Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Focus -- "Hocus Pocus" (1971)


I'm just a man -- flesh and blood -- and I have made some mistakes in my life.  Buying the "Moving Waves" album by Focus was certainly one of them.  

I remember hearing "Hocus Pocus" on the radio a couple of times and being absolutely fascinated by it.  I can imagine myself sitting at a stop sign in Joplin, Missouri, in 1971, slack-jawed and drooling as "Hocus Pocus" exploded out of my radio's speakers.  I thought it was the greatest effing record I had ever heard.

Friday was payday at all the summer jobs I had in Joplin when I was in college, and I would take my paycheck, head to the bank, and then head to whichever discount store (Katz? Walmart?) had the best price on record albums and buy one.  

The problem was that I would buy an album each Friday whether there was one I really wanted or not.  (It was like when our twin daughters were newborns -- it was hell.  And their older brother was just three years older than they were.  So whenever we could line up a babysitter for a Sunday afternoon, you'd best believe we were going to the movies -- whether there was anything good playing or not.  We saw some really lousy movies as a result, but my baby mama -- a/k/a "my wife" -- never complained.)

So one Friday, I walked into the store, a big wad of Benjamins burning a hole in my pocket, and grabbed "Moving Waves" by Focus (they were Dutch), based on the strength of "Hocus Pocus."  

I probably listened to that track a dozen times or so.   I'm not sure I ever made it all the way through the rest of the album, which was almost entirely instrumental.  That's not too surprising when you consider that side two consisted of something called "Eruption" a 23-minute long adaptation of what is generally considered to be the second opera ever written, Jacopo Peri's Euridice (1600).

By the way, the "words" quoted above aren't something I just made up.  That's the way one of the popular Internet song-lyrics sites renders the opening lines of "Hocus Pocus," which did  crack the Billboard top 10.

Until tonight, I thought that Focus did the theme for the "Miami Vice" TV show.  But that music was performed by Jan Hammer, a Czech who once played keyboards for John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra.  (Wow -- I wasn't even close to being right on that one, was I?  Like I said above, just a man -- flesh and blood . . .)

Nike chose to use "Hocus Pocus" in a brilliant TV commercial that was widely aired during the recent World Cup.  (The music starts about 45 seconds in.)

Without further ado, here's "Hocus Pocus" by Focus:

And here's a video of a competitive tap-dancing group performing to "Hocus Pocus" in a competition.  I can't think of a worse choice for tap-dancing -- it's excruciatingly bad:

Here's a link to use if you'd like to buy this song from Amazon.  Make sure you don't buy the album by mistake -- you'll be sorry.  (If you really want it, I'll sell you my vinyl version cheap.  My retirement plan took a big hit a couple of years ago, and I need to recoup pronto.)

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