Saturday, January 12, 1974

Steve Miller Band “The Joker” hit #1

The Joker

Steve Miller Band

Writer(s): Eddie Curtis, Ahmet Ertegun, Steve Miller (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 20, 1973

Peak: 11 BB, 11 CB, 11 GR, 11 HR, 2 RR, 1 CL, 12 UK, 2 CN, 8 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 38.5 video, 457.76 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Steve Miller Band formed in 1966 in San Francisco. Their first two albums “combined straight-ahead blues with seamlessly produced, Beatlesque rock suites.” FB They spent “the early ‘70s playing some of the best rock music ever recorded, founded in the blues, grand-scaled and harmonically rich.” FB While Miller “developed an enthusiastic following, he remained a relative unknown.” FB Rolling Stone once dubbed Steve Miller “the man without a face.” FB

They released seven albums before they really caught on with the mainstream in 1973. They’d never had an album chart in the top 20 and only two singles reached the Billboard Hot 100 – “Living in the U.S.A.” (#94, 1968) and “Going to the Country” (#69, 1970). Their fortunes changed dramatically, however, with “The Joker.” The 1973 single went all the way to #1, sold five million copies, and propelled the album of the same name to #2 and platinum status.

Miller said, “I never thought ‘The Joker’ was going to be a hit…I said, ‘Okay, it’s got to be-two-and-a-half minutes long and it’s got to play on top 40 radio, and it’s got to follow a soul-disco symphony.” FB He explained that before it became a hit, “I knew every vaudeville hall in the United States and was playing each one of them three times a year...Then ‘The Joker” was the #1 record in the country, and we were playing 3000 seat halls” DT because we’d already scheduled the next tour became a hit.

The song reached its peak in the United States in early 1974, but it would 16 more years before it ascended to the throne in the UK. A television ad for for Levi’s 501 jeans boosted the song’s status, leading to its reissue and eventual #1 slot on the UK charts. KL There was some controversy, however, in that “The Joker” and Deee-lite’s “Grrove Is in the Heart” tied in sales, but the latter was listed at #1 because of a rule that, in the event of a tie, the song with the biggest gain from the previous week would get the nod. KL By hitting #1, “The Joker” set a record for the longest time between a song hitting #1 in the United States and the UK. WK

The song famously uses the made-up word “pompatus” which came from Miller mishearing lyrics for “The Letter” by the Medallions. Writer Vernon Green used the word “puppetutes,” itself a made-up word meaning “a paper-doll erotic fantasy figure.” WK Miller first used the word in his 1968 song “Gangster of Love.” WK


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Steve Miller Band
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 353.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits. Omnibus Press: London, UK. Page 359.
  • DT Dave Thompson (2011). 1000 Songs That Rock Your World. Krause Publications: Iola, WI. Page 287.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 1/6/2024.

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