Steve Miller Exclusive: Big Plans for 2018

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A #1 hit from 1976

In 1968, a new band from San Francisco recorded its first album for Capitol Records, Children of the Future. The Steve Miller Band’s own future would be a bright one indeed. Over the past half-century they’ve released more than a dozen-and-a-half charted albums, four of them reaching the top 10; a greatest hits collection that, at last count, had gone platinum 13 times over; and a long string of classic rock smash singles, including three #1 hits–“The Joker” (1973), “Rock’n Me” (1976) and “Abracadabra” (1982)–and other favorites, including “Fly Like an Eagle” and “Jet Airliner.”

Now, Steve Miller tells Best Classic Bands in an exclusive interview, it’s time to celebrate. Beginning next year, fans can expect a flurry of reissues and special projects to mark the 50th anniversary of the Steve Miller Band, which is still going strong today.

The rollout of new Miller product has already begun with the September release, by Capitol/UMe, of the Steve Miller Band’s Ultimate Hits in several configurations (the vinyl versions were just released in late October.)

It’s only because of some restructuring in the music business that the 50-year anniversary is happening at all, Miller told us.

“Universal Music bought Capitol Records, which had been destroyed,” Miller says, speaking frankly. “It was the most screwed-up record company. Nobody there would even answer the phone.”

With the acquisition of Capitol by Universal, that all changed. “We were talking to them and we said, ‘It’d be great if you guys actually did have control over [the Miller catalog]. Can we talk to you about the Steve Miller Band? We sold a lot of records, we have a big catalog and we tour all the time.’ Turned out that everybody at Universal was really great.”

Universal is eager to give that catalog a proper revisiting, he says. “We spent a lot of time working with Universal and we put together a new deal where they could release everything, and we just put together the first part of the catalog. That’s the part they were really interested in. ‘Sure, we’d love you to do new records, kid. Where’s “The Joker”?’ So we just did an Ultimate Hits and an Ultimate Hits Deluxe.”

Listen to a previously unreleased version of “Space Cowboy” live, from Ultimate Hits, just a tease of what’s to come

But that’s just the beginning. “There’ll be boxed sets and all of the individual albums and vinyl and remastering and remixing. We’re doing a documentary and working on a book. We’re also working on more music and we’ll be putting some new projects out. There are miles of unreleased performances; it’s a big project,” Miller says.

“In the ’90s I toured every year, and every year I took somebody interesting out with me and they would come out and jam, so there’s all this stuff with other artists. Last summer I took Peter Frampton out. He’s a really unique and strong guitar player and he sounds great live. His show is great and we put together a bunch of Chicago blues for Peter to play on, which is something he hadn’t done. For about three months before the tour started I was feeding him tracks and saying, ‘We should do this.’ On his own records, of course he does his own stuff but people haven’t really heard him play. It was really special and really magical. We did 34 shows together.”

Watch Miller and Frampton perform Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin'” last summer

In addition, there will be live blues recordings made by Miller over the past couple of years at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he sits on the board and pilots the institution’s blues programming. The themed performances (the next one is scheduled for Dec. 1) have been recorded and filmed and Miller wants to see those released as well. “We do two nights each year so we can choose what we think is the best performance of each song. With all this material we’re getting some really cool records.”

Miller also hopes to release a new album at some point. “I’ve got new songs, new music I want to record,” he says. “I’m quite happy with recording and writing and doing all these different projects with different people and having a lot of fun with it. And Universal is saying, ‘Yeah, man, we’re with you. What do you want to do?’ It was an unexpected turn of events.”

Related: What were the big radio hits in 1973 when “The Joker” was rising to #1?


Best Classic Bands Staff

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