Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jimmy Buffett In Hawaii 2009

2 music greats, 1 weekend
Both Jimmy Buffett and Steve Miller Band in town.
By Dave Dondoneau TGIF Editor

This really could be dubbed "The weekend of songs you know by heart."

Jimmy Buffett at the Waikiki Shell Saturday night; the Steve Miller Band at the Blaisdell Arena Sunday night.

In a 24-hour span, music fans can hear classic hits ranging from "Margaritaville" to "The Joker." Together, Buffett and Miller have more than 80 years of concert history, sold tens of millions of albums and, now in their 60s, have become both pop culture icons and rock legends.

They may be both known for their hits of the '70s, but their attitudes and appreciation for their fans have kept their music relevant.

"I don't look back much," Buffett said in a recent phone interview. "It's so much fun to look forward. (Performing) may look easy on stage, but you have to do a lot of hard work, a lot of luck and a little bit of talent. Then you have to manage it well. I've been lucky to have people around who've made good decisions — both in music and business — for me."

How cool is Buffett? After his last concert at Waikiki Shell, he hung out of the sunroof of his limousine blowing kisses, waving and shouting thanks to his fans as he slowly drove away. When he visited Honolulu after 9/11 in 2001, he saw things were "in a funk," so he decided to offer a little pick-me-up to Waikiki's suddenly struggling economy.

He chose to do an impromptu concert at Duke's, now the neighboring restaurant of his recently opened Jimmy Buffett's at the Beachcomber, a $15 million, 400-seat, 22,000-square foot Parrothead paradise that includes a surf museum.

"Duke's is somewhere I always wanted to play because I love the place and the people," Buffett explained. "It just has a great ambiance. You're right off the beach. Being a surfer myself, it was cool to see surfers just sitting on their boards listening to the music with Diamond Head in the background. Now I want to carry on where Don Ho left off at the Beachcomber."

An equally cool story is offered by Miller, who credits Paul McCartney's words of wisdom for improving his songs.

"Paul and I had just finished a jam session, and I remember asking him about writing music," Miller recounted during a phone interview. "He told me he wished he had taken more time on some of his songs because he could have made them better.

"All I could think of was, 'What in the world could The Beatles have done better?' But because of that, I pulled 'Abracadabra' at 11:59.59, the very last second, before putting it on an album. I wasn't really happy with it, so I sat on it for three years. Then one day I'm out skiing in Sun Valley and I run into Diana Ross and The Supremes on top of the mountain. How weird is that to see Diana Ross in Idaho on a mountain? I had worked with her before, so we talked a bit, and after I skiied down, I pulled out 'Abracadabra' and thought how would The Supremes do this song? Fifteen minutes later, I was finished.

"It had different lyrics and a different title than when I started, but the music was the same. That song took three years and 15 minutes to finish, but it became a No. 1 hit everywhere in the world from Mongolia to Peru because I took some time to get it right. Some songs come quick; some take years."

Part of the appeal of both Buffett and Miller is how they seem to just be ordinary Joes who struck it big.

They are so grounded when you talk to them, you just want to sit and have a beer (or margarita) at the nearest bar and listen to stories of how the music you've listened to the past four decades came to life.

Miller recounted a time when he toured in 1993, around when he was releasing the album "Wide River." He was playing an outdoor concert in front of 20,000 fans when he told the crowd he was going to play some songs from the new record.

"Literally, 5,000 people got up and went to the bathroom or to go get hot dogs, and the minute they heard the opening strains of 'Fly Like an Eagle,' they came rushing back in," Miller said with a chuckle. " I thought, 'How odd.' Now it's changed. We still do new songs, but we don't introduce them like that. To our delight, the fans like them."

Buffett's concerts also include his biggest hits, from "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," to "Come Monday," "Fins," "A Pirate Looks at 40," "Why Don't We Get Drunk," "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," "Son of Sailor" and more, usually about 30 songs worth of memories.
The duo have toured so long and so often, they've even played together. They're just not exactly sure when.

Buffett, 62, laments that Miller, 65, is one of the few acts older than he is and still going strong. He barks out his favorite Steve Miller Band tune — "Fly Like an Eagle" — without hesitation.
"Are you kidding me? That is one of the best songs of all time," Buffett said. "We both do journeymen work. All these years, and I still love to go out and listen to his songs. Who doesn't?"
The feeling is mutual.

"Give me 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' every day of the week," Miller said. "Jimmy has so many good ones. We did some stadium shows together back in the '60s and early '70s in Florida, and we've jammed together at some private gatherings. He's such an interesting guy, but it's been a long time since I've seen him."

(For the record, sadly, there is no chance they'll meet Saturday and play together at the Shell: Miller and his band are playing at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and get into Honolulu Sunday.)

The only thing missing from both artists' resumés is a call from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That they aren't in yet is a joke.

Buffett could be in not only for his music, but also for creating a way of life for legions of Parrotheads: Blow out your flip-flops, step on a pop top, cruise on back home to find some booze in the blender and from then on it's one sandy, beach-filled, no-worries lifestyle.
When Buffett plays, it's not so much a concert as it as a party thrown by "Godfather of Trop Rock," as Parrotheads have to come to call him.

He's also gone global. It's estimated he makes $100 million annually from his concerts, restaurants (he christened his Waikiki restaurant last night with an impromptu concert), books (three No. 1 best-sellers on the New York Times list and a fourth also on the list), CDs, videos and memorabilia. It's safe to say he's not only no longer living on sponge cake, but he could buy enough Cheeseburgers in Paradise today to feed Guam.

Miller's resumé is just as impressive, but more for the lyrics he's created and for his ability to crank out Top 40 hits.

His flowing lyrics about his tour schedule for his 1976 No. 1 hit "Rock'n Me." (I went from Phoenix/All the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.) was analyzed nearly 30 years later in 2005 by premier pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman in his best-selling book "Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story."

The book is supposed to be about Klosterman's 6,557-mile trek across the country to visit sites where famous musicians met their death, but in reality, it's more about Klosterman's love life and his take on pop culture topics. In one funny, spot-on diatribe after "The Joker" comes on the radio while driving across Montana, Klosterman wonders aloud what kind of tour manager would have Miller zigzagging back and forth across the country, instead of planning a better, more direct route.

His logic makes total sense, but had Klosterman had the chance to ask Miller about it personally, he probably would get the same creative license answer Miller gave when asked what the lyric "pampatous of love" means.

"It means nothing," Miller said with a laugh. "I wrote 'The Joker' in 15 minutes and I just liked the way 'pampatous of love' sounded when it rolled off the tongue.

"You won't find it in a dictionary. To me, it's funny what people latch onto with music and it's always interesting to see how what you wrote is interpreted by others. I get letters all the time from lawyers asking me what pampatous means. I'm not even sure I'd know how to spell it again.

"I do think it's great that 30 or 40 years after something is written, people are still singing it and wondering about it. It's fascinating. I love that young people still listen to my music."


Miller: Steve Miller Band
Buffett: Coral Reefer Band
Steve Miller Band: "The Joker"(1973), "Rock'n Me" (1976) and "Abracadabra" (1982).
Buffett: "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (2003) with Alan Jackson, "Margaritaville" (1977)
Steve Miller Band: "Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits 1974-1978" (33rd on the Recording Industry Association of America list of best-selling rock albums of all time).
Buffett: "Songs You Know by Heart: Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hits" (seven times multiplatinum)
Miller: "Fly Like an Eagle 30th Anniversary Edition," 2006
Buffett: "Live at Texas Stadium" (with George Strait and Alan Jackson) and "Live in Anguilla," both in 2007
Miller: "I love Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker. I hired a 13-year-old neighbor for $10 an hour to download blues and music. Now I have a terabyte of music, over 6,000 blues songs."
Buffett: "I'm very eclectic. As a writer, know what I like to listen to as far as lyrics. I love Jawaiian, Iz, the Ka'au Crater Boys ... a lot of cool stuff. I ran into Jake Shimabukuro and loved his work."
Miller: Led Zeppelin, Gov't Mule, North Mississippi Allstars, Keith Richards, Kings of Leon, Corb Lund.
Buffet: Bob Marley, Moe Keale, Kings of Leon, Jack Johnson, Emmylou Harris
Miller: Plans to release a new CD in the spring, a collaboration with Carole King. "Blues-based rock and roll," he said. He's also planning to do an outdoor festival with Toby Keith this summer.
Buffett: Recently completed a project with Google Earth that will soon be unveiled.

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