What IS the “Pompatus of Love” Anyway?

miller

Chances are you’ve heard, and maybe even sung along to, this lyric dozens of times:

…and maybe you made a little mental note to yourself to find out just what a “pompatus of love” was–but then “Back in Black” came on the jukebox next and your girlfriend was pulling on your arm to buy her another Milwaukee’s Best and then you had to go pee and then that whole brawl started about Kurt Busch vs Tony Stewart and it slipped your mind again.

We’ve got you covered.

In the beginning there was Los Angeles Doo-Wop group The Medallions who, in 1954, released a B-side ballad called “The Letter”

At about 1:45 lead singer Vernon Green speaks the following lyric:

Let me whisper sweet words of pismotality
And discuss the puppetutes of love

“Pismotality” and “puppetutes” were both nonsense words made up by Green. The first refers to secret words only meant to be heard by a lover.

vern

From the song’s YouTube comments alone come several apocryphal spellings of the second of Green’s neologisms: “pompetous”, “pulpitudes”, “puppetuse” and of course, Steve Miller’s misspelled “pompatus”.

“Puppetute” was, as Green once explained, “A term I coined to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure [thus puppet], who would be my everything and bear my children.”

Perhaps a cross between the words “puppet” and “prostitute”. Romantic guy, this Vernon Green.

Enter Steve Miller with “Enter Maurice”

You’ll notice that 1973’s “The Joker” isn’t the first appearance in a Steve Miller song of the line “pompatus of love”. In fact, “space cowboy”, “gangster of love” and “Maurice” from that song all reference earlier Miller tunes.

But “Enter Maurice” with its romantic recitations is a very direct homage to the Medallions’ “The Letter”.

movieThere was even a movie in 1995 titled after Miller’s misspelled version of the original nonsense word, and the first song on its soundtrack is–you guessed it–Miller’s “The Joker”.

So let’s review: A 1995 movie took its title from a line from a Steve Miller song from 1973 which itself references an earlier Steve Miller song which inaccurately nicks the word from a 1954 doo-wop song–a word that wasn’t even a word in the first place.

Next week we explain why Scaramouche would want to do the fandango!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. zackcyphers
    Mar 30, 2015 @ 06:19:14

    Well done! Good investigating here. I had wondered about this, but for whatever reason, either “Carry on Wayward Son” came up next, or my little brother was kicking the back of my seat, or we were just pulling into the Wendy’s drive-through, I never got around to looking it up. Thanks for the explanation! Now, what does it mean to be “wrapped up like a deuce”?

    Reply

  2. Anonymous
    Mar 30, 2015 @ 07:55:31

    Hah! Thanks Zack!

    Reply

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