Steve Miller Band’s ‘The Joker’ Turns 50 And Maurice Still Speaks Of ‘The Pompatus Of Love’

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“J50: The Evolution Of The Joker” box set and promotional materials mark the 50th anniversary of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.” (Courtesy Sailor Music)

The Steve Miller Band had long been a San Francisco mainstay when it released its eighth album, The Joker, in 1973. But it was The Joker that made Steve Miller a star with its eponymous hit single propelling the album to No. 1 and Miller to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

It introduced the “space cowboy” and “the pompatus of love” to the cultural lexicon, and “The Joker” remains a staple of classic rock radio and Spotify playlists 50 years later.

“The initial reception was immediate,” says Bruce Resnikoff, president/CEO of Universal Music Enterprises, which is releasing “J50: The Evolution Of The Joker” box set to commemorate the anniversary.

Cover Story: Steve Miller Celebrates ‘The Joker’ And The ‘Pompatus’ Of An Amazing Career

“‘The Joker’ was released as a single in October 1973 and quickly became the No. 1 song by January 1974. As Steve once said, it was ‘a real, no kidding, non-stop hit!’ ‘The Joker’ is artistically significant in its own right, but it also quickly brought Steve Miller a global fan base. Even 50 years later, the album still captures its original era and a lifestyle but remains relevant today,” Resnikoff adds.

While “The Joker” was a smash, it wasn’t the only – or, in Resnikoff’s opinion, necessarily the most significant – cut on the groundbreaking album that took Miller from blues/psychedelic regional band to the global rock firmament.

“While ‘The Joker’ is one of Steve’s best-known songs, It is the opening track ‘Sugar Babe’ that defines the album experience,” Resnikoff says. “‘Sugar Babe’ is one of the best opening songs on any Steve Miller album and it is a testament to how Steve evolved his sound and what you are going to experience on your journey through the rest of the record.

“J50: The Evolution of The Joker” celebrates that anniversary with a multi-tiered global marketing campaign centered around the release of a super deluxe box set. The newly released package consists of three LPs and one 7-inch set with a lenticular cover that chronicles the artistic journey that led to the original album’s creation. Miller personally curated the box from his archives and wrote the liner notes with acclaimed music journalist Anthony DeCurtis.

To that end, UMe is mounting a well-deserved and robust promotional campaign around the anniversary, one that not only honors the music but recognizes the humor behind the original.

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The Joker was full of Steve’s tongue-in-cheek humor, and the campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary emulates that,” Resnikoff says. “Throughout the campaign, we leveraged the iconic ‘Joker’ image that is widely recognized around the world.

The campaign includes “creative builds like an AR filter for Instagram, digging up vintage TV spots from the original album release in 1973 and leveraging the multiple character masks from the album cover’s photoshoot as well. We also featured the ‘Joker’ masks on a multi-city snipe campaign and in venues during the Steve Miller Band summer tour.”

The Steve Miller Band, represented by Dan Weiner at Wasserman Music, has been a steady touring force for decades and a summer amphitheater favorite.

The band’s current tour has been chugging along quite nicely with special guests including Mavis Staples, Cheap Trick and Joe Satriani. It has shows through Dec. 17 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, including some dates with Dave Mason in support.

Miller founded the Steve Miller Blues Band in San Francisco in 1966, moving from Chicago where he’d been heavily influenced by the blues scene there. When he moved to San Francisco, Miller absorbed the city’s mid- to late-1960s psychedelic sound and shortened the band’s name.

In addition to The Joker, the Steve Miller Band struck gold – and platinum – with 1976’s Fly Like An Eagle, aided with hit singles including the title track, “Take the Money and Run” and “Rock’n Me.” The album eventually was RIAA-certified quadruple platinum.

A year later, Miller released another hit-laden album, Book of Dreams, with singles including “Jet Airliner,” “Swingtown” and “Jungle Love.”

But it was “The Joker” that effectively started and remains most beloved in the Steve Miller canon.

“As music formats have changed, ‘The Joker’ continues to find a place as one of the most loved and listened to rock songs,” Resnikoff says.

“FM radio gave ‘The Joker’ a way to find a new audience in 1973 and in 2023 streaming continues to push the song to new audiences. And FM radio still plays ‘The Joker’ every day.”