Monday, December 17, 2007

Was Jimmy Buffett beaten by one of these women...

Image of Shaker sisters from the Enfield Historical Society

...and did he enjoy it? This is the hidden question within Buffett's Karaoke staple hit "Margaritaville". Allow me to explain. The first line of the classic refrain is traditionally (but incorrectly) parsed as:
Wastin' away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt.
Emphasis added. But if you listen closely, it is obvious Buffett is not singing "shaker of salt". He is actually singing "Shaker assault". Listen to the recording; it is obvious that "Shaker assault" is the actual lyric.

This understanding demands a complete re-interpretation of the song. The booze-induced lazy funk described in the song is not brought on by a failed romance or by alcoholism. It is the result of a deep, unfulfilled, sado-masochistic longing to be beaten by a member of The United Society of Believers In Christ's Second Coming. The reason the Shaker assault is "lost" is quite simple: There are hardly any Shakers left, and those who remain have no interest in flogging an aging pop singer whose songs glorify laziness and cheeseburgers. (Industriousness being a core virtue glorified by the Shakers. How else did they make all that cool furniture?)

The impossibility of fulfilling this desire for a "Shaker assault" fills the song with a tragic poignancy. Indeed, it is likely that the longed-for "Shaker assault" is not something that ever happened in reality, given the puritanical and pacifistic leanings of the sect. This "assault" is a product the Romantic imagination, much like the pleasure dome in Coleridge's "Kubla Khan": an object of intense desire and longing, forever out of grasp, lost in the ancient past; yet at the same time a creation of the very being who longs for it.

(By the way, I'm not the first person to have noticed this hearing of the lyric, but as far as I know I am the first to give it its proper interpretation.)


Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

Oh, they have slain the Earl of Moray!

7:25 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

...And Lady Mondegreen.

My favorite is of course Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze": "Excuse me, while I kiss this guy" instead of "kiss the sky". "Kissing the sky" is a rather stale image from the back of the psychedelic refrigerator. "Kissing this guy" is a much better illustration of drug-induced insanity (for a notorious heterosexual like Hendrix) and rather provocative for 1967.

8:40 PM, December 17, 2007  
Anonymous Pablo said...

Okay, I think this post warrants consideration for possible inclusion in an eventual "Internal Monologue Greatest Hits" album. Ultimately, I suspect it will not be included, as it doesn't quite measure up to classics such as Bofu, Nostril Salsa, and Coin Fight, but the post could still be honored by a nomination.

10:45 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Thank you, Pablo. If you look at when it was posted, you will notice the time was 6:33 am. My mind doesn't function particularly well at 6:33 am; indeed before the advent of my fatherhood I spent the vast majority of my 6:33 am's in blissful unconsciousness. Had I been possessed to give this idea expression at another time, perhaps the writing would have been of higher caliber.

11:10 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger ogre said...

Not "lost" Shaker assault--instead "last" Shaker assault.

Repeat as necessary.

And indeed, note that the following line even hints at your observation,

Some people claim that there's a woman to blame...

12:38 AM, December 18, 2007  

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