SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Discuss anything related to Jimmy Buffett. Find more specific categories below
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 293
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2014 12:01 pm
Number of Buffett shows attended: 12

SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Post by HurricaneSeason » Sun May 10, 2020 8:02 pm

How MCA Records Failed

MCA Records acquired Jimmy Buffett’s ABC/Dunhill Records catalog when they consumed the label in 1979 for $30 million. MCA’s first Buffett release was 1979’s VOLCANO. ABC/Dunhill was originally Am-Par Records - the American Broadcasting Paramount Theatres company, which eventually evolved to just become known as the American Broadcasting Company, which is, of course, ABC. ABC gobbled up Dunhill and years later ABC/Dunhill died under MCA.

Jimmy Buffett, who had already released one album with Barnaby Records, signed to ABC/Dunhill Records in 1973 after Jim Croce died, who was a rising star on ABC/Dunhill. Buffett, who earned the nickname Cosmic Cowboy after A1A came out, went on to loosely create a new genre of music, which early on became known as the Key West Sound and, probably combined into, to some fans, from a lyric in Migration, Caribbean Soul, but got named, or more like branded in the ‘return to country’ era, Gulf & Western, in the mid 1980s. Nowadays some people probably just consider him beach music or something absolutely horrible, Yacht Rock.

On January 2, 1985, MCA Records released SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART, a ‘best of’ compilation of Jimmy Buffett. To add to the horribly titled album, they sub-titled it with Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hit(s).

What is a greatest hit? One could go by how long it was ranked #1. So… which Buffett song was ranked at #1 for the longest selling single? No Buffett songs have ever been number one. Margaritaville did chart. It got to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 - that’s just for radio play, and #1 for Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks - not exactly a feat that anyone would notice on a regular basis (it’s basically a chart for evening cocktail guzzling nostalgics).

Margaritaville went on to be one of the most played singles in the history of music on radio and spawned Buffett his own brand that turned into a store, a website, a record label and restaurants and all kinds of nick nacks made in China and priced to bleed the hardcore Parrothead sucker dry.

All the while, MCA Records continued to release new Buffett albums, but never seemed interested in really getting anything out of him (in 1987 he toured without an album released that year for only the third time, the previous two being 1975 and 1980). He took a break from recording after 1989’s OFF TO SEE THE LIZARD and didn’t release a new album until 1994. In 1992 Buffett formed his own record label, the highly imaginative Margaritaville Records, with MCA as distributor, and his box set of remastered selected songs BOATS, BEACHES, BARS AND BALLADS release remains the highest selling box set in history (and the only place to find the songs on this release that sound good, remastering wise). His deal with MCA Records still existed but he was able to do a bit more promoting using his own label. Likely because of that, his 1994 LP FRUITCAKES debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 - his first ever Top Ten album. The success continued with 1995’s BAROMETER SOUP charting at #6 and 1996’s BANANA WIND charting at #4, his highest charting LP until 2004’s chart topping LP, LICENSE TO CHILL.

Although no details have ever been released, whatever deal Buffett had with MCA Records, it expired after his 1996 fall release CHRISTMAS ISLAND, because he signed with Island Records in 1997 and released two albums and an EP with Margaritaville/Island Records, 1998’s, DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL, the 1999 CALALLOO EP and 1999’s BEACH HOUSE ON THE MOON.

Margaritaville Records, meanwhile, had already split jumped ship to Island Records with THE PARAKEET ALBUM in 1995, Marshall Chapman’s LOVE SLAVE and The Iguanas' SUPER BALL in 1996. Island was absorbed by Universal Music Group in 1999, which also owns MCA Records. With Island off to UMG land, Buffett dumped Margaritaville Records and formed his own new label, Mailboat Records, and released his label’s debut album TUESDAYS, THURSDAYS, SATURDAYS in late 1999 and was completely free.

What does that have to do with SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART?

MCA did a second tier release of Buffett’s catalog of his Margaritaville Records albums at some point and all the interior artwork is in black and white. The original releases were in color.

MCA is cheap.

MCA is so cheap that they never updated SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART by rereleasing it with more songs - songs that should’ve been on the original release, like Havana Daydreamin’, Coconut Telegraph, the Van Morrison cover of Brown Eyed Girl, Somewhere Over China, The Weather Is Here Wish You Were Beautiful and One Particular Harbour.

Maybe it’s because Buffett was never a big seller. His tours sell out every year. But he was never a big charting artist.

What’s most likely is that MCA never cared. Does a label that says Hit(s) on a hits album sound like they know who they’re dealing with? Something must’ve been stirred up at some point - in 2003, a new hits release came out that was a combination of UTV, MCA and Mailboat Records. MEET ME IN MARGARITAVILLE featured the MCA catalog drawn songs being remastered again to modern levels.

UTV Records is a division of… Universal Music Group, which is under Universal Music Entertainment aka UMe… which owns MCA Records.

One could say that UMG, or UMe, is cheap.

They are. When it comes to Jimmy Buffett.

SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART will always be Buffett’s biggest selling release. Its songs became warhorses for Buffett on his tours, and part of his setlist is made up of The Big 8 or 10 or 11, most of which is also known as the SYKBH songs - A Pirate Looks At Forty, CILCIA, Margaritaville, Cheeseburger, Volcano, Fins, Come Monday and Why Don’t We Get Drunk - all tracks from the album, as well as Brown Eyed Girl, One Particular Harbour and Southern Cross fitting into the category.

Of course there are more tracks that are known by heart and it’s enough to make it into a double or even triple album.

MCA could make a killing by rebooting SYKBH - a majority of the same people that bought the original will buy the new one because that’s just how it works.

Which is why it’s surprising that MCA hasn’t reissued it, properly remastered, of course, with additional songs, in a way that would make sense in regard to when it was released, 1985, and how it didn’t go past 1979. Here is a version that would include songs, in bold, through 1984:

Cheeseburger In Paradise
Coconut Telegraph
He Went To Paris
Son Of A Son Of A Sailor
A Pirate Looks At Forty
Come Monday
Somewhere Over China
Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
Havana Daydreamin’
The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
Brown Eyed Girl
Who’s The Blonde Stranger
Why Don’t We Get Drunk
Pencil Thin Mustache
Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit
One Particular Harbour
Boat Drinks

Posts: 703
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Post by urlcenter » Wed May 13, 2020 3:20 pm

MCA did in fact release a remastered CD version of SYKBH on a Gold CD in 1994, and they released a reissue of the original SYKBH vinyl LP in 2016. MCA also released Changes in Latitudes on Gold CD in 1933.

The reason that an expanded version has not been released is largely due to the fact that there have been several larger compilations released since the original release of SYKBH in 1985.

There was a 20 song compilation called Jimmy Buffett 20 Gems: A Pirates Treasure released by MCA in 1995 with the following track listing:

1. Son Of A Sailor
2. Margaritaville
3. Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit
4. A Pirate Looks At Forty
5. Come Monday
6. Pencil Thin Mustache
7. Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
8. Nautical Wheelers
9. Coast Of Marseilles
10. Jolly Mon Sing
11. He Went To Paris
12. Manana
13. Little Miss Magic
14. African Friend
15. Volcano
16. On A Slow Boat To China
17. Stars Fell On Alabama
18. Livingston Saturday Night
19. On Particular Harbour
20. Why Don't We Get Drunk

In 1997 a 17 song compilation called Biloxi: Best of Jimmy Buffett was released with the following track listing:

1 Margaritaville
2 Cheeseburger in Paradise
3 Son of a Son of a Sailor
4 Livingston Saturday Night
5 Biloxi
6 Manana
7 Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
8 The Great Filling Station Holdup
9 Brand New Country Star
10 Coconut Telegraph
11 Fins
12 A Pirate Looks At 40
13 Havana Daydreamin'
14 Volcano
15 Last Mango in Paris
16 Grapefruit - Juicyfruit
17 California Promises

There was an 18 song compilation called "All the Great Hits released by MCA in 1998 with the following track listing:

1. Margaritaville
2. Fins
3. Come Monday
4. Volcano
5. Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
6. Cheeseburger In Paradise
7. Son Of A Son Of A Sailor
8. Stars Fell On Alabama
9. Miss You So Badly
10. Why Don't We Get Drunk
11. A Pirate Looks At Forty
12. He Went To Paris
13. Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit
14. Pencil Thin Mustache
15. Boat Drinks
16. Chanson Pour Les Petites Enfants
17. Banana Republic
18. Last Mango In Paris

Jimmy released his own 2 Disc, 38 song collection called Meet Me in Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection in 2002 and in 2014 there was 40 song collection called The Jimmy Buffett Collection - Sun Sea & Margaritas released.

Aside from the lack of an updated version of SYKBH not being released a much bigger issue that none of Jimmy's pre MailBoat records catalog has been reissued with the exception of MCA's two Gold CD's I mentioned above. A company called Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs released remastered Gold CD's of the albums A White Sports Coat and a Pink Crustacean and Son of A Son of A Sailor. The four Gold CD's are the sum total of the reissuing and remastering of Jimmy's back catalog which is really unfortunate as the CD releases of the 1970's and early 1980's albums are not the best quality. Also the MCA CD releases of Jimmy's early albums contain little to none of the original album art from the album's vinyl LP's, this is also true of MCA's vinyl reissues of Jimmy's original ABC albums.

There have been several CD reissues of Jimmy's first two Barnaby Records albums (Down to Earth & High Cumberland Jubilee) with various track configurations released as well a the complete albums being released on CD. These releases were not MCA releases as MCA does not have the rights to the two Barnaby Records albums.

The only real solution to this issue would be for Jimmy to gain control of his back catalog and release his early albums through MailBoat records.

User avatar
Posts: 293
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2014 12:01 pm
Number of Buffett shows attended: 12

Re: SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Post by HurricaneSeason » Thu May 14, 2020 11:21 pm

I had a pretty well covered reply but I think a storm knocked me offline and I lost what I did.

Basically, those MCA releases (BILOXI, and PIRATE GEMS) were released in Australia only in the 1990s.

NOW YER SQUAKIN', AMERCIAN STORY TELLER and a plethora of other Barnaby Records albums were released in Isreal, the UK and North America (for some reason his first two albums generated some licensing deals that were quite superfluous, in principle). The Varèse Sarabande DOWN TO EARTH and HIGH CUMBERLAND JUBILEE reissues in 1997 are considered the proper reissues of those albums.

Of course, Margaritaville/MCA Records released BEFORE THE BEACH in 1993, a nod to Barnaby's 1979 double BEFORE THE SALT (they released another one in 1981 called JIMMY BUFFETT that was just the first album).

MCA's 2003 release MEET ME IN MARGARITAVILLE ignored some obvious songs from the Margaritaville/MCA Records short era by excluding Another Saturday Night, Barometer Soup and Jamaica Mistaica. The only part of the release that has anything to do with Mailboat Records is the new recordings, live and studio, of old songs and the two covers (and for some reason MCA gave over the master to Volcano for him to update the geographical part). I recall reading somewhere that Buffett found out MCA was going to release a compilation and he was able to get a little bit of influence with it: LPs post BANANA WIND are not on it because... well, for one thing I guess there was no reason to put anything on from CHRISTMAS ISLAND and it's not a Margaritaville Records release as well, which would mean the two Island Records albums would be included yet alone perhaps Southern Cross and something from FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD.

Posts: 703
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Post by urlcenter » Fri May 15, 2020 3:00 pm

Before the Beach is not a nod to Before the Salt which was released in 1979 by Barnaby Records and contains the first LP release for the song Richard Frost.

Before the Beach contains the complete album High Cumberland Jubilee and most but not all of Down to Earth. The absent songs from Before the Beach are "The Christian?", "Richard Frost" and "Ain't he a Genius" A number of the tracks released on Before the Beach from both albums are in fact different mixes and alternate takes of the album songs. This was done as Jimmy could not obtain retrieval rights to his two Barnaby albums.

The most significant differences are found in the following tracks:

Bend A Little on BTB is 34 seconds longer then album version
Travlin' Clean is 14 seconds shorter on BTB
High Cumberland Jubilee is 50 seconds shorter on BTB
Cumberland High Dilemma is 32 seconds shorter on BTB
Livingston's Gone to Texas is 14 seconds shorter on BTB

In 2005 a company called Collectible Records released a CD the contains both Barnaby Albums as they were originally released in 1970 and 1976. The title of the CD is Down to Earth/High Cumberland Jubilee

Here is a complete list of all of the reissues of Jimmy's Barnaby material to date:

1 Before the Salt (1979)
2 Jimmy Buffett (1981)
3 Before the Beach (1993)
4 American Storyteller (1999)
5 There's Nothing Soft about Hard Times (2000)
6 Best of the Early Years (2000)
7 Captain America (2002)
8 Now Yer Squawkin' (2005)
9 Down to Earth/High Cumberland Jubilee - (Collectible Records) (2005)
10 Jimmy Buffett (2006)
11 Down to Earth/High Cumberland Jubilee (2007) (Verase 2 CD reissue of there 1998 CDs)
12 Golden Legends (2007)
13 Ace (2010)

The Australia CD's have been available in the US as Import CDs

User avatar
Posts: 293
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2014 12:01 pm
Number of Buffett shows attended: 12

Re: SYKBH - How MCA Records Failed

Post by HurricaneSeason » Sun May 17, 2020 10:44 am

urlcenter wrote:
Fri May 15, 2020 3:00 pm
Before the Beach is not a nod to Before the Salt which was released in 1979 by Barnaby Records and contains the first LP release for the song Richard Frost.
Sure it was! Why else would he have called it that? BEFORE THE SALT was an obvious play on Margaritaville. BEFORE THE BEACH is obvious.

It's funny that for BTB he used a picture from Miami instead of something from Tennessee etc.

Post Reply