The song “The Joker” is credited to Eddie Curtis, Ahmet Ertegűn, and Steve Miller. It was released in 1973 on The Steve Miller Band’s album The Joker and as a single. In 1973 and into 1974, it rose to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Canadian chart. Strangely enough, it charted again internationally in 1990 after it was used in a TV ad for Levi’s. In 1990/91, it went to #1 in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. And it was #5 in Austria and Switzerland, #2 in Norway, and #4 in Sweden. Go figure.
The song “The Joker” is known for its wolf whistle, which is played on a slide guitar. The lyrics have al ot of other things happening. For example, the word “pompatus” is considered to be a nonce word, which is a word created for an occasion. “Pompatus” does have a meaning in Latin, which is “something done with pomp or splendor.” The song “The Letter” by the Medallions uses the phrase “the puppetutes of love,” and Miller changed it to pompatus.
“The Joker” also has references to other songs. “Space Cowboy” is from the Steve Miller Band’s 1969 Brave New World album. “Gangster of Love” is from their 1968 album Sailor. The Maurice refers to the song “Enter Maurice” from their 1972 album Recall the Beginning…A Journey from Eden. The verse regarding all of that lovey-dovey, peaches and tree stuff comes from the 1954 song “Lovey Dovey” by The Clovers.
The artwork for the album cover has also received recognition. It was designed by John Van Hamersveld and Norman Seeff. Rolling Stone magazine has it on its list of “Top 100 Album Covers of All Time.”
The Steve Miller Band formed in San Francisco, California, in 1966. Their songs have become a staple on Classic Rock radio stations. On The Joker were Steve Miller (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Gerald Johnson (bass guitar, vocals), Dick Thompson (organ, clavinet), John King (drums). Additional personnel for the album were Lonnie Turner (bass guitar) and “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow (pedal steel guitar). The Steve Miller Band has had many changes in their lineup, and they continue to tour and perform.