As the needle hits the record you realize it’s just one of those songs that catches your attention right off the bat. Perfect solid riff. And then it gets all weird as the song progresses. The riff resurfaces now and then and you’re not sure whether you should laugh,head bang or sign up for classical music lessons. Hocus Pocus feels like uncontrollable giggling while someone kicks you right in the nuts.
I found Focus’s second album Moving Waves on vinyl at the local flea market (or Focus II as it is also known). I was magically drawn to one of my favourite rock songs of all time. Hocus Pocus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about then let me enlighten you. I first heard the song on Radio 5 back when they still played actual good music. Probably early nineties. Could have been either Chris Prior or Phil Wright who played it frequently. I can’t remember exactly.
As the needle hits the record you realize it’s just one of those songs that catches your attention right off the bat. Perfect solid riff. And then it gets all weird as the song progresses. The riff resurfaces now and then and you’re not sure whether you should laugh,head bang or sign up for classical music lessons. Hocus Pocus feels like uncontrollable giggling while someone kicks you right in the nuts. I’m not going into too much specifics, if you’re a rock fanatic you’ll know where to find the detail.
But for the lazy people I’ll give some basic information.Focus is a progressive Dutch band founded in 1969. The band released six studio albums before they broke up in 1978. They reformed in 2002 and recorded another four albums. Their latest offering, called Golden Oldies, was released this year. I don’t know all their music yet but I intend to. So join me in checking out the rest of their music.
The creative minds in the band are classicaly trained keyboardist and flutist Thijs van Leer and guitarist Jan Akkerman. And what a combination they are. It’s no wonder Hocus Pocus is such a beautiful mix of rock and classical influences where the main refrain, in the form of solid rock riffs, spirals into weird and wonderful digressions such as yodeling,organs,accordions,weird giggling gnome like scatting,flutes and whistling.Not to mention a guitar solo and some mean drumming. El Rondo Freakshow!
So what made me write this blog? I was wondering how this song could survive all these years popping up now and then in movies and TV shows and why its still relevant. I mean it’s a really weird song man. And yet its still kind of popular.Here’s a few examples of its popularity:
It was used as background music during the NBA playoffs in 1997, exit music for the BBC sitcom Saxondale, it played during one of The Stig’s powerlaps on ‘Top Gear’,it was featured in the movie ‘The Stone Age’,it was the theme songs for a Mcdonalds and Nike commercial. It was also used as background music in an episode of ‘My name is Earl’ and ‘Supernatural’. Rapper J Cole sampled it in his single ‘Blow up’. Very recently it was included in the 2014 remake of the movie ‘Robocop’. I think there may have been more but you get the picture.
So Hocus Pocus is very much alive in the consciousness of many creators of modern entertainment. But why? Is it because it’s “different”? It was “different” in the seventies and it sure as hell still is in 2014. It certainly was never part of any fad or specific music trend. It was never in fashion so it could never have fallen out of fashion. Or maybe its still relevant because it’s a rock song disguised as classical music.Or the other way around. Classical music never went out of style. It has no lyrics so there’s no lyrical story to guide your mood. On an on you can go…… My opinion? It’s just a brilliantly written fun rock song that simply makes you happy when you listen to it. If it doesn’t make you smile, at the very least you will find yourself going “what the hell were they smoking??”Listen to it loud and mimic every sound. I dare you!