“First Takes Are Always Better Than Perfect Takes”: Steve Miller Celebrates 50 Years of ‘The Joker’ With Epic New Release, ‘J50: The Evolution of The Joker,’ and Shares This Advice on Creating a Global Smash

Steve Miller performs live
(Image credit: orgen Angel/Redferns)

Steve Miller is due to release a 50th anniversary edition of his monumental 1973 album The Joker. Slated for release on September 15 via Sailor/Capitol/UME, J50: The Evolution of The Joker explores the artist’s creative process with 27 previously unreleased recordings from Miller’s vault. Among these archive treasures are song demos, live performances, studio outtakes and rehearsals, plus several audio commentary tracks.

J50: The Evolution of The Joker will appear on 2xCD, 3xLP + 7” formats in addition to digital download, DSPs and streaming services. Pre-orders are available now here.

Ahead of the release, fans can listen to “The Joker Suite” – a collection of four tracks (including the previously unreleased “Lidi” and “Travelin’”) demonstrating the “musical path” to the album’s 5x RIAA Platinum-certified number-one hit title track.

Steve Miller Band, 'J50: The Evolution of The Joker' releases September 15, 2023.

The box set features a lenticular cover, 60-page book with liner notes from both Steve Miller and journalist Anthony DeCurtis, a reproduction of a vintage Joker iron-on and a new Joker lithograph. (Image credit: Sailor/Capitol/UME)

The Joker was a breakthrough success for Miller marked by changes to the band’s lineup and sound, as well as his approach to songwriting and recording. Sharing some music-making wisdom with fellow artists, Miller had this to say: “The most important rule that every kid out there who wants to make a record should remember is: When you go into the studio, be ready to do the whole performance the first time you do it, because that’s going to be the best time you do it.

“The whole thing is to capture the first performance. That’s a lot of what The Joker’s about. It was all first takes, and first takes are always better than perfect takes.”

To make a hit record, I thought it was best to have five hooks

Steve Miller

And the secret to writing a hit record? Miller says it’s important to include at least five attention-grabbing moments in a song.

“To make a hit record, I thought it was best to have five hooks,” reveals the tunesmith. “Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five, if you really wanted to deliver a hit. Like if you take ‘The Joker.’ ‘Some people call me the Space Cowboy.’ What the hell was that? Then it continues and it gets your attention again: the slide guitar, the chorus, the harmony, the wolf whistle. It all adds up.

“All of these things are just elements of writing. You learn those elements, and you’re always playing with them.”

Catch the Steve Miller Band on tour. Visit the Store for further details on J50: The Evolution of The Joker releases.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.