Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “I wanna reach out and grab ya”

To be perfectly honest, I’m not fond of 80’s music.

In my view the quality of pop music deteriorated dramatically on January 1, 1980.

There are exceptions of course and I’m going to make a rare 80’s tune as my feature this week. Just don’t, darling wife of mine, get used to it.


June 15th marked the 40th anniversary of the release of the Steve Miller Band‘s 12th studio album, “Abracadabra.” Miller was born in Milwaukee and spent his first five years in Wisconsin, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from his Alma Mater, the University of Wisconsin Madison, and his godfather was legendary guitarist Les Paul.

Written entirely by Steve Miller, “Abracadabra” is a catchy pop song with mild sexual innuendo that rhymed “abracadabra” with “reach out and grab ya.”

“Abracadabra” was a huge hit, spending two weeks at #1 in the US in September 1982. Miller wrote it in 15 minutes.

Back in 1982 MTV was a musical phenomenon. You didn’t need just a great song or an attention-grabbing gimmick to sell records. You needed a video.

“Abracadabra” was the last US Top 40 hit for the Steve Miller Band, and then the group began to fade.

“We were considered a dinosaur group,” said Miller. “Punk was in, new wave, the hair bands – the guys in the green tights and two-foot hairdos – it seemed at the time that our run was over.”

You can see Steve Miller at this year’s Summerfest in Milwaukee. Ann Wilson is canceling her show at Summerfest on Saturday, June 25 at the BMO Harris Pavilion after a band member and four crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Steve Miller Band will now be headlining the BMO Harris Pavilion on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.

In 2016 Miller was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but wasn’t happy.

UPDATE, 6/25/: SUMMERFEST

The Steve Miller Band has amassed an impressive number of FM radio hits over the years, and the massive crowd at the BMO Harris Pavilion Friday night was clamoring to hear all of them.  

The band, fronted by Milwaukee native Miller, opened with 2017’s driving “Stranger Blues,” followed by a long version of the groovy “Fly Like an Eagle” (which included a wicked solo by keyboardist Joseph Wooten). 

Miller, now 78, acknowledged his godfather, guitar legend and Waukesha native Les Paul, and Paul’s influence on his music career. Then he pulled out a Les Paul guitar and played the riff-heavy “Jet Airliner” — with the crowd belting out the lyrics. 

Other hits included the swaggering “The Stake” and disco-esque “Abracadabra.” The Steve Miller Band also stayed true to its electric blues and psychedelic roots, including on signature hits “Living in the U.S.A.” and “Space Cowboy.”  

— Catherine Jozwik, Special to the Journal Sentinel 

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