Song of the Day: Hocus Pocus by Focus

Hocus Pocus” is a 1971 instrumental from Focus II (aka Moving Waves), the second album by Dutch rock group Focus. It was written by guitaristJan Akkerman and flautist/keyboardist Thijs van Leer. It was also released as a single with “Janis” as a B-side for the UK and “Hocus Pocus II” for theUnited States.

In an interview with the British newspaper New Musical Express in May 1973, lead guitarist Jan Akkerman said “Hocus Pocus” was “just a send-up of those rock groups.”

Joke or not, it was a big hit. The album version of this Van Leer/Akkerman composition runs to 6 minutes 42 seconds. The radio edit entered the Billboard Chart at #98 week ending March 3, 1973 and peaked at #9 week ending June 2. In the UK it made the charts the same time as the classic Focus instrumental “Sylvia”; not many groups can boast that. (thanks, Alexander Baron – London, England)

It takes the form of a rondo, consisting of alternation between a powerful rock chord riff and varied solo “verses” (in the original all performed by Thijs van Leer) which include yodeling, organ playing, accordion, scat singing, flute riffs, and whistling. Focus recorded a special, faster radio version, which became a hit. When performing live, the group would play the tune even faster.

“Hocus Pocus” reached #20 in the UK, #18 in Canada, and #9 in the US during the spring of 1973, and re-entered the UK charts at #57 on 6 June 2010 after being featured heavily on The Chris Moyles Show and in a Nike TV advert shown during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Use in media

  • TNT used the song as an introduction to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons as well as Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics during the 1997 NBA Playoffs
  • The final bars of the tune are used as the exit music on the second series of the BBC TV sitcom Saxondale.
  • The tune is played on the British motoring show Top Gear during one of The Stig power laps, on series 6 episode 1, testing a CLS55 AMG.
  • The tune is featured in the movie The Stoned Age, and was used in a 2008 McDonald’s commercial featuring the web site Line Rider. In 2010, Nikereleased a football World Cup advertisement titled “Write the Future”, which uses an excerpt from the song.
  • The tune plays in the third season episode of My Name is Earl entitled “Early Release”, when Earl is locked in solitary confinement.
  • The opening of the tune plays in the 2008 Supernatural episode “Ghostfacers”.
  • The song was recently sampled for J. Cole’s single “Blow Up”.
  • The U.S version was included in GuitarFreaks & DrumMania V5 Rock to Infinity.

Cover versions

  • Chicago-based Pravda Records had the group Spies Who Surf record a version for the album 20 Explosive Dynamic Super Smash Hit Explosions!
  • Power metal band Helloween included a cover of the tune in their 1999 album Metal Jukebox.
  • Iron Maiden covered it for the European DVD version 2006 single “Different World”.
  • Rock guitarist Gary Hoey released several instrumental renditions of this tune on various albums, such as his 1993 release, Animal Instinct.
  • The pop/classical artist Vanessa-Mae did a cover with violin on her 1998 album Storm.
  • Punk band The Vandals also covered it on their debut album, When in Rome Do as the Vandals.
  • Critically acclaimed/award-winning, virtuoso guitarist & record producer Michael Fath covered this song on his instrumental album Sonic Tapestries from 1990.
  • British band Marillion covered it on their live album Friends, released in 2007.
  • British heavy metal band Diamond Head included a cover of this tune in a medley at the end of their set from their 2000 live album Live – In the Heat of the Night.
  • During the Foo Fighters’ Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Tour in 2008 they performed a small cover during their performance of “Stacked Actors.”
  • TR3 featuring Tim Reynolds covered this tune during their performance on July 24, 2008 at the 10,000 Lakes Festival at the Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
  • Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered this tune in the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert for Drum Channel.
  • Brendon Small of Metalocalypse/Dethklok performed this tune on his 2009 tour with the School of Rock All Stars.
  • They Might Be Giants performed this tune a few times on their 2005 tour, with the help of Corn Mo.

FOCUS

Origin Netherlands
Genres Rock, Progressive rock,Instrumental rock, Hard rock
Years active 1969–1978,
1985, 1990, 1999,
2001–present
Labels Sire, Atco, EMI, IRS
Website focustheband.com
Members Thijs van Leer
Pierre van der Linden
Menno Gootjes
Bobby Jacobs
Past members Jan Akkerman
Hans Cleuver
Martin Dresden
Cyril Havermans
Bert Ruiter
Colin Allen
David Kemper
Philip Catherine
Eef Albers
P.J. Proby
Steve Smith
Jan Dumée
Ruben van Roon
Bert Smaak
Niels van der Steenhoven

via [songfacts/wikipedia]

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