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AIRHEAD: THE LYING KING
He's baaaaack. (7/22a)
LAW FIRM TO LABEL:
CLIVE AND WALTER
These two go way back. (7/22a)
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They're complicated.
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Critics' Choice
ROCK HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES:
STEVE MILLER
12/17/15

By Bud Scoppa

Steve Miller—who’ll be inducted into the Rock Hall after being nominated for the very first time, oddly enough—is known for the string of light-hearted, propulsive, hook-laden and totally irresistible pop/rock hits he cranked out during the 1970s. His run started whimsically with the chart-topping title track of The Joker in 1973 and proceeded with "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me" and "Fly Like an Eagle" (all from 1976’s Fly Like an Eagle); "Jet Airliner," "Jungle Love" and “Swingtown” (all from 1977’s Book of Dreams); topped off by another #1 in "Abracadabra," from the 1982 LP of the same name. But the Top 40 hitmaker is just one of several distinct Steve Millers who appeared between San Francisco’s Summer of Love and the dawn of the MTV era.

More accurately—and despite the rendering of his name on the Rock Hall ballot—all the records he’s made during his five-decade career were released under the collective moniker the Steve Miller Band. It would be unwieldy to induct all 25 of the musicians who’ve worked under that nameplate, including singer/guitarist Boz Scaggs in the original lineup, longtime bass player Lonnie Turner and A-list drummer Gary Mallaber from Fly Like an Eagle through the mid-’80s.    

"Right before I moved out to San Francisco, I played in Buddy Guy's band,” Miller told Rolling Stone soon after being notified of the honor on Thursday (12/17). “One night, he said to me, 'Listen, man, when you get out there, call it the Steve Miller Band. You're going to go through lots and lots of musicians, and you don't want everyone to get all upset when you fire your bass player.' It turned out to be really good advice."

The original incarnation of the Steve Miller Band was Capitol’s score in the San Francisco signing bonanza, and though the early records contain the requisite lysergic elements, especially the trippy 1968 debut, Children of the Future, Miller’s blues roots (he initially named his group the Steve Miller Blues Band) and Beatles fixation are equally prominent. So is the all-American kid from Wisconsin who shrieks the immortal line, “Somebody gimme a cheeseburger!” at the end of his early classic “Livin’ in the USA” from second album Sailor (also ’68), backed with his gorgeous ballad “Quicksilver Girl” in its original single incarnation. Children of the FutureSailor and Brave New World (’69) are three of the most distinctive rock & roll albums to come out of that magical era, and they remain immersively captivating. But neither the music nor the magic was created wholly by Miller himself; he had four able colleagues, notably Scaggs and Turner, in the studio with him, and Glyn Johns in the control room on all three albums, helping to shape things.    

Then there’s Miller the sonic craftsman, endlessly tinkering with tape machines and studio effects starting with 1972’s Recall the Beginning...A Journey From Eden, his first self-produced LP, and evident throughout his Top 40 heyday. Finally, and perpetually, is Miller the guitar hero, virtuosic yet unpretentious and endlessly playful; that’s the side of him most evident on stage these days, as he enters his second half century of performing.