Saturday Night Music, January 1, 2011: Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like An Eagle” 1976
While I was working as a cashier for an independent record store in San Jose in the mid-Seventies, a black guy surprised me by coming in and asking for this record he had heard at a party. Surprise, because by degrees, he admitted that it was by a white rock star.
It must have been an interracial party. He could have asked who was throwing the party whose music it was if everyone was black. However, in those days, someone black couldn’t easily admit to “liking” white rock music among other blacks or in an interracial setting. Keeping such albums in their record collection was running the risk of getting seriously and personally criticized by other blacks for their apostasy. Me, I couldn’t have given two cents about all that mess. I chucked out a brother one night when on top of other things, he started in on what I liked in music, which was a clear insult.
I don’t know how many records I played on the turntable for my customer, until he recalled that one of the lyrics was having to do with flying like a bird. That’s how I was able to find out that it was by Steve Miller, and it was the second cut of the album by the same name.
What my customer particularly liked was that organ, that bass, and how Miller sang it. (Miller is and always was a devotee of black music: jazz and blues as well as early rock and roll. He inherited the two former from his parents and his family friendship with the late Les Paul.) Thing is, he wanted only the 45 record and not the rest of the album. At least, a 45 was smaller to hide if you had a record collection. He wasn’t interested in going any deeper into Steve Miller than he could afford to. Too bad, because it certainly was a great song. Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping/Into the future…
Well, that organist was Joachim Young on the Hammond B3, and Lonnie Turner on bass. Joachim Young, called a self-destructive genius, may have died in 1989 from drug addiction. Until recently, Lonnie Turner was called the longest serving member of The Steve Miller Band, but he hasn’t been a constant member. Turner has worked with Terry & the Pirates and played with other stars like Eddie Money, Dave Mason, Albert King, and Tommy Tutone. He and Steve Miller shared an interest in the blues. Young and Turner, in my opinion, definitely helped make this song a winner. People, however, forget that the lyrics were actually the musings of a Native American who wants to escape the reservation.
Steve is another Milwaukee native done good. Currently, the Space Cowboy/Maurice is an artist-in-residence at the USC Thornton School of Music for the 2010-2011 school year, teaching undergrads the finer points of the business in the Popular Music and Music Industry Program. As well as the pompatus of love…