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Song Of The Weekend: Jimmy Buffett – “Twelve Volt Man”

October 15, 2011

It was always evident to me that Jimmy Buffet was a great storyteller.  His later work as a successful author clearly illustrates this fact.  His songs always manage to take you somewhere else and evoke some level of feeling.  There is an instantaneous transition of the vibe in any room when his music comes on.  Wistful smiles form on the listener’s faces and thoughts can wander as they contemplate any number of things – most of which are positive.  For a guy who purports the simple carefree life, he sure has managed to create a musical catalogue of substance while also pursuing many other varied passions.

I get the sense that Jimmy is a man who lives his life fully and on his own terms.  How else can you explain a songwriter who has had an amazingly successful career as an artist with only 1 top 40 song in over 40 years?  He seems to have managed to get the most out of his artistic capabilities while also having a fun time in the process.  Moreover, his fan base of “Parrotheads” is incredibly loyal and shows up year after year to show their support and catch his energy.

Jimmy is obviously an astute observer of people, context, and circumstance.  I’m not sure he’s lived everything he writes about, but I’m certain he has felt like he has or experienced it vicariously through others.  The song “Twelve Volt Man” captivated me the moment I heard it.  Legend has it that it was inspired by the lifestyle of a man who lives completely off the grid on an island powering the needs of his meager yet happy existence with a car battery.   Like all good songwriters, Jimmy personalizes the meaning and then makes it applicable to a larger theme.  I’ll leave you to your own interpretation.

I never got a grip on penmanship
Could never make the small “L’s” flow
Seldom found the trick to arith-a-metic
Three plus two be faux, pas

But ask for some palm trees
Or tales from the South Seas
And I just might turn your head

I never had the clout to knock one out
But hitting was the name of my game
Standing on third as the coaches conferred
Close to my first claim to fame

Just give me the steal sign
And I’ll make home plate mine
And I just might turn some heads

Sometimes I may get a little drastic
Sometimes I just let my feelin’s show
Sometimes I may be a bit sarcastic
Most times that’s the way the story goes

Now I now this Joe down in Mexico
He went there to work on his tan
For years he’s been plugged into blenders and songs
They call him the Twelve Volt Man

He don’t need no charge card
Just give him a Die Hard
And he’ll makes sparks fly ’round your head

Oh just ask for some palm trees
Or tales from the South Seas
And I’ll make sparks fly ’round your head
‘Round your head
In your head
In your head
In your head
In your head
In your head
In your head
In your head…