The Steve Miller Band were the hottest thing on American radio, and in record stores, in the late summer of 1982. Their album Abracadadra, released in May that year, was on its way to platinum sales in the US alone, and about to start a six-week run at No. 3 on The Billboard 200. On 4 September, the ace guitarist and his band were the kings of pop too, as the infectious title track from the album climbed to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
The song, written by Miller and co-produced by him with the band’s drummer Gary Mallaber, was a prime example of how the axeman from Milwaukee had mastered the art of creating excellent album rock with an ear for the commercial single. It was a combination that had worked brilliantly on two previous No. 1 US pop singles for the outfit, with 1973’s ‘The Joker’ and ‘Rock’n Me’ in 1976. “What’s expected of me is short tunes,” he told Rolling Stone, perhaps with an edge of frustration. “They just want that four-minute fix.”
After ‘Abracadabra’ climbed to the top, history was reversed: ‘Rock’n Me’ had gone to the top of the American chart by unseating Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now.’ Now, the new hit was succeeded at No. 1 by the same band’s ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry.’
‘Abracadabra’ had two non-consecutive weeks at the summit, becoming a gold single, and also hit No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland. It reached No. 2 in the UK, becoming the band’s only top ten hit there in July 1982, held off the top only by Captain Sensible’s ‘Happy Talk’ and then Irene Cara’s ‘Fame.’ The Abracadabra album also became their only top ten LP in the UK, spending three consecutive weeks at No. 10.
‘Abracadabra’ is on Steve Miller’s retrospective 3CD + DVD box set Welcome To The Vault, which can be pre-ordered here.
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