Steve Miller used a ‘fake word’ in his song ‘The Joker’, long before we’d ever heard of ‘fake news’. It was 1973 when ‘The Joker’ owned the airwaves.
I discovered this thanks to a listener who calls me on the request line almost every day. He’s usually prepared with a question about a song I’ve recently played. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll Google it for him.
You see, he’s blind, partially paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair. Due to his level of care, ‘D’ must live in a nursing home for seniors despite his young age of 50 something.
This morning he asked me about what word Steve Miller was singing in The Joker.
He asked, “Is it ‘politics’ of love”?
Some people call me the space cowboy yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice…
Cause I speak the politics of love
That didn’t feel quite right to either of us, so I looked it up.
I read the lyric out loud to ‘D’, “Some people call me Maurice…‘Cause I speak the pompatus of love”
Pompatus of love?? What the…
Both of us needed a definition.
Urban Dictionary explains it this way:
In 1954, Vernon Green of the Medallions wrote a song called “The Letter” in which he used the words “puppetutes of love“, a combination of “puppets” and “prostitutes”. A puppetute was a woman of your fantasies who would do anything you wanted. Steve Miller, who sometimes imported words from other songs (including his own) into his lyrics, misheard the word as “pompitous” or “pompatus” and added “pompitous of love” and “pompatus of love” to his songs, “Enter Maurice” and “The Joker”, respectively.
I may be late to the party on this revelation, but it shows that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, you just never know what you may learn, even about a song you’ve known for decades.
As a footnote to this back story, Steve Miller says that the song saved his career. Nice.