Suvarna Garge (Editor)

The Joker (Steve Miller Band song)

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October 1973

7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD

Rock, blues rock, southern rock

4:26 (Album version) 3:35 (7" version)

"The Joker" is a song by the Steve Miller Band from their 1973 album The Joker. It is one of two Steve Miller Band songs that feature the nonce word "pompatus". The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in early 1974.


More than 16 years later, in September 1990, it reached number one in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks after being used in "Great Deal", a Hugh Johnson-directed television advertisement for Levi's, thus holding the record for the longest gap between transatlantic chart-toppers. This reissue of "The Joker" also topped the Irish Singles Chart, the New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart, the Dutch Nationale Top 100 and the Dutch Top 40.

The first line of the lyrics is a reference to the song "Space Cowboy" from Miller's Brave New World album. Following lines refer to two other songs: "Gangster of Love" from Sailor and "Enter Maurice" from Recall the Beginning...A Journey from Eden.

Inspiration and writing

During the song, Steve Miller references The Clovers' 1954 song "Lovey Dovey" when he sings "You're the cutest thing that I ever did see/ Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree / Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time".

The song is noted for its wolf whistle played on a slide guitar after the "lovey dovey" parts and the "some people call me Maurice" part.

The line "some people call me Maurice / 'Cause I speak of the pompatus of love" was written after Miller heard the song "The Letter" by The Medallions. In "The Letter", writer Vernon Green made up the word puppetutes, meaning a paper-doll erotic fantasy figure; however, Miller misheard the word and wrote pompatus instead.

Formats and track listings

7" single (1973)

  1. "The Joker" – 3:36
  2. "Something to Believe In" – 4:40

7" single (1983 - live version)

  1. "The Joker" (live) – 2:55
  2. "Take the Money and Run" (live) – 3:49

7" single (1990)

  1. "The Joker" (single version) – 3:34
  2. "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" – 2:27

12" maxi (1990)

  1. "The Joker" (LP version) – 4:22
  2. "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" – 2:27
  3. "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma" – 5:39

CD maxi (1990)

  1. "The Joker" (single version) – 3:34
  2. "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" – 2:27
  3. "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma" – 3:33
  4. "Living in the U.S.A." – 3:59


  • Steve Miller – guitars, lead vocals
  • Gerald Johnson – bass, backing vocals
  • Dick Thompson – organ
  • John King – drums
  • Covers

  • k.d. lang covered it on her album Drag (1997) on which all the songs have the theme of smoking or cigarettes. The song was released as a single.
  • Black Train Jack covered it on their album You're not alone (1994).
  • Fettes Brot did a German rendition of the song in 2001, retitled as "The Großer" (English translation "The big guy").
  • Fatboy Slim reworked the song on his 2004 album Palookaville, featuring Bootsy Collins on lead vocals. This cover version reached No. 32 on the UK Singles Chart in 2005.
  • Mike Myers did a cover to the song, playing a sitar, in The Love Guru.
  • Post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd covered it on their covers album Re:(disc)overed.
  • Album tracks

  • In 1998, Todd Snider covered the song on his Viva Satellite album.
  • Spearhead recorded a cover for the compilation CD Hempilation 2 (1998).
  • Darkbuster covered the song as "Space Cowboy" on their album 22 Songs You'll Never Want to Hear Again! (1999).
  • Twiztid recorded a cover of the song, which appeared on their 2004 compilation Cryptic Collection Vol. 3.
  • In 2006, Jason Mraz covered the song for the soundtrack to the film Happy Feet. This recording was produced by Josh Deutsch and John Powell. On the soundtrack album Happy Feet: Music from the Motion Picture, the song is mashed up with "Everything I Own", recorded by Chrissie Hynde.
  • In 2013, The Voice Australia finalist, Danny Ross covered the song on his debut album, As The Crows Flies.
  • In 2014, Ace Frehley covered the song on his album Space Invader
  • Live cover performances

  • The song was covered live by The Smashing Pumpkins in 1992, and the recording can be found on the Mashed Potatoes box set.
  • Kurt Elling performed live during a concert in the Czech Republic in 2006.
  • Tim McGraw performed it during the "Soul2Soul" 2007 tour with his wife Faith Hill.
  • They Might Be Giants have played it live on occasion, and included a cover of it on their podcast.
  • The String Cheese Incident covered it at a show in Melkweg, Amsterdam on March 27, 2004, and added "Don't wanna see Billy run" (Bill Nershi of SCI)
  • Keith Urban performed the song during his "Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing" 2007 tour with The Wreckers on August 18, 2007 and with Amanda Wilkinson and Tyler Wilkinson on December 15, 2007.
  • 311 performed it live in New Orleans on 311 Day (March 11, 2008).
  • Puddle of Mudd performed the song at DC101 Chili Cook-Off on May 16, 2009
  • Jack Johnson often performs the song live during his 2010 To the Sea world tour and did so in Vancouver on October 1, 2010.
  • Luke Bryan often performs the song near the end of his concerts.
  • Sampling

  • "The Joker" was sampled in the song "Summer and Lightning" by Electric Light Orchestra from their 1977 album, Out of the Blue.
  • "The Joker" serves as the outline of the song "So Cal Loco (Party Like a Rockstar)" by Sprung Monkey which appeared in the film Dude, Where's My Car?.
  • It was also sampled on the original Def American Records release of the Geto Boys' song "Gangster of Love" from their 1989 album, Grip It! On That Other Level. The sample, presumably unauthorized, was replaced with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" on later pressings of the album.
  • The song "Hudson Dragonfly" by Jackie-O Motherfucker, from the album, America Mystica (2006), contains a sample of "The Joker".
  • The song "Angel" by Shaggy, from the album Hot Shot (2000), samples the bass line of "The Joker".
  • Steve Miller recorded an unreleased demo of this song's music with the lyrics of his other song, Take the Money and Run.
  • The 2012 song Diese Tage with German and English lyrics by KRIS feat Dante Thomas uses the chorus of "The Joker".
  • Country rapper Colt Ford sampled this song for his song "Gangsta of Love".
  • References

    The Joker (Steve Miller Band song) Wikipedia

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