Steve Miller: The Music Vet is Happy to Share his Opinions and Music, Live and Unedited
By: George Varga
It’s been 42 years since Steve Miller’s first album came out and 20 years since the release of his Steve Miller Band’s “Greatest Hits: 1974-1978,” which has now sold more than 14 million copies in the United States alone. Yet, while this veteran guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader is now touring behind his first new studio album in 17 years — the rousing, vintage blues-drenched “Bingo!” — he has no concern for what his legacy will be.
“I don’t know and I don’t care. Once I’m gone, I’m gone!” said Miller, 66, whose name is synonymous with such classic-rock staples as “Rock’n’ Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “The Joker” and “Take the Money and Run.”
What he cares about is what he knows and does best — making music exactly the way he wants to.
“When you come to see my show, people are singing their parts and playing music in front of you,” said Miller, who is on a nationwide tour this summer. “It’s the real deal (and) that’s all I have left that can’t be taken by Apple or Dell or Microsoft. They can’t take my live performances, but they’ve taken everything else and trashed it. … (Technology) changed society. And, boy, do I hate what it’s done to music.”
Here’s what ever-quotable Miller had to say about …
The record industry’s downward spiral: “My new album just debuted at No 1. on the blues charts and No. 11 on the pop charts, and we (only) sold 12,000 copies. I knew it was bad, but not this bad! There is no record business anymore.”
His music-rich boyhood: “Les Paul was my godfather. He and Mary Ford spent their honeymoon at my parents’ house in Milwaukee. When I was 9, T-Bone Walker taught me how to play guitar behind my head and do the splits, and I was on my way.”
The psychedelic 1960s: “I’d been working as the rhythm guitarist in Buddy Guy’s band right before I left Chicago. In San Francisco, it was a social phenomenon, not a musical phenomenon. The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother & The Holding Company were all folk musicians who said ‘Let’s get some Beatles’ boots, tweed jackets and Rickenbacker guitars. …’ It took me a while to realize: ‘Oh, it’s not about how good they are musically, it’s about LSD and light shows, and this is a revolution going on here, a once-in-a-lifetime thing.’ It was like an atom bomb went off in San Francisco.”
His new blues album: “I’ve never stopped playing blues and R&B. But what did it is working with Andy Johns, who is a great engineer. He was really the main instigation of this stuff. We were working on another project, and he said: ‘You know, Steve, before you die, I want to do a blues project with you.’ I said: ‘You know, I’ve been selecting some songs.’ We cut 42 songs and I felt like 28 of them hit the mark.’ So the next album is all ready to go.”
Recording his song “My Dark Hour” with Paul McCartney in 1969: “I was in London to make an album and my recording engineer Glyn Johns, Andy’s brother, was working with The Beatles, who were in the throes of breaking up. I was invited to Olympic Studio and sat there and watched Paul and John sing ‘Get Back.’ The next day John and Ringo didn’t show up, but Paul and George were there. I started showing Paul this riff, and Glyn said: ‘That sounds great.’ Seven hours later, we had ‘My Dark Hour.’ Paul was a monster on drums and he also played bass on it. I played guitar and pedal steel. It was a pretty amazing moment for me. I was a huge Beatles’ fan and to get to meet them and jam and record with Paul, wow. I learned a lot from him, just in that seven-hour window.”
The digital age: “I don’t feel like a cranky old man. I feel like an intelligent man with wisdom and experience. If they shut down the Internet, these people are finished. They won’t know what to do.”
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