If you ever wondered what it was like to be high, but could not or did not want to smoke weed, all you needed to do was listen to Fly Like An Eagle by Steve Miller. This song is not about getting high. It’s about being high. Listen to the song very carefully. It’s seemingly just a little groovy jam. But Steve sets up the experience very well: the guitar riff that acts like the prep of the J or pipe or bong, the strong one note held by the organ as the deep inhale and then bass & organ slide letting it all out. Now sit back for 3 (or more) minutes of ‘flight’ and slip into the future. (Seal completely missed the point of this song and his remake reflects that.)
Steve didn’t always record simple songs. In fact from the days of backing Chuck Berry in the late 60s to his blues early 70s albums, Steve was always about jamming out and letting it go. But that’s not gonna get you far on the pop charts. So as the gangster of love molded a new image of himself to his fans, he started making his songs more radio-ready, to the point that he had his first #1 in 1974, The Joker. He had a tall task in following up his breakthrough LP. But he and his band wrote recorded 2 albums worth of decent material. And rather than release a double LP, Steve decided to release 2 albums separately, more than a year apart. It yielded him 6 Top 40 hits, 4 of which were Top 10s, including another #1, Rock N Me. It’s follow-up nearly matched its peak, but held at #2 while the Theme to A Star Is Born kept Steve from soaring the highest highs. (Steve’s former bandmate, Boz Scaggs had entered the Top 40 at #37 with Lido Shuffle as Eagle hung on to #2.) From what Steve has said in interviews, he polished his songs and kept them short for radio and sales, but left enough space to he could improvise long sets during his shows.
For me, this was a perfect song for running around my backyard, pretending, dreaming, creating movies for myself to star in, as sun flares blinded my eyes, during an usually warm Spring. I did want to fly like an eagle to the sea or wherever the wind would take me. But I was always confused by the verses about feeding the babies who don’t have enough to eat and then ‘shooting’ the children with no shoes on their feet. Why should we shoot them? Maybe it’s not their fault they don’t have no shoes on. Wait, does this mean I can’t run around barefoot? Oh, I see, shoe the children. You see I was only 6. I didn’t know you could use shoe as a verb. Now I know. Although I will admit when I’m in Walmart, I’d like to shoot the parents with no shoes on their children’s feet.