I consider myself a Parrothead, but I’m not sure I’m your typical Parrothead. My least favorite Jimmy Buffett songs include “Margaritaville,” “Fins,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Volcano”, and “Come Monday” just to name a few. In actuality, my favorite Jimmy Buffett album is Don’t Stop the Carnival.
Don’t Stop the Carnival is a musical Jimmy Buffett wrote based on the novel by the same name written by Herman Wouk. It tells the story of New York public relations expert Norman Paperman’s adventures when he decides to leave his New York lifestyle behind to buy a resort in the fictional tropical island of Amerigo. I remember listening to the album for the first time and enjoying the songs but not really understanding them because, like typical show tunes, the songs help tell the story and I didn’t know the story. So I read the book. It was good. Not outstanding. But what I appreciated about the book is the context it game me for the songs. Now suddenly I had a new appreciation of them because I knew the story each song was telling.
Hands down, my favorite song on the album is “A Thousand Steps to Nowhere.” I can’t tell you why I love it so much, but I do. Maybe it’s because it’s set up as an interesting triplet — the song juxtaposes one moment in time from three different perspectives — Norman Paperman’s, his wife Henny’s, and the old, jaded aging starlet who lives at the resort, Iris’s. It’s an enchanting song, and some of my favorite memories are of my husband and I singing it together as a duet in the car.
Other songs that are standouts include “Hippolyte’s Habitat,” which is just one of the coolest sounding songs I’ve heard. “Who Are We Trying to Fool” is interesting as it shows the developing relationship between Norman and Iris. I also really like “Up on the Hill” — not necessarily because of the lyrics but the music. The sound of the song is sweet, which kind of belies what the song actually is saying.
This is not by any stretch a typical Jimmy Buffett album — it’s a soundtrack to a musical and Jimmy Buffett doesn’t sing on a number of the songs. Most Parrotheads either don’t like this album or they haven’t even heard of it. But to me, that’s part of the appeal — to me, it seems a new, harmless and apparently endless carnival 🙂