Jet Airliner

Album: Book Of Dreams (1977)
Charted: 8
Play Video


  • This was written by Paul Pena, a blind folk singer from Cape Cod. Pena played the Newport Folk Festival in 1969, but was unable to launch a successful career.
  • For much of his life, Pena's royalties from writing this were his only income.
  • The radio version substitutes the line, "Funky kicks going down in the city" for "Funky s--t going down in the city."

Comments: 35

  • Jay from Lake Havasu City Before I read the lyrics I thought the line was big ole jail in a line up. Ah the follie in youth.
  • Claude from Baltimore, Md@Cody S: He could have, but Miller is a shrewd businessman. Because he didn't write "Jet Airliner" he doesn't make any (publishing) royalties on it. But paired up with "Threshold," he can get the royalties on that instead. Likewise you get that synth opening to "Fly Like An Eagle", called "Space Intro". Now he's making money on two songs instead of just one.
    In the meantime, Paul Pena was basically able to live off of "Jet Airliner" for most of his life.
  • Cody S from Watertown, SdMaybe it's just me, but the beginning of the song doesn't at all fit the feeling of the rest of the song. I love it, very recognizable, but they could have cut the synth and let the guitar be it's own prelude, and had the synth start another song that actually features the synth. That's all I got.
  • Donald from Brunswick, MoI am 56 years old and, until this morning, when I heard this on my way to work, I have always thought that first line of the chorus was, "Viggo, turn that light on." If the DJ hadn't said, "Big 'ol jet airliner," at the end of the song, I'd still be happily singing about Viggo!
  • Don from Sevierville, TnI used to hear the first line of the chorus as "We don't care 'bout the rhinestone." I suppose it's related to 2 years earlier when Glen Campbell put out "Rhinestone Cowboy".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some obscure trivia:
    On August 27th 1939, the world's first jet aircraft, Germany's* Heinkel He 178, made its maiden flight...
    And thirty-eight years later on April 24th, 1977 "Jet Airliner" by the Steve Miller Band entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    {See next post below}...
    * Sadly, five days later on September 1st, 1939 Germany invaded Poland, thus marking the beginning of World War II.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 24th, 1977, "Jet Airliner" by the Steve Miller Band entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #71; and on July 3rd it peaked at #8 (for 2 weeks) and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #3 on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
    Was track 2 of side 1 on the group's tenth studio album, 'Book of Dreams', and the album reached #2 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "Jungle Love" (#23) and "Swingtown" (#17)...
    "Jet Airliner" was the third in a string of three straight records by the group to make the Top 10; started with "Rock'N Me" (#1 for 1 week), "Fly Like A Eagle" (#2 for 2 weeks), and finally this one.
  • Mark from Jefferson City, MoMy band used to sneak in "Big Ol' Wet Vagina" just see if anyone noticed.
  • Nate from New York, NyThe Chorus is Big ol' jet airliner.
  • Jasper from Nieuwegein, NetherlandsThe beginning of this song was probably inspired by "Crossroads" by Cream. I mean, listen to it. Steve Miller has said he is a huge fan of Clapton, so this is quite possible.
  • Al from Danforth, Mei always thought it said we dont jam with the lights on
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxMy little brother thought the chorus went "Bagel, jam and a lighter." Does sound a BIT like that.
  • Neal from Hooterville, MiSteve Miller is the only band I know that makes "airliner" a four-syllable word. Listen and they sing "air-o-line-a". Like "Carolina" without the "C"...
  • Christian from Providence, RiWow, add this to my long list of "Never knew that was a cover!" And by an artist from Cape Cod no less. Guitar sound is so sweet. Those intro riffs just shimmer and they don't write riffs like that much anymore. Can't wait to hear Paul Pena's version now....
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaThis use to be my traveling song. Thanks God I don't travel much any more. Paul Pena's original version smokes Steve Miller's version. Great song!!
  • Jesse from Madison, WiBeing from Madison, WI, I can say with utmost certainty that Steve and Boz kicked it here in the mid to late '60s, and that Ben Sidran still lives here in Madtown. And to a previous commentor who stated about the "guitar intro" - you mean the synthesizer intro which cuts into the guitar intro? It pisses me off that modern corporate radio slices off the best part of the song to "fit the format", and the budget! You gotta free up that EXPENSIVE airtime for more commercial crap. As far the "S-bomb", I still hear occasionally the uncensored version. The censored version was what you got if you bought the 45, which happened to be what a lot of stations played back in the mid-'70s. It also is what appeared on the Greatest Hits album. But at least they left the great synth-intro on there! Anybody out there know what synth he used? My somewhat-educated guess is that he had an ARP 2600.
  • John from Grand Island, NyALERT!!! Play the YouTube Video on the right to listen to the full version of this song, it includes the GREAT guitar intro that seems to always be left out of every radio station version. Shame on you DJ's that edit this wonderful song!! They did the same thing with Abracadabra except they cut off the last 2 minutes at the end, tisk tisk!
  • Tom from Rochester, NyI'd highly recommend that everyone check out Paul Pena's original version, whether you like the Steve Miller version or not.

    Also, Paul Pena was featured in a documentary from 1999 called Genghis Blues. It's really an incredible story.
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlSteve Miller Band just made some great fun good-time rock & roll! He was really big in 1976-1977. I believe he & Boz Scaggs also played together as youngsters in Texas long before either of them became successes. Of all his great hits I have to say that "Jet Airliner" is probably my favorite. I especially like the extended version that includes the 1-minute long song "Threshold" at the beginning, then jams on the rhythm guitar for another whole minute before the singing starts. That song just jams. I'm glad to have seen him in concert 3 times now (1996, 2005, 2007). Though Cream's "Crossroads" came well before "Jet Airliner", I never really knew that song well and so never noticed the similar riffs until recent years. In hindsight I must admit that it does sound a little like Steve Miller might've borrowed the riff from "Crossroads" for "Jet Airliner". Infact, at his most recent concert that I just saw back in May, 2007 he played a cover of "Crossroads". So without actually admitting it perhaps he's acknowledging the obvious & doesn't try to hide it. I don't know. Anyhow, not being familiar with "Crossroads" at the time, the riff always seemed like a perfect fit for "Jet Airliner" and so for me "Jet Airliner" stands alone as a great song. And it is.
  • Robert from Chicago, IlYou don't F--k with the classics, that's why the FCC doesn't touch the radio station...I know from experience working at a college FM station, and the FCC never EVER checks up on us, even if a few F-bombs and S--ts get over the airwaves. They're more concerned with talk radio shows like Howard Stern in the past and Mancow. Not to mention the hip-hop/rap and alternative stations. Rarely they'll pick on classic rock.
  • Tom from East Lyme, CtThe riff in the beginning of the song sounds a lot like "Crossroads" by Cream
  • Joe from Los Angeles, CaJ.J. Cale wrote "Call Me The Breeze," not Paul Pena.
  • Tim from Washington, DcJust want to add to the misheard line list... Let's not forget "Big ol' Jed had a rhino"
  • Chris from Maputo, AfricaJust wanted to make a correction to a comment above. I may be wrong but I think the song "Call me the breeze" was actually written by J.J. Cale. At least he gets the credit for it on the album I have of his songs. That album also includes "Cocaine" and "After Midnight".
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis song was used as a "music montage" in an episode of "The West Wing" in 2005. The scenario was life on the campaign trail with candidates and staff constantly getting on and off jet airplanes.
  • ¿? from Gold Beach, Orsaw him do this live and it was awsome
  • Tim from Kelownapaul pena did so much more than jet airliner. not only is the original far superior to steve miller's but he also wrote " they call me the breeze",recorded by many great blues artists. the man is basically a genius. unfortuneately genius goes largely unnoticed in our society. therefore, iguess, nickelback must be great?
  • Barry from New York, NcThe line "Funky s--t going down in the city" actually is played on FM radio a lot, totally uncensored. Same with "Money" by Pink Floyd. It amazes me that the FCC is in a deep sleep al the time and totally ignores this!!!!!!!
  • John from Fremantle, AustraliaThis song possibly has one of the most misheard lines: there are many out there who mistake the line "big ol' jet airliner" for such lines as "we don't chat in a line out", "big ol' Jap in a lighthouse", "bit of cheddar rind-on", "big ol' shed of lino" or "railroad track outta 'lignment"...the mind song tho'!
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiai thought it was "we go jet airliner"
  • Shana from Pembroke, Canadaawesome song
  • Adam from Jupiter, FlI've heard more than one person sing the first line of the chorus as, "Bingo jet had a light on". Hilarious.
  • Iris from El Paso, TxI don't know what this song means, But I love it. My ex, Dave loves Steve Miller. Really big Steve Miller fan. And when we used to go to drinking or just driving in his car he would sing to this and every Steve Miller song out loud. At first it was kinda dorky to me, but later I found myself really liking Steve Miller as well. My favorite song is Dance, Dance, Dance.
  • Tom from Louisville, Okthe phrase "I've got to keep on keepin' on" was used in the 2001 movie Joe Dirt, as Joe's "motto"
  • Leo from Hilversum, NetherlandsThe Paul Pena-album New Train that features this song was recorded in 1973 and released in 2000. It was the album's producer Ben Sidran, the keyboard player with Steve Miller, that provided Steve the song. The late Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia sings a duet with Paul on New Train. Paul retired in the 70's from the music industry to take care of his ill wife. His wife died in 1991, Paul later recorded Tuva-music, after eight years of studying this amazing vocal skill.
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