Wasting Away

Trivia: What’s the highest grossing song of all time? That is, what song has produced more money for its composer than any other in history?

Hint: It’s not by the Beatles or Cole Porter or any other seemingly likely candidate.

For most of you the blog title probably gave it away. The surprising answer is “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett.

“Margaritaville”is a catchy tune, easy to sing along with and so easy to play on guitar that even I can do it. It’s a perfectly nice pop song. But it’s not at the top of the pop song money mountain because of record sales. It only made it to #8 on the pop charts when it was released in 1977.

Margaritaville has made a considerable fortune for Mr. Buffett thanks to aggressive licensing. Here’s a partial list of Margaritaville products (taken from Wikipedia):

  • “Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville” restaurant chain, tourist destination and chain of stores (shops) selling Buffett-themed franchise merchandise in Jamaica, Mexico and the U.S.
  • Margaritaville margarita mix (manufactured by “Mott’s” )
  • Margaritaville tequila
  • Margaritaville bottled malt beverages
  • Margaritaville branded Landshark Lager
  • Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker
  • Margaritaville chips & salsa
  • Margaritaville chicken wings
  • Margaritaville frozen seafood
  • Margaritaville Soles of the Tropics footwear
  • Margaritaville men’s & women’s apparel
  • Margaritaville outdoor & beach furniture
  • Margaritaville key-lime pie filling mix

There’s a Margaritaville internet radio station, a Margaritaville record label, a book of Margaritaville-themed short stories, and at Margaritaville.com you can find “Jimmy Buffett Tour Dates and Margaritaville Restaurants, Hotels, Casinos, Resorts, Vacation Club and Products.”

I was reminded of all this Margaritaville mania yesterday, when I saw the announcement that a new upscale Margaritaville resort (complete of course with a Landshark Bar) is going to be built in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to join all the others that already exist. Doing a quick internet search this morning, I see that rooms in the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Miami are over $300/night. At the Margaritaville resort in Grand Cayman the words “Changes in Latitude” are on the pillow cases.

Mr. Buffett has obviously come a long way from shoplifting peanut butter in Key West. It seems the lovable beach bum is quite the businessman.

I’ve been to my share of Jimmy Buffett concerts and I have most of his records. My wife has a stuffed parrot by her computer, and has been known to call herself a parrot-head. I get the attraction, and in a small way have contributed to the phenomenon.

But I think the question “what’s going on here?” is worth pondering. Why are so many people shelling out big bucks for little pieces of Margaritaville?

Certainly, it seems to me, there’s irony at play. “Margaritaville” (and Jimmy Buffett’s oeuvre generally) is selling the fantasy of a carefree beach bum lifestyle to an aging upper middle class who are mostly churning away as cogs in the economic machine. My guess is that many of them dream of that lifestyle, but are trapped in a life that makes it something they can only pretend to be a part of for a few hours at a concert or a weekend at a resort hotel (forgetting for a minute that the character in the song could never have afforded that). If I’m right about that, then there’s something sad about the appeal of Margaritaville. It’s like Cinderella’s castle for disappointed grown ups.

I was going to conclude with some thoughts about finding the courage to walk away from unsatisfying lives–maybe a suggestion that actual escape is better than escapism. But I think the point is obvious, so I won’t say much more this morning.

I can remember lots of miserable days and nights in a job that was sucking me dry. I desperately wanted out, but I was trapped by my duties, by responsibility, by prudence. But I never quit working toward the goal. I never surrendered to the idea that the closest I could ever come to my dream was to buy a bite of fantasy now and then. And that has made all the difference.

But there will be no flip flops and boat drinks here this morning. It’s a brisk 9 degrees outside right now and we have about 8 inches of snow on the ground. Time to feed the stove and the animals. If there’s to be any wasting away, it will have to wait till later.






24 comments on “Wasting Away

  1. DM says:

    Your story reminded me of a guy I used to work with when we lived in New Jersey. He was a bank manager for Chase Manhattan or one of those larger banks…He told me it was his job to come into a struggling bank and clean house. He reminded me of Danny Devito..he was Italian, and had the air about him of a gangster. Long story short, What no one knew was he had a bad case of Agoraphobia, and the commute back and forth to the city was killing him..he would have to leave early in the morning before traffic (4 AM) and wait until it had died down (after 7) the drive was an hour and 1/2…..so he was dying on the inside, but could not give up the money. His life revolved around his work…so God in his providence allowed him to get canned…the hatchet man had reached an age, when the bank could hire 2 guys for the price he was getting paid… when I met him, he was a laborer on a framing crew and I was his foreman. He had never been happier in his life, the stress was gone, the agoraphobia was a lot less, and over the course of several months, he became a Christian working on our crew. It was him, in fact who encouraged me, way back then, to consider moving back to Iowa and starting my own small construction business…. His name was Vito.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      That’s a great story DM. Thanks for sharing it. We’re conditioned to believe that we can’t self-actualize without a lot of money and a prestigious job. I’m convinced that lots of people miss their chances for beautiful lives because they’re trapped by that belief. I know people personally for whom that is the case.

      Not long after I quit and moved back here I was selling peas at the farmers market one day when another vendor, an interesting fellow who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and doesn’t mind saying whatever he thinks, came and asked me, “Are you that lawyer guy?”(Usually that means someone is about to ask me for some free legal advice.) “Well yeah. I used to practice law,” I answered. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and asked, with complete sincerity, “Did you get disbarred?” I told him no, then tried to explain that while I was perfectly capable of practicing law, I had decided that I’d rather grow vegetables instead. He looked skeptically at me and walked away without comment.

      Of course emotionally it’s much easier to handle the slights that come with not having a prestigious occupation when that decision is voluntary. But still, having grown up poor and having suffered from the insecurities that lots of poor people experience, it’s not an easy thing to overcome. Good for Vito.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shoreacres says:

    Ha! Among sailors, “Margaritaville” generally is considered a landlubber song. Sailors listen to plenty of Buffett, for sure, but the favored songs tend to be ones like “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “One Particular Harbor,” “Last Mango in Paris,” “Everybody’s on the Run,” and “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me.”

    Don’t forget: I’m the one who started listening to Buffett instead of Bach in my office, just before I tossed it all over and began the downhill slide. On my celebratory sail after quitting my job in the real world, friend Tom blasted this bit of Buffett on the boombox. For some, Buffett’s the soundtrack of reality, not fantasy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. avwalters says:

    Maybe, in the depths of winter, we just want a catchy tune and the dream of somewhere warmer than here. Ah, if we could only brand and market the thrill of homesteading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yeah, today is a good day for dreaming of toes in the sand. Bitterly cold here.
      Now you have me wondering what the homesteading equivalent of Margaritaville is. I’d be surprised if someone hasn’t tried to cash in on our natural desire for a more simple lifestyle (albeit without actually having to live that kind of life). I’m gonna think about that…


      • avwalters says:

        There was a wonderful movie, years ago, Heartland, with Rip Torn. I loved it. Somehow, though, I cannot envision spin off merchandising. (Though I’m currently keeping my eye open for an old cider press.)


      • Bill says:

        Yeah I can’t imagine homesteading spinning off anything like the Margaritaville empire. It’s not that appealing. I don’t know that movie but it made me think of Sweet Land, which we saw years ago and I’m sure you’d enjoy if you haven’t seen it yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. If, as my GranMa said, “a change is as good as a rest” then perhaps doing MargaritaVille holiday is good enough to just keep folks going…? Better than Disney, at any rate; )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I think you’re right about that. It’s a way to release some pressure, have some fun, and maybe even indulge a fantasy. There’s nothing inherently bad about it, but I still wonder if it isn’t rooted in some underlying sadness and dissatisfaction.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ain't for city gals says:

    All I know for sure is that I would rather have a week in your rental house (are you still doing that?) than a week in Margaritaville!


  6. Aggie says:

    Having been away for quite awhile, it’s glorious to return to WordPress and the sites of people like you who are neither cogs nor automatons. Cheers to 2017. Hope the sun comes out to warm you – it makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
    Love, Aggie


    • Bill says:

      Good to hear from you Aggie!Thanks for the kind words. Hoping all is going well with you and 2017 is off to a great start!

      It was very cold here today, but bright and sunny. That really does make a big difference.


  7. Ed says:

    It seems so many things that were popular when I was a kid are making a return. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve recently told my daughters that something popular now was popular when I was there age, I’d be a couple handful of dollars richer!


    • Bill says:

      So true. 🙂 On one of his live albums he introduces “Come Monday” by saying something like “Thanks to all of y’all who have been with us from the beginning and also thanks to those of you who weren’t even alive when this song was a hit.”

      Last week we went to see the new Star Wars movie. It was the first time I’ve been in a movie theater since seeing the new Star Wars movie last January. I was 16 years old when I saw the first one in the summer of 1977. I’d just gotten my drivers license. Talk about staying power!


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