This Day in Rock Music History January 12
1974 - "The Joker" Hits #1 on the Billboard Charts
The Steve Miller Band hits the top of the Billboard Charts with their song, "The Joker." If you've never heard this song, where have you been? It's one of the most popular karaoke songs and rock songs in the last 50 years. It's not only popular because it has a great beat and it's fun to sing along with, but it's also one of the most mystifying songs in recent history as well.
What is the "Pompatus of Love"? And who the heck is Maurice?
Well now you can have those questions answered.
Steve Miller never really answered the question even though he was probably asked a hundred times. The closest he came to an answer was to simply say, "It's jive talk." But that's not good enough. Inquiring minds simply have to know.
The story begins in an earlier time - approximately 1954. A member of the group The Medallions - Vernon Green - did a solo song named "The Letter." He also wrote the song, so he was able to explain the possible origins of Steve Miller's wackiness.
In "The Letter," Green wrote about dreaming up his perfect woman. Let me remind you - he was only 14 at the time he wrote it. In the song, he basically created two new words - puppetutes and pizmotality. The latter referred to a type of language that you could speak only with the one you love. The puppetutes referred to a fantasy figure (notice the word puppet) that would be the perfect mate for a fellow. Steve Miller just misheard the word turned it into "pompatous." I wonder if he knew the confusion he was going to generate for decades to come.
The story was revealed when Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men" fame was making a movie in the 90s called "The Pompatous of Love." In an interview for TV, he mentioned that he heard about the word and the Vernon Green song from where it originated. Green was watching TV at the time and contacted Cryer soon after and told him the story. The rest, as they say, is a perfect anecdote for today in rock music history.
Steve Miller was not averse to using his "artistic license" to "borrow" lyrics from other songs, either. His "lovey dovey" line came from another 1950s song titled, "Lovey Dovey." Coincidence?
As for Maurice and the space cowboy, those simply refer to previous songs recorded by the band.
If you're interested, you can read the lyrics here.
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