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Sunday, September 28, 2014


Hello, everyone!  I hope you're enjoying your Sunday, and I'm certainly hoping that you're enjoying this fall weather. 

Well, okay.  In my neck of the woods, we seem to be experiencing an extended summer - not that anyone is really complaining.  I like sunshine and clear skies.  I just wish that the humidity wasn't so high.  Humidity makes me sweat like Niagara Falls.

Anyway, welcome to another edition of the
SUNDAY JUKEBOX, and I promise you that this week's edition will be filled with a lot of magic.

Or, specifically, magic words, that is.

I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Have you ever gone to see a magician performing at a local street fair or shopping mall?  Or, perhaps you can remember some of your favourite fictional magicians uttering their own catchphrases on television and film.

I suppose the most common phrases used might be "Alacazam!" or "Presto Chango!", but in the world of pop culture, people have gotten a little more creative.

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch for example has an entire spellbook at her disposal filled with a couple thousand different rhymes and spells.  For instance, if she wanted to increase the portion size of her ice cream, she could say "Midgie, Moodgie, Madgie, Marger, Make My Ice Cream Ten Times Larger!".  Very creative, wouldn't you say?

Or, perhaps if you were a fan of "Today's Special", you would know that the words that transformed Jeff the Mannequin into Jeff the Human were "Hocus Pocus Alamagocus!"  Having been a fan of that show as a child, I knew the song by heart.

Perhaps you were a fan of "Sesame Street", and you might remember the Amazing Mumford, whose catchphrase was always "A LA PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES!"

And of course, Harry Potter fans might remember the spell used to levitate objects.  It's "Wingardium Leviosa!"  Not Leviosar!

And then there's this magic word, uttered by The Steve Miller Band all the way back in 1982.  I know you know it, so sing along with the video!

ARTIST:  Steve Miller Band
SONG:  Abracadabra
ALBUM:  Abracadabra
DATE RELEASED:  May 29, 1982

Doesn't that song just reach out and grab ya?  Abracadabra is the name of the song for today, and this song is associated with a couple of magical facts.

For one, while this song did spend two weeks at the top of the Billboard Charts, those two weeks were not sequential.  It's rare for a song to hit the top of the charts, get dethroned, and then retake the top spot.  I can only think of a few instances in which that happened.  I'd consider that to be a cool fact, wouldn't you?  Let me explain.

"Abracadabra" first hit the #1 spot on September 4, 1982.  It would be dethroned on September 11 by Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", where that song remained on top for two weeks.  Then on September 25, 1982, "Abracadabra" magically found itself on top once more until October 2, where it was overthrown by "Jack and Diane" by John (Cougar) Mellencamp.

TRIVIA:  Interestingly enough, the same thing happened six years earlier in 1976, only the other way around.  For it was Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" that knocked off "Rock'n Me" from the pole position.  How about that for evening up the score?

For another, this single was the band's third #1 single, following 1973's "The Joker" and 1976's "Rock'n Me".  And it topped the charts in a total of six different countries - The United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland.  And it was also a Top 5 hit in the UK and Norway.  No wonder the single sold millions of copies worldwide!

Of course, a part of that could have been due to the really creative music video (well, as creative as music videos could have been back in 1982 anyway) that accompanied the song.  During the heyday of The Steve Miller Band, there was no MTV around for the band to have the opportunity to show a visual perspective for their songs.  All they had to go on were their records and their live concerts (which unfortunately I was not born to really experience, but I have been told that they were both excellent).  By the time MTV arrived in 1981, like many other established bands out there, The Steve Miller Band decided that they would use the world of music video to tell a story along with their video.

It certainly did work out very well.  As I said, the video itself was very creative for its day, and featured a variety of magicians performing tricks and illusions, as well as trained professionals who did everything from juggling scarves to eating fire!  Even the music video's graphics were very cutting edge with colour distortion and transposition to give the video even more of a magical feel.

Okay, so they technically don't hold up after thirty-two years, but still, you have to appreciate the idea behind it.

By the way, you might notice that in between shots of all of the illusionists and magicians featured in the video that there aren't really any shots of the band at all.  I don't know whether this was intentional or not, but I can probably hazard a guess that it was.  But if you look really closely at the very beginning of this video, you can make out a figure peering through a window pane.  That would be Steve Miller himself.

Now, as far as the inspiration behind this song?  Well, surprisingly enough it wasn't inspired by the activities of Harry Houdini, Harry Blackstone, or even David Copperfield.  Instead, it was inspired by a woman of "supreme" power.

No, seriously, it was inspired by Diana Ross. 

The story goes that while Steve Miller and his band were performing on NBC's "Hullabaloo" in the 1960s (the decade that The Steve Miller Band was formed in San Francisco, California), he met Diana there.  And I'm guessing that the meeting went very well if Miller was inspired to write a song about it!

Actually, given the lyrical content of the song, I have to wonder just how powerful of a first impression that Ross gave Miller!  Oh, to be a fly on the wall back in those days!

Anyway, long story short, the single became one of the biggest hits of 1982, and according to Billboard Magazine, it is apparently one of the greatest hits ever recorded - it's currently ranked at #70 on Billboard's Greatest Hits of All Time!

And, I'm sure that the song is still performed by the Steve Miller Band today.  After all, at the age of nearly 71, Steve Miller is showing no signs of slowing down yet!

That could be the greatest magic of at 71, Steve Miller can still embody the spirit of a twentysomething.

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