What are the Steve Miller Band’s 5 Biggest Hits?

For a while there, Steve Miller fluctuated between cult artist and journeyman. But once he found his hitmaking stride he didn’t stop, becoming one of the most successful artists of the 1970s and ’80s as a staple on both AM and FM radio.

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The Steve Miller Band hung out near the top of the charts for a good decade or so. Here are Miller’s five biggest hits based on their success on the US charts, all of which landed him and his band in the Top 10.

5. “Jet Airliner” (No. 8 in 1977)

Miller put his interpretive skills to work on this smash from Book of Dreams in 1977. Former Steve Miller Band member Ben Sidran produced an album by a singer/songwriter named Paul Pena that ended up going unreleased due to a record company’s decision. Miller heard “Jet Airliner” on this unreleased album and took a shine to it. That’s when he went to work by paring it down for mass consumption, cutting out some verses and turbocharging the main riff. Pena’s version wouldn’t get released until 2000.

4. “Fly Like an Eagle” (No. 2 in 1976)

Miller has always slid into other genres while managing to keep his rocking image intact. On the massive title track from his biggest-selling album, he nods to funk-soul bands like War in the arrangement. His rhythm section of Gary Mallaber (drums) and Lonnie Turner (bass) keeps everything loose-limbed, while Joachim Young adds colorful organ to fill in the open spaces. And Miller’s synthesizer fills make the flying suggested by the title sound as if it might lead right out of Earth’s atmosphere into the Milky Way.

3. “Rock’n Me” (No. 1 in 1976)

We’ve reached the point in this list where we’re talking about Miller’s three chart-topping singles. Whereas most of the other songs on this list have something a little bit different or exotic about them, “Rock’n Me” just feels like the quintessential Miller track. It features his signature churning rhythmic pulse and guitar riffs that grab you the first time you hear them. You can spot influences if you listen closely enough, from Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys to Free. But Miller’s gift is how he amalgamates those predecessors into something that’s very much his own.

2. “Abracadabra” (No. 1 in 1982)

This is the most surprising song on this list in that it came at a time when Miller, like many other rootsy rockers who hit it big in the ’70s, were struggling with how they could stay relevant in the MTV-era ’80s. With “Abracadabra,” Miller still built around the guitar riff, but he made it sleeker and more modern to keep it similar to what pop radio was playing back then. The synths are effectively deployed, and there’s a cool breakdown that keeps the song from getting too repetitive. We’re not sure the video holds up so well today, but the song still sounds great.

1. “The Joker” (No. 1 in 1974)

All the songs on this list are great. But it’s fair to wonder if Miller would have been able to spray them out to such a wide audience if “The Joker” hadn’t been so iconic as a single and introduced him to so many new listeners. For the lyrics, Miller borrowed lines from old songs, referred freely to his back catalog (Maurice, Gangster or Love, and Space Cowboy), and even creates his own word that somehow managed to ring quite true (the pompatus of love). The strolling pace gave him ample time for teardrop guitar fills. It’s still one of the most unique hit singles you’ll ever hear.

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