Friday Night with Guitar George: Vinyl Version

One week after going out of my way to prove that FNWGG is more than just white American classic rock bands from the seventies, I come back with—you guessed it—a white American rock band from the seventies. Let me explain. Yesterday BGS posted Episode 6 of the Top 500 countdown, which includes Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle. Also yesterday, @ohkiv Tweeted a very interesting article about the rising popularity of vinyl records, which has led to an unforeseen domino effect that is having a strongly negative impact on—paradoxically—the vinyl record business. The reference to Steve Miller followed shortly by a reference to vinyl albums compelled me to visit the shelves upon which are stored a plethora of vinyl records (mostly from the seventies) and subsequently wipe the dust off of my highly treasured copy of Book of Dreams, which was Steve Miller Band’s follow-up to the aforementioned Fly Like an Eagle.

Steve Miller Band is one of several groups in the seventies whose popularity seems out of proportion to the quality of their music (think Styx, Kansas, Nazareth, etc.)—not that these bands were bad, it’s just that the fondness my contemporaries and I had for them seems, in retrospect, to be a bit overzealous. That being said, decades later there is still a whimsical, feel-good quality about hearing “Fooling Yourself” or “Dust in the Wind” or “Love Hurts” or “Fly Like an Eagle”. What sets Steve Miller slightly apart from the others is that he never took himself too seriously, and such artistic offhandedness can be somewhat charming. Remember, it was ol’ Steve who famously rhymed “facts is” with “taxes” in “Take the Money and Run”, and who gave us the unforgettable “pompitous of love” phrase in “The Joker.”

But this is Guitar George, not Goofy Seventies Song Lyrics George, which brings us to “Jet Airliner”, the big hit single from Book of Dreams. My penchant for lead guitar is self-evident: I have turned it into a weekly blog post. However, I also have a weakness for certain types of electric guitar chording, such as typified by The Byrds, early Tom Petty, and some early Beatles stuff. Although “Jet Airliner” does have that one instantly recognizable lead riff—which I love—it’s the jangly chording that surrounds the distinctive riff that makes me such a sucker for this one song. Folks who know this song only by radio are missing out—the song’s opening was shortened in making the radio-friendly version. But us diehards who shelled out five bucks for the LP got treated to a full forty-five seconds of that gloriously badass dual guitar chording which opens “Jet Airliner” on the album. I damn near broke the strings on my Wilson Jack Kramer playing tennis racquet guitar to those forty-five seconds over and over and over, back in the summer of 1977 (or tonight, as soon as I finish typing this).

Tonight’s video was filmed in 2007 with a gracefully aging Steve Miller giving us a wry smile that shows he still doesn’t take the pompitous of love too seriously, and that he still doesn’t want “to get caught up in any of that funky shit going down in the city.” You will note at 5:46 Steve cheerfully signs a fan’s vinyl copy of Fly Like an Eagle. You will also note the dual guitar chording from 0:08 to 0:53—precisely forty-five seconds, just like the original. Now, where’s that old tennis racquet?

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