Focus

Hocus Pocus

Composed by Jan Akkerman / Thijs van Leer

Song Review by

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Moving Waves 1971 Music on Vinyl / Urp Music Distribution
Focus III 1972 Music on Vinyl / Urp Music Distribution
Focus at the Rainbow 1973 Jvc Victor 8:29
Ship of Memories 1977 Red Bullet
Rock of the 70's, Vol. 1 1992
Various Artists
EMI-Capitol Special Markets / CEMA Special Markets 3:23
The Best of Focus: Hocus Pocus 1994 Import 6:42
Electric 70's 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 3:26
Super Hits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 23 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 3:18
Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era 1996
Various Artists
Rhino/Warner Bros.
Psychedelic Mind Trip, Vol. 2: Another Flashback 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 6:42
Dutch Treats 1996
Various Artists
Critique Records 3:25
Power Chords, Vol. 1 [Hip-O] 1997
Various Artists
Hip-O
Fantastic, Vol. 1: Original Hits Original Stars 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 6:42
Chronicles: 70's Rock Classics 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:28
Millennium Classic Rock Party 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:20
40 Hits: 1970-1974 1999
Various Artists
Millennium Hits (Netherlands) 6:39
Six String Superclassics 1999
Various Artists
Repertoire 6:41
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:20
Cocodrilo Club 2000
Various Artists
Tempo 3:21
One Hit Wonders: Hard Two Get Hits [Box Set] 2001
Various Artists
One Hit 6:40
Born to Be Wild [Music Club] 2002
Various Artists
MCI / Music Club Records 6:40
The Best Prog Rock Album in the World...Ever 2003
Various Artists
Virgin 6:41
Masters from the Vaults 2003 Classic Rock Legends 5:23
Live in America 2003 Classic Rock Legends 9:46
Then: Totally Oldies 70's, Vol. 6 2003
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande 3:18
Mind the Gap 2004
Various Artists
Disky 6:15
Serious Rock 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:40
Greatest Hits 2004 Dejavu Retro Gold 5:24
Live at the BBC 2004 Hux Records 5:48
The Anthology 2004 Classic Rock Legends
Live Legends 2004 Classic Rock Legends 5:24
The Ultimate Collection: Classic Rock Productions 2005
Various Artists
Classic Rock Legends
Best of Symfo Rock 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Best of 1970 & 1971 2005
Various Artists
Disky 6:41
Rock Giants, Vol. 2 [BR] 2006
Various Artists
BR Music
The Best Air Guitar Album in the World... Ever, Vol. 2 2006
Various Artists
Virgin 6:40
Music in Review 2006 Classic Rock Legends / Inside Sets
Radio 2 Top 2000 2006
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:25
The Seventies: Dream Weavers 2007
Various Artists
American Beat Records 3:18
The Prog Rock Album 2007
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 6:42
Spirit of Joy: Tales from the Polydor Underground 1967-1974 2008
Various Artists
Polydor 6:41
Best of Rock Disco, Vol. 2 2008
Various Artists
Membran / Politur
Legendary Rock 2008
Various Artists
MP Records 6:16
Dad Rocks! 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:41
Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction to Progressive Rock 2010
Various Artists
Universal 3:21
The Boys Are Back in Town 2012 2012
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 6:40
Party Rock 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:29
Now That's What I Call Classic Rock [2015] 2015
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:12
Driving Rock
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Universal Music TV 3:22
Golden Oldies In and Out of Focus
No Image
Various Artists
Immortal
Monster Halloween Hits
Various Artists
EMI TV 6:40
Party Rock: Listen To The Music
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:29
The  Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary
Various Artists
Rhino 6:40
The Best Rock Anthems ...Ever!
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:41
Vinyl: Music From the HBO Original Series, Vol. 1.8
Various Artists
Atlantic 6:41
We Will Rock You [Crimson]
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:28
blue highlight denotes editor's pick