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Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band

Album: AbracadabraReleased: 1982Charted:
  • Written entirely by Steve Miller, this catchy pop song with mild sexual innuendo contains lyrics of the simplistic "June moon spoon" variety:

    I see magic in your eyes
    I hear the magic in your sighs
    Just when I think I'm gonna get away
    I hear those words that you always say

    Yes, the man who once spoke of the pompatus of love was now rhyming "abracadabra" with "reach out and grab ya."

    It's certainly not the song that got Miller into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, but "Abracadabra" was a huge hit, spending two weeks at #1 in the US in September 1982.
  • Rock bands like ZZ Top, Van Halen, and Yes added synthesizers to their mix in the '80s and scored huge hits by adapting to the sound of the decade. The Steve Miller Band started out as a blues band in the '60s, evolving into a rock outfit in the '70s. They often sprinkled electronic effects into their songs, so the keyboards and synth stabs in this song weren't out of character.
  • The lyrics were inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes, whom Miller had met while performing together on NBC's Hullabaloo in 1966. "'Abracadabra' started off as a great piece of music with really atrocious lyrics," Miller explained to The Dallas Morning News. "One day I was out skiing in Sun Valley and, lo and behold, who did I see on the mountain but Diana Ross. I skied down off the mountain to go have lunch. I had played with Diana Ross and the Supremes on Hullabaloo in the '60s, and I started thinking about the Supremes and I wrote the lyrics to 'Abracadabra' in 15 minutes."
  • The video was the first that Miller made. One of most low-profile frontmen in rock, Miller stayed out of the spotlight and was rarely seen in public off the stage, but in 1982 MTV was becoming a force and you needed a video to sell records.

    Miller was never going to be a video star, so this video did a little slight of hand, playing up the magic theme with magicians performing various tricks. Miller is incognito, wearing sunglasses while playing the guitar and moving in slow motion.

    The clip was directed by Peter Conn, who was one of the first to integrate computer effects into videos.
  • "Abracadabra" was the last US Top 40 hit for the Steve Miller Band, and their third #1, following "The Joker" and "Rock 'N' Me." The song got plenty of airplay, but couldn't fill arenas for Miller, who was falling out of favor. "We were considered a dinosaur group," he told The Word regarding this period. "Punk was in, new wave, the hair bands - the guys in the green tights and two-foot hairdos - it seemed at the time that our run was over."

    The group was only drawing a few thousand fans to their big arena shows, marking the end of their run as a huge concert draw. Miller took six years off from touring, but resumed again in 1988 ("I was just bored to tears," he said). By this time, he had entered the realm of classic rock, and was once again filling arenas. Over the next few decades, he kept a consistent but reasonable touring schedule, playing about 50 shows a year, mostly in the US.
  • This was one of just two songs Miller wrote for the album - most of the tracks were written by his drummer Gary Mallaber and guitarist John Massaro. Mallaber also produced the album with Miller.
  • The album version runs 5:08; the single was edited down to a radio-friendly 3:37.
  • Sugar Ray covered this in 1999 on their album 14:59. Their version was used in an episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and in the 2002 movie Clockstoppers.
  • This was used in the 2005 French film L'anniversaire, and also in the movies Lost Islands (2008) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013).
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Comments: 24

My understanding is that most of the lyrics were inspired by two preschool playing "patty-cake" at a kindergarten near his home. Sounds pretty plausible.Steve - Tempe, Az
Eric, you're right. It DOES sound like the end theme to M*A*S*H! Good ears!Dave - Wheaton, Il
To Vida, Los Angeles, Ca ---Maybe you should reach out and grab her <(*_*)>Bmn - Hisuan, Argentina
On September 4th, 1982 "Abracadabra" became #1 for one week, then "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago became #1 for two weeks. But abracadabra, just like that; the Steve Miller Band reclaimed the #1 spot for one more week!!! {That's two total weeks at #1 and 25 weeks in the Top 100}Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
SMD made a lot of great songs. Pity this wasn't one of them. What few lyrics there are sound like a kindergartener wrote them.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
This song made Billboards list of the top selling 100 singles of the past 50 years, although it only stayed at #1 for two non-consecutive weeks. Apparently, it rode the top 100 for many, many weeks.Paul - Detroit, Mi
Is it just me, or does part of this song (toward the end) sound like part of the theme song to the TV show M.A.S.H.?Eric - Beaverton, Or
This is my favorite Steve Miller Song! I also love the video to it. With the guy who looks like Robin from Batman.Jennifer Harris - Grand Blanc, Mi
Ryan/IL, I'm glad you mentioned that--I sorta thought I was hearing him say, "Debra-cadabra" at times! What I don't remember is, whether I heard it while listening to the song, or later replaying it in my head, with free-form variations/mutilations. Did anybody else hear that, or was it my imagination? *** VIDA/LA--That's great! But that URL no longer works. Is there an update? Or has it fallen into the big bit-bucket of history?Fred - Laurel, Md
Is it just me or does it sound like he's saying "AbracaDEBRA" in it when he sings "Abracadabra"?Ryan - Farmer City, Il
Hey Brandon, you have to admit even though Steve Miller is no great poet, he did manage to get Joker, Smoker and Toker all in the same verseKarl - Akron, , Oh
According to Steve himself, he had Diana Ross in mind when he wrote the lyrics.Eddie - Acton, Me
Jesse and Brandon: At least they didn't cheat by rhyming a word or phrase with itself, like they did in "The Joker" (where they "rhymed" "the Gangster of Love" with the infamous phrase "the pompitus of love").Joshua - Twin Cities, Mn
Hmmmm..."Abra-Abracadabra...I wanna strip ya and jab ya." Or..."Abra-Abracadabra...I'm gonna stalk ya and nab ya." Or..."Abra-Abracadabra...I'll take this bread knife and stab ya."K - Toronto, Canada
The first prominent rock band that Ross Valory appeared in was the Steve Miller Blues Band when their album Rock Love was released in September 1971.
Still have not verified if Valory actually wrote the lyrics to Abracadabra. Other sites give credit to Steve Miller for the song but do not specify whether he wrote all of it or only the music.
Kara - Cadillac, Mi
I heard (or read) somewhere that Ross Valory of Journey actually wrote the lyrics to this song. Can anyone verify?Kara - Cadillac, Mi
Hey Jesse: Steve Miller was never the best rhymer in rock. C'mon, in "Take the Money and Run" he rhymed Texas, Facts Is, Justice, and Taxes. Someone get that man a songwriter's rhyming dictionary!!!Brandon - Peoria, Il
This song is MAGIC!Terry - Northampton, England
When they were writing this song, they must have had a mseeage from God or sumthin/ 'Hmm, what do we rhyme abracadabra with'? BING! 'I wanna reach out and grab ya of course! O ya that's really romantic. You wanna reach out and grab her. Not much of a sweet talker, are ya stevey?Jesse - Haddam, Ct
I've never seen the music video and I have forgotten the guitar solo, so i don't have much common ground for talking. But Steve Miller was BLUES in the 60's! can't woozy...but so was Fleetwood Mac...Even more woozy..Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
This is a great song, but with possibly the worst guitar solo ever.Danny - Sydney, Australia
This was NOT Steve Miller's first MTV video. I remember seeing both Livin in the USA which featured a young couple skipping through an amusement park as well as Heart Like A Wheel which was memorable for having Miller shift the sports car during the hook back in early 1982. Also, back in the 90s VH1 showed an early version of Fly Like An Eagle from Midnight Special or some such with more hippy dippy lyrics, but that might not be a true video.Frank - Mars, Me
Vida - Los Angeles, Ca
Steve Miller does not actually appear in this video. What you are seeing is a life-size cutout. Steve was on tour when they started to shoot the video, so, in order for him to be in it, they had to use the cutout. I saw this on VH1's "Pop Up Video".Richard - Savannah, Ga
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