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Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Drugs Will Do To You

Here's a great YouTube find: Dutch prog-rock one hit wonders, Focus, playing "Hocus Pocus" on the Gladys Knight, of Gladys Knight & the Pips, TV show in 1973. This sentimal yodalelic groove rock masterpiece is made more bizarre by the drug fueled performance.

AMG's review:
Perhaps the most inspired bit of looniness to come out of the progressive rock era, Focus' "Hocus Pocus" was an absolutely irresistible combination of heavy guitar riffs, neo-classical organ, and Alpine yodeling. Sure, lead vocalist Thijs Van Leer also threw in some faux-angelic falsetto, plus a memorable break of rapid-fire, almost Muppet-sounding gibberish over a polka beat. But the descending yodeling line that serves as the song's chorus is the instantly memorable hook, ending with an ascending arpeggio whose squarely on-the-beat rhythmic placement turns the melody into a gleeful parody of neo-classical elegance. Although "Hocus Pocus" is nearly seven minutes long, its structure is pretty simple -- guitarist Jan Akkerman powers his way through the song's main riff, which alternates with passages during which Van Leer struts his stuff. And it isn't always yodeling, either -- besides the aforementioned polka gibberish, Van Leer takes two instrumental solos, playing more complex variations on the song's main riff. The first is an unaccompanied, manic flute solo drenched in echo, and the next is a polka-tinged accordion break over which Van Leer whistles energetically; there is a brief snippet of dubbed-in stadium applause at its conclusion. Toward the second half of the song, Akkerman grabs the solo spotlight during his main-riff sections, spinning off hyperspeed pyrotechnics that mesh perfectly with the insanity going on around him. Plus, there are plenty of short breaks for drummer Pierre van der Linden. The whole package is utterly bizarre, yet crazily infectious as well. Originally released on the 1971 album Moving Waves, "Hocus Pocus" caught on in the U.S. during early 1973, when it scraped the lower reaches of the Top Ten -- a feat rarely accomplished by Dutch bands. Although Focus never duplicated the widespread success of "Hocus Pocus" (nor, really, its humor), the song's spirited goofiness and musical virtuosity still sound fresh and unique.

Thanks AE for the find.


  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Hermine Clouser said…

    I just found a Thijs van Leer LP at a library sale. It is mostly classical but the life sized facial portrait of Thijs on the cover is telling. I am not surprised to find on Google the road he followed was the one most travelled.


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