Hocus Pocus by Focus (Sire, 1973)

How can you not get amped listening to this song? How many Dusters exceeded the speed limit when this popped up on the radio? How did it take FIFA almost 40 years to include it on a soccer ad? [Probably wanted to avoid the eventual riot.] I mean, how can you go wrong with huge power chords followed by mini drum solos with in between breaks that include yodeling, whistling, a flute solo and an accordion solo? That’s about the only thing that gives it away that we’re dealing with a band from the Netherlands. They might as well have recorded the sound of a windmill shooshing or a leaky dike.

I would be very surprised if that flute solo from Thijs van Leer didn’t inspire Will Ferrell’s performance in Anchorman during the nightclub scene. It sounds crazy and menacing and ridiculous, almost demonic. Maybe it was too over the top for The Exorcist soundtrack, but it wasn’t too far off.

Trying to find the origin of this single is another matter, one of many contradicting tales and various record labels. In fact it’s hard to figure out which version we were even listening to. Was this Hocus Pocus I or II? I think it was II, but released in the US as simply Hocus Pocus. To say there was nothing like it on the radio was an understatement.

The most consistent version of the son’s origin comes from guitarist Jan Akkerman, who said they just created it as a joke, kinda making fun of a lot serious progressive rock bands. [A joke… where have we heard that before?] Laugh, laugh, laugh, it did, all the way up into the Top 10 in the Summer of 1973. Maybe it was so popular because DJs loved saying, “Here’s Hocus Pocus by Focus. It’s so loud, it woke us.”

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