1982 was a pivotal year in music for me – it was when I really started listening to the radio. I had it on constantly, and embraced Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 as if it were Billy Graham’s radio hour.
I fell in love with “Come on Eileen,” “Don’t You Want Me,” and even syrupy ballads such as “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “Up Where We Belong.” I even liked “Ebony and Ivory.” But one song that always made me change the station was the Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra.”
Steve Miller is one of many sources for the emergence of punk’s deconstruction of rock music (What music wasn’t in the 1970s?); his middle-of-the-road, album-oriented rock made many people’s teeth grind. It had been a full five years between Top 10 songs for Miller, and he emerged in 1982 with “Abracadabra.”
“Hey Jude” this is not. A series of minor arpeggios in the bass line is the basis of the song, and it repeats throughout the song, jarring on your nerves like a dentist performing root canal. The moment I hear those minor chords, I immediately lunge for the radio dial, almost as fast as when I hear the opening lines to “Margaritaville.”
The lyrics. Oh my god. Here are some samples without hearing Miller’s Midwestern twang:
I heat up, I can’t cool down You got me spinnin’ round and round
Those sound like lyrics from a Survivor or Bon Jovi song.
Every time you call my name I heat up like a burning flame
Burning flame full of desire Kiss me, baby, let the fire get higher
Yes, even more heat.
Abra, abracadabra I wanna reach out and grab ya
Quite possibly the worst rhyme in all of rock music.
I’ll leave it at that and skip the references to leather and lace and black panties. Lyrically, this is crap.
I’ve never liked Miller’s voice – it ranks right up there with REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin as the most irritating voice in rock. I respect his guitar talent, but like Eric Clapton and Santana, he should probably just stick with the guitar playing, because his voice isn’t up to par.
Icing on the cake: The coda features a rehash of the first verse, with Miller’s attempt at a Queen/ELO harmony in falsetto, which falls flat – literally. It’s so off-key, it makes my skin crawl.
I’m posting the video for my mom, who may not have heard the song before. She may punch me after she listens to it.