The song is originally, as far as I know, a Grateful Dead tune. I recall, the moment that the lyrical-musical-content-poetry all came together.
I was at the edge of what was then called Town Lake. A humble trailer abode in the background. An iPod plugged in while I was trying to listen to the latest (at that time) from Jimmy Buffett. He is, perhaps it’s just that recording, the earphones, the iPod, the CD, a fishing pole in my hand, a wan sunset, the bats, the coffee, I’m not sure. He warbled into “Scarlet Begonias,” and I almost tipped over into the lake.
His “License to Chill” album was new, makes it 2004, five years ago. His interpretation of “Scarlet Begonias” was flawless. Sounded just like the way I remembered hearing the Dead’s recordings.
“As I was walkin’ round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter
but a nip to the air…”
(“Scarlet Begonias” by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.)
I was listening to that “Best of Grateful Dead,” and the poetry was there, just not the musical tautness of Buffett’s and his band. Not so much slick as just tight, locked in the pocket.
The cover music by Buffett drove me back to the original recording, and that’s what I was listening to. The poetry was pretty amazing. Layers and wordplay. Besides, the opening lick?