The Joker – Steve Miller Band

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………….on January 12th of 1974 after entering Billboard’s Hot 100 in October ’73, The Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” makes it all the way to number one. The line in this song, “I speak of the pompatus of love,” has baffled listeners for some time. Greil Marcus provided the best explanation we’ve seen in a 2002 article for Los Angeles Magazine titled “In The Secret Country.” The word “Pompatus” does exist in the Oxford English Dictionary, and it means “to act with pomp and splendor.” Miller most likely heard the word on a song called “The Letter,” which was recorded by the Los Angeles Doo-Wop group The Medallions in 1954. It was written by their lead singer Vernon Green, who was 16 at the time and crippled with polio. Miller drew associations to some of his other songs in the lyrics to this one. The line, “Some people call me The Space Cowboy” is a reference to Miller’s 1969 song “Space Cowboy.” The line, “Some call me a gangster of love” is a reference to his song “Gangster of Love.” The line, “Some people call me Maurice” is a reference to Miller’s 1972 song “Enter Maurice.” In that song Miller also sings about “The pompatus of love.”The line “I’m a midnight toker” is a marijuana reference (as is the “toke” in Brewer & Shipley’s hit “One Toke Over The Line” from 1970). Many stoners related to this song, and in 2012, Spin magazine named it the most commercially successful pot song of all time. This finally hit #1 on the UK charts in 1990, thanks to its inclusion in a Levi’s jeans commercial. In the spot, a guy rides a motorcycle into an office building and rolls up to an attractive worker, who puts on a pair of 501s and gets on the back of his bike as he takes her away. Miller won a lawsuit against rap group The Geto Boys when they used this without his permission in 1990. In 2000, he let Shaggy use the bass line from this on his hit, “Angel.” A year later, Miller let Run-D.M.C. sample “Take The Money And Run.”