Song: “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band
Reached #1: January 12, 1974 (their first, 1 week)
OK. What the hell is a “pompatus”, and what does love have to do with it?
From what I’ve found on the Interwebs (and, of course, you can always trust the Interwebs), it’s either a word Steve Miller made up for the song, or it’s a mishearing of a lyric from the 50’s song “The Letter”, “the puppetutes of love”. Of course, that makes about as much sense as “pompatus”, and gets us exactly no closer to the truth. Well, “The Letter” songwriter Vernon Green said “puppetutes” was a “secret paper-doll fantasy figure” that would “bear children”. So… yeah, that helps.
What we know is that it’s actually a callback to the track “Enter Maurice”, where the song’s subject (Maurice) invites his woman to “come closer” so he can speak of the “pompatus of love”. Was “pompatus” explained in “Enter Maurice”? Hell no.
This song spawned a movie in 1996 – it starred Jon Cryer before he was overshadowed by Charlie Sheen’s lunacy. It’s been referenced in a Stephen King novel, a comic strip, and by humorist Dave Barry. And none of them know what it means, either.
It’s not quite the mystery that Carly Simon posed… but still… someday, maybe, we’ll figure out just what the “pompatus of love” is.
Tomorrow’s the second day (of seven) without a #1. I’ll find a song to feature, though. See you then.
Other songs to reach #1 on January 12:
1963 – “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence (his first, 2 weeks)