"You're the cutest thing that I ever did see/Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree."
– Steve Miller, The OG of Love
I listen to albums, not individual cuts. All the way through. I believe great bands made records that demand to be played beginning at the start of Side A all the way though Side B, beginning to end. This way of listening will always be my preference. Modern-day schizophrenic listening – where you hear 30 seconds of a song at a time, and then switch to something else – drives me crazy. I'm sure many of you who spend time with children and grandchildren realize that approach is the equivalent of taking a three-hour car ride with the FM radio stuck in scan mode.
I remember buying the Steve Miller Band album Children of the Future, released 52 years ago, on 4/1/1968, mostly because I thought the cover was cool. It's currently in print on vinyl and available digitally to stream on both TIDAL and Qobuz. The record was constantly on my platter for years, and it remains one of my favorites. I played it the other day and it took me back to a time and place when life was less complicated – as in the "I had not yet been on an airplane" kind of uncomplicated.
Steve Miller took guitar lessons from Les Paul as a boy, formed his first band at 12, and in the early 60s, played in a band with Boz Scaggs in Madison, Wisconsin. Later, Steve drifted into the Chicago blues scene until moving to San Francisco in 1966. In 1967, the Steve Miller Blues Band opened for Chuck Berry at the Fillmore. Later that year, Scaggs joined the band. By 1968, the San Francisco music scene was full of anti-war, make love-not war, long-haired, dope-smoking, hippy-dippy, acid-dropping bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the latter of which had recently released its self-titled debut featuring a cover of "Good Morning, Little School Girl."
That year, I discovered Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac album. If you haven't heard the Peter Green version of "Black Magic Woman," which preceded Santana's rendition, it will change your entire view of the song. I respect and enjoy the Lindsey Buckingham era, but the grungy, smoky, downstairs blues-club sound of the Peter Green period of Fleetwood Mac will forever be my preference. Children of the Future is a timeless rock/blues record, much like early Fleetwood Mac music.
The Steve Miller Band flew to London to record Children of the Future, which at the time was praised by critics and received some airplay on FM radio. It established Miller's early style as a blues rocker, influenced but not overpowered by psychedelia. The Hammond B3 was probably what struck me on first listen, and the Jim Pulte song, "Junior Saw It Happen," is one of my favorite tracks. If you're the type who prefers DJ-style listening over playing entire albums, I recommend starting here.
"In My First Mind" has clear influences of the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed and endures as a beautiful tune. "Baby Is Calling Me Home" is an acoustic track written by Scaggs; pay special attention to the interplay between instruments and voice. And "Rolling With It" functions as a peak under the tent at the kind of pop/rock tunes with great harmonies that soon came to the band.
Music transports us to different times and different places, and Children of the Future seems an appropriate title for the complicated, challenging times we face today. Let's all support and love our families, stand together, and take care of each other, however we can. Peace.