are so many good songs. Why do people waste their time with either of these tripe slingers? Don't listen to them. Just don't.
By Brady Richards