Pinch punch first of the month, April Fools and all that jazz. I am not much of a joker. I have never been called a ‘gangster of love’, or “Maurice”….I might have been called a space cowboy at times, and in my old age have turned into a ‘toker’ and ‘midnight smoker’ in an effort to save my mind and kill some of the pain. Little Stevie Miller in all his bloated, sweaty, pale faced unattractiveness, singing like a sweet plump angel with a bad mullet, playing that lush slide along to one of the most iconic songs of the 20th century reminds me that things now are not as they were then. Stevie is not instagrammable. His drummer, Ron Wisco, looks like a math teacher. Kenny Lee Lewis, the bassist has enough cool and vibe to carry the band but seems kinda shy. I don’t think I can even remember who the keyboardist is here. Stevie is the main attraction, but if this band had come up nowadays nobody would be listening, and that would be a crime.
Image, something that used to be a by product of cool, has now become the main attraction and the unnegotiable essential of the rock star music scene. Pretty people need only apply. Music is not about looks or even hipness – that undefinable cool that people either have or have not and is immediately identifiable, if not quite definable. Cool is not a formula, it is a state of being. Stevie is cool. Stevie is not pretty. Stevie is talented. Stevie is not pretty. Stevie is a joker
He sings this song as if he is the most laid back, behind the beat, ladies man in history, he talks himself up whilst nailing the song down to the tracks that it chugs along like a box car train carrying the ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Kerouac and Cassady and the dreams of the beat generation. The Joker is almost a rap. It owes a lot to those 60 minute man blues songs, where jack conqueroo root spells catch unwitting lotharios, and leads them to ending up heading out the backdoor of some cutie’s house before her husband gets in. This biggest cock in the farmyard strut and swagger is meat and potatoes for bluesmen and rock singers alike. There is no point getting up on stage, baring your soul, putting yourself out there if you can’t muster some swagger, and boy did Steve Miller muster some swagger. The kid’s a real joker.
I might not find men particularly attractive, but Stevie pouting in the opening bars of the song, his thick lips smooching up to deliver the testosterone-soaked ‘yeah’, makes me want to gag. I wish I had never seen it. I cannot ever listen to this song now without watching Stevie in a funk of rutting animalistic heat and desire, feeling his oats and setting out his mannish boy table in my minds eye. I half want the rest of the band to perform an intervention, shout ‘Stevie! No!’, and haul him off stage, slide and all, telling him that he just don’t have the juice to perform this kinda song, but the band clearly smell money and keep on playing. I don’t blame ’em. It is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
He almost pulls it back from being utterly repulsive by a hint of cutesy wide eyed puppyish grinning in ‘I play my music in the sun’. He flashes a small smile that might well be saying, ‘hey I know this is all unlikely, but it is a really cool song and I bet people like it’. I might be being a little too hopeful. Perhaps I got it wrong and the ladies are lining up for Stevie to call ’em mama, and reassure them that his sweaty pallid ass is waiting for them right at home. Would it have killed him to do a few sit ups? Aye, there’s the rub.
You see, the joke is on me. Image is everything. If he had pulled up on stage looking like Keef Richards or Jimi Hendrix, or Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde I would have been satisfied, entertained, amused and maybe a little turned on, but I just can’t get past Stevie Miller. He looks like he should be selling beer or laying drywall, not boasting of his manly prowess on a stage. Let’s face it, people like me are the reason rock and roll is dying in the ditch it was always meant to expire in, because I want a bit of cool and pretty with my music. Ask me about Big Thief and I will tell ya that the music is great, best band of current times…and then wax lyrical about how cool and beautiful Adrienne is.
To be frank, it is not worth the trade off. I am gonna watch Stevie splutter and sweat and puppy dog his way through The Joker as penance for my book by the cover judging ways. It is not that I don’t care what someone looks like, or how cool they are when they present my musical food to the table, heck, it might not seem like it, but I am human too. It is just that cool has a shelf life and a certain emptiness behind the façade, cool is nothing without the talent to attend it, and the inspiration that should fuel it. Cool is nothing without a song, and man, oh man does Steve Miller have a song here. Forget cool, fuck pretty, let the people with a song break through…because if we don’t I foresee horrific deadly dull banal wall to wall BTS, manufactured pop prince and princess prettiness, and no damn songs at all.
April fucking fools.