It’s the lyric that has baffled us all for years; “Some people call me Maurice, ‘cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”
What exactly is Steve Miller talking about in his band’s hit 1973 song “The Joker” when he sings about the ‘pompatus of love’? And why are people calling him Maurice?!
The answer is actually much simpler than you’d think. In fact, it’s just a made-up word that Miller derived after from a line in a song by L.A. 50s do-wop group The Medallions called “The Letter.”
The original song, written by a 16-year-old Vernon Green, contains the lyric “let me whisper sweet words of pizmotality and discuss the puppetutes of love.” ‘Puppetutes’ was a term that Green had coined meaning “a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children.” Well then.
After being inspired by these ‘puppetutes,’ Miller tweaked the word to ‘pompatus,’ which he used in another song before “The Joker” called “Enter Maurice” in 1972. In the song, Miller sings, “My dearest darling, come closer to Maurice/so I can whisper sweet words of epismetology/in your ear and speak to you of the pompatus of love.”
And there you have the reason why people are calling him ‘Maurice.’ Both ‘Maurice’ and ‘pompatus’ were references to his earlier song. Miller also made up the term epismetology inspired by another word used in “The Letter” pizmotality, which means “words of such secrecy that they could only be spoken to the one you loved.”
Wow, that is some artistic license Steve Miller takes on his songs! Now that you know the true meaning behind the song, take another listen to “The Joker” with fresh ears and a whole new lease on life.