THE ORIGINAL: Paul Pena (1973)
I’ll bet that you had no idea that this wasn’t a Steve Miller composition! I remember my cousin playing the original for me in 1975, he turned me on to the album New Train – and I remember seeing Paul Pena perform on the Conan O’Brien show a long time ago.
Paul was a Delta blues/funk/rock guy, and his version is the sort of song that you’d hear in an old roadhouse in Mississippi in the 60s. I’m really surprised that Clapton never covered this. He would have ruined it, and it would have been a huge hit.
The song is a standard funk stomp, but with great guitars, a driving bass and a vocal that’s strong and a little pained, but in a good way. The hook sounds great here, raw and hard.
THE COVER: The Steve Miller Band (1977)
This was a huge hit for Steve, so he was smart to cover it. His version is sped up a bit from the original, funky swagger timing.
This is guitar heavy. It feels like there are two or three being played, along with the hoppy bass and the drums.
The mix is kind of muddy and middling. Nothing is sharp or stands out. He changed the main guitar riff a little and also changed some lyrics — there’s also a censored version that substituted the word “kicks” for “shit,” which is goofy — he triples his vocals for the harmonies. This is the classic 70s sound that he’s well known for.
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
I enjoy the cover, despite hearing it entirely too much in the late 70s, but the Paul Pena original is better, because of its funky blues feel and clearer production. Steve’s cover has a film on it.
NOW YOU DECIDE!