I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a mid-night toker, and I get my lovin’ on the run. I’m also called a space cowboy.
April Fool’s Day! I’m none of the above, not even a joker. I wish I were a space cowboy, but nope.
Back in the 1970s, my mom met my dad’s childhood friend, who later married my dad’s cousin. The first time my mom met him, he was totally drunk and singing “really like your peaches, wanna shake your tree.” I heard this story when I was in my teens and thought it was funny, but wondered for a while in the pre-Google days of internet research what song he was singing. My aging-with-perfection ear for music rarely lets me down, and I finally did track down this song based on searching for that lyric alone.
So thanks Billy for singing this on lyric all those years ago, and my parents for telling me this story so I could put my mad internet research skills to good use!
“The Joker” is a 1973 song by the Steve Miller band, a single from their album of the same name. It makes reference to several other songs they’d previously released – “Space Cowboy” is from Brave New World, “Gangster of Love” is from Sailor, and “Enter Maurice” is from Recall the Beginning…A Journey from Eden. “The Joker” is also the second Steve Miller Band song to use the word “pompatus.”
Now, you’re probably wondering what that word actually means, and if you stick around to the end, I promise a definition.
Seriously, I won’t leave you hanging on this one!
“The Joker” borrows heavily from the song “Soul Sister” by Allen Toussaint, and references the 1954 Clovers song “Lovey Dovey.” It charted at #1 in 1973-1974 on the Billboard Hot 100, and after its use in 1990 commercial for Levi’s entitled “Great Deal,” the song re-entered the charts at #1 in the United Kingdom (where it originated), as well as charting in various positions (including #1) in Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, France.
It’s kind of a silly song (remember, for years the only lyric I knew involved Not Peaches and Not A Tree. But Steve Miller didn’t care, he wanted to shake them anyway. And so did my dad’s friend when he was drunk, even if he was only singing it.
Years later, he gave my dad a card for his birthday with a guy dressed in his 70s “Wild and Crazy Guys” finest…that played this song when opened. My parents still have that card!
But you’re not going to hear a snippet from a birthday card, you’re going to hear the whole song!
And as featured in that Levi’s commercial:
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And if you ever wanted to know what pompatus meant, Wikipedia delivers.
Pompatus (or pompitus) is an unusual word used by Steve Miller famously in his 1973 hit single “The Joker”. The word is probably a corruption or imagined version of the word “puppetuse,” an original coinage, written by a fourteen year old Vernon Green, and subsequently released in 1954 as the Doo Wop song “The Letter” performed by himself and The Medallions.
Learn something new everyday, they say.
Have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!