Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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OMGWTFLOL: Steve Miller Band – “Macho City” (1981)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 9, 2007

And he could only stretch “Abracadbra” to five minutes?

More and more, I believe that every rock act in the 70s was contractually obligated to release at least one disco single. KISS, Rod Stewart, Hall & Oates, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, ELO, even motherfucking Chicago–exceptions to the rule are few and far between. And hey, that’s cool with me–despite often being decried by small-minded fans and critics as the bands’ “sell-out” moments, they were in many cases the most exciting and energetic music the artists had made in years.

Now I’m not really sure what the Steve Miller Band were up to immediately preceding the release of “Macho City,” but considering their big hits off of their last album, ’77’s Book of Dreams, had included such horrendously mediocre fare as “Swingtown,” “Jungle Love” and “Jet Airliner,” realeasing an LP side-long disco cut with vaguely political undertones can really be seen as nothing but a good idea. That doesn’t make it any less surprising, though–I dunno about the Steve Miller of critically acclaimed early albums Children of the Future or Brave New World, but the Steve Miller I know seemed content to sit back and let time keep on slippin’ into the future, sure not wanting to hurt no one.

Even more bizarre then would have to be how fucking good this song is. Critics and fans at the time might’ve been left cold by it, and I can’t imagine how anyone could really dance to it, but as far as left-field disco made by MOR rock bands goes, “Macho City” probably takes top honors. And unlike the majority of disco deep cuts (or at least most of the ones I’ve heard), the actual main song part of “Macho City”–featuring Steve Miller sort of speaksinging vaguely intelligible political condemnations while background vocalists shout out “MACHO CI-TAY!!”–isn’t even the best part of the song.

Rather, it’s the eleven minute instrumental section afterwards that matters, with the most hypnotically funky bass line this side of Herb Alpert’s “Rise,” a drummer riding so hard on the hi-hat that it almost sounds a downpour (a point emphasized by the actual rain sounds at the end of the song) and the kind of squelchy, random-seeming sound effects that would provide the finsihing touches on the band’s much more commercially successful “Abracadabra” just a year later. It’s some transfixing shit, the fruition of all you could have hoped for from that awesome and impossible-to-follow-up intro to “Take the Money and Run.”

Plus, it was even included as the closer to the legendary original out-there disco comp Disco (Not Disco), finally providing an answer to the age-old trivia question, “What do Liquid Liquid and the Steve Miller Band have in common?”


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