Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band song)
|Single by Steve Miller Band|
|from the album Abracadabra|
|B-side||"Never Say No"|
|Length||5:08 (Album version)|
3:34 (Single/Video version)
|Producer(s)||Steve Miller, Gary Mallaber|
|Steve Miller Band singles chronology|
The song is said to have been inspired by the American singer Diana Ross, whom Miller had met when they each performed on the same episode of the pop music television show Hullabaloo in the 1960s. The lyrics "Round and round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows" are a reference to the spinning wheel segment from The Original Amateur Hour. Speaking on The Howard Stern Show in June 2016, Miller said at first his record company Capitol Records did not see the potential hit it would become. "Capitol didn't believe in it and didn't want to release it. I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe. When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was No. 1 everywhere in the world, except the States." After seeing its success overseas, Capitol released it in the U.S. and it also climbed to No. 1.
In the U.S., the song was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks. It was knocked off the top by Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", only to return to No. 1 two weeks later. A similar occurrence happened in 1976, when Miller's "Rock'n Me" knocked Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" out of the No. 1 spot. The song also showed substantial longevity, spending fourteen weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100 chart. "Abracadabra" is listed at No. 90 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of all time.
The UK single version has never yet appeared on CD. It is 3:33 and is an exclusive edit where the chorus is edited back in at 3:06 and repeats to fade. The non-UK single version of the song appears in several Steve Miller Band compilation albums such as Young Hearts as well as on the Time-Life compilation Sounds of the Eighties: 1980–1982 and on a CD of songs hand-picked by Guy Fieri titled Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Road Songs That Rock. Capitol issued an alternative version on a promotional 12" single (Capitol Records #SPRO 9797) for radio airplay; it featured a slightly slower tempo, removal of the second verse and first chorus, and a slightly earlier fade than the LP version. A live version of the song was released on Steve Miller Band Live! in 1983.
The video is one of the most iconic music videos of all time and was shown alongside the birth of MTV. The language of music videos was yet to be created and with the Abracadabra video many aspects of the music video's visual vocabulary were pioneered in this video, setting a precedent for all videos that followed. The main lyric "Abra, abra cadabra, I'm going to reach out and grab ya" is epitomized by a beautiful sorceress with flowing hair, performed by a teenage actress/model symbolizing "the Abracadabra girl" , MTV's first "video vixen". With the repeating image of her bewitching stare and blowing hair, she appears to be casting a spell, directing the magical actions, encapsulating the playful sexy spirit of this ear-worm of a pop song.
Two young men, professional jugglers perform alongside the beautiful "witch". In a series of magical situations, wearing various costumes, the trio perform tricks and illusions. The boys juggle batons, the girl juggles scarves, a handkerchief turns into a dove, stars come out of a hat and other witchery. The Abracadabra girl set a precedent or formula for other video vixens to follow, i.e. the mysteriously beautiful and seductive muse, full of surprises. Another example of repeated imagery is that of the magician stubbing out the cigarette and that of the sorceress taking the ball from a swirling umbrella: "round and round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows."
The video editing methods, such as repetition of imagery and action, the pop art colors and stylized representations were new at the time and have since become part of music video's video language and vocabulary ever since. The actors in the video have chosen to retain their anonymity for reasons of privacy; however all continue to be active in the arts.
Abracadabra is the first music video to use special effects and make use of a "body pan", a camera move which pans across the subject's body in an objectifying way. The video received an MTV award for best effects, considered adventurous at the time.
Another woman who appears briefly in the video is unraveled from a piece of cloth and does a dance with one of the magicians dressed as a harlequin, also suddenly reappears in a sorcerer's cape making a dramatic conjuring gesture with her arms whilst observed by the Abracadabra girl.
Since Steve Miller himself was touring Europe at the time and unavailable for the shoot, he appears in the video only in a series of still shots, wearing sunglasses or a black video strip across his eyes and at times juxtaposed with images of the Abracadabra girl. The actors provided their own wardrobe and props and did their own hair and makeup.
Shot in one day, the video was produced and directed by Peter and Koko Cohn who co-conceived the basic concept of the video.
Single track listings
7" 45 RPM
- Side one
- "Abracadabra [Single version]" (Note: UK 7" version is an exclusive edit - see above for details)
- Side two
- "Baby Wanna Dance" (North American release)
- "Never Say No" (European release)
North American release
- Side one
- "Abracadabra" [Album version]
- "Abracadabra" [Single version]
- Side two
- "Macho City" [Album version]
- Side one
- "Abracadabra" [Album version]
- Side two
- "Never Say No" [Album version]
Cover versions of the song have been performed by Sugar Ray on their album 14:59 and by the Mike Chapman Band. A live version by the Belgian band Das Pop appeared on their 2004 DVD-single Love is Fair. The song was also covered by Australian jazz/folk group Flap! on their self-titled debut album (2010). John Parr and Rick Wakeman covered this song, which was released in 2013 on the album Fly Like An Eagle: An All-Star Tribute to Steve Miller Band. In an Alarm für Cobra 11 episode "Tödlicher Ruhm" (Deadly Fame) Mark Keller and Scooter performed a cover of this song.
In 2009, YouTuber Robert Lund posted a song called "The Awful Truth About Hannah Montana" to the tune of "Abracadabra", parodying the many evil things people allegedly were missing about the then-teen star in progressively outrageous choral couplets ("Hannah, Hannah Montana - imports her hash from Havana/hates all Arquette's but Rosanna/carjacked my van in Tarzana", etc).
Depictions in popular media
"Abracadabra" was used in the season 12 episode "The Witches of Langley" of the animated television series American Dad! during a musical montage when Steve and his friends take up witchcraft to gain popularity at school. It was also used in the 2013 film The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
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