The Joker tells all: Get the lowdown on Steve Miller Band hits

By  Jeb Wright

Curious about the story behind “Take The Money and Run”? Wonder how “Jet Airliner” was recorded? How long did it take to develop “Fly Like An Eagle?” Here’s the scoop straight from Steve Miller!

“The Joker”

I had no idea that it was a hit. At that particular time, I was very mad at my record company because I was always out playing, and they never had any of my records in the stores. They were spending all of their money on some English band that they had just signed. Someone at the record company told me they thought “The Joker” was a hit. I told them, “I don’t care about singles; just make sure you have got albums in the stores in the towns where we are playing.” I left feeling that way, and when I came back, I had the #1 record in the country.  

“Rockin’ Me”

That song is not lifted from “All Right Now” from Free, but it is a tip of the hat to them.  When I did it, I said that I loved Free and that I loved Paul Rodgers. I said all of that in the first interview that I ever did about that song. It was a tip of the hat to Free. 

“Fly Like an Eagle”

“Fly Like an Eagle” is a song that was sort of developed over a two- to three-year period. I worked really hard on the lyrics. I kept honing them until I felt good about them. It was a combination of my best lyric writing and my best musical ideas.  It sets up a spontaneous jam session every time we play it. It is still very musically interesting 40 years later. 

“Jet Airliner” 

Paul Pena wrote that. He recorded an album with that song on it, and the record company decided that they were not going to put it out. It was a much different song than what it ended up. It sounded different, and it was very bitter. I told Paul, “This is a great song. Can I take this and screw around with it?” I took it and worked over the lyrics and rewrote the music. Paul’s version was great, but it was just sitting there dying on the vine, so I took it and make it into more of a Steve Miller-type song. 

On the song I sang into a compressor. It was the very early days of compressors, and it made it sound like I was taking these huge breaths when I was singing. They made a lot of pumping sounds back in the old days. Now, you would just take that part out, and you would never hear it. 

“Jungle Love”

“Jungle Love” was a really interesting sort of last-minute tune. I was just finishing the mixes on Book of Dreams when Lonnie showed up. I was just finishing the album to the point I was saying, “Okay, that’s a wrap.” Lonnie [Turner] shows up with this little three-inch plastic reel and says, “I have got this great tune I just wrote with Greg Douglas. You should hear it.” I said, “Lonnie, we are just finishing the mix, and I don’t have time to screw around with this now.” He said, “Steve, you really should hear this.” So, I said I would listen to it. I listened to it and said, “This is a great song. Call Greg up and have him come over right now.” He came down, and 45 minutes later we finished recording it.

“Dance Dance Dance”

That was a little country tune that I started working on when Norton [Buffalo] showed up. Norton and John McVie showed up, and John played the dobro guitar on that and put that country twang on it, and there it was. 

“Wild Mountain Honey”

Steve McCarty wrote that song. He is a friend of mine from Texas. Steve played me a rough version of it, and I thought it was a great song. We got out the sitar and bing, bang, boom, it turned into this beautiful song that I still love to play every day. 

“Take the Money and Run”

That is one of my songs. It was interchangeable with “Rockin’ Me.” For a while I was singing the lyrics to “Take the Money and Run” on “Rockin’ Me” and the “Rockin Me” lyrics on “Take the Money and Run.” In the end, I finally figured it all out. “Take the Money and Run” was the first single off of Fly Like an Eagle. Everybody was telling us that we put the wrong song out for the first single. We put it out first because we thought “Rockin’ Me” would follow it up and be a bigger hit. 

I had a really good friend of mine who was giving me a really hard time about putting all the hand claps on that song. He told me he thought it was really corny. I told him, “This is a hit single, you just wait and see.” 

“I Want to See the World Turn Around”

That was back to the doom-and-gloom days. I worked on that song long and hard.  The Cold War had been going on so long that it seemed like it was never going to end. That is what that song was about. 

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