Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #85 – Focus: “Hocus Pocus” b/w “Hocus Pocus II”– Sire SAA-704
Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…
Ingredients for a hit record:
- Killer guitar riff. Without one, you’re nowhere, and today’s jukebox classic’s got riffage to burn.
- Wild flute and organ interludes.
- Whistling…you’ve got to have maniacal whistling.
- Falsetto scat singing…no lyrics! Lyrics just get in the way when you’ve got plenty of yodeling (see below).
- Yodeling…no hit record is worth its weight in gold and platinum without some. (Just ask Jewel)
Ok, so it was an unlikely hit that emanated from an unlikely place by an unlikely group. But if you were tuned in to the radio back in 1972/1973 and you heard this track pouring forth from the speakers on your stereo, you couldn’t help but take notice.
Focus were a Dutch progressive rock band featuring the guitar frenzy of Jan Akkerman, the flute and keyboard dynamics of Thijs van Leer, the bottomed out bass of Cyril Havermans and the percussive attack of Pierre van der Linden. The group formed in 1969 but didn’t break big in America until 1972 with the release of today’s jukebox classic “Hocus Pocus” as a single.
“Hocus Pocus” is a track that predicted the loud-soft dynamic of grunge, alternating between the ultra-loud crunchy guitar riff of the chorus and the verses that included all of the quirky elements listed above. It made for an interesting spin and certainly one of the most original singles to ever grace the pop charts.
The album version of the song was close to seven minutes long so it was edited and sped up for its single release which climbed to the #9 position on the US charts in 1973. In England, the single was backed with another track called “Janis” from their second album Focus II (known in America under the title Moving Waves). However, in America the record was backed with a second sped up edit of “Hocus Pocus” created from the album master.
This unlikely hit was covered by Iron Maiden, Helloween, guitarist Gary Hoey and Marillion, and has been performed in concert by the likes of Foo Fighters and They Might Be Giants.
During the 1970s, Focus released several albums including Hamburger Concerto, Moving Waves, Focus 3 and Live At The Rainbow that became staples of progressive FM radio playlists; however the band never really reached the upper echelons of the charts in this country again. In the UK, the single “Sylvia” from Focus 3 climbed to #4 on the charts making it their biggest hit in that territory.
“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.