“Brave New World” by the Steve Miller Band (1969)
If you listened to the radio in 1976, you were treated to one of three things: 1) “Bohemian Rhapsody,” all 6 minutes, three times an hour; 2) “Play That Funky Music,” the single version, four times an hour; or 3) other stuff.
A lot of that other stuff involved trackes from the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle.” The hits just kept on coming: “Rock ‘n Me,” “Take the Money and Run,” “The Window” and the album’s title track.
By the way, if that last-named song seemed familiar, that’s because it was pretty much a rewrite of Miller’s own “My Dark Hour.”
Which brings us to “Brave New World,” the album on which “My Dark Hour” appeared, back in 1969.
I remember hearing in ’76 that “Fly Like A Eagle” was the 10th album by the Steve Miller Band, which amazed me, considering the only song I’d heard previously was “The Joker.” But it was true: Beginning with “Children of the Future” in 1968, Miller and his cronies hit double digits by ’76.
“Brave New World” stands out among all those offerings for several reasons, those being superior song offerings. “My Dark Hour,” for example, rode a killer riff backed on drums by none other than James Paul McCartney. You can look it up: The future Sir Paul played drums on the tune, under his alias of Paul Ramone. (Yes, that is where the Ramones got their name.)
The title track is a cool song, as is “Can’t You Hear Your Daddy’s Heartbeat,” written by the late Tim Davis, the band’s drummer at the time.
But the real gem is “Space Cowboy,” a song that portends the future beyond the ’60s by addressing sociopolitical topics that still are in play more than four decades later:
“All you back room schemers, small-trip dreamers/Better find something new to say/’Cause it’s the same old story, same old crime/And you’ve got some heavy dues to pay.”
Elected officials, take note.
These days, Steve Miller books gigs playing after Pirates games. But even back in the ’60s, he was a vital musical force. And as derivate as he eventually became, he produced some innovative music when it counted most.