Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hocus Pocus & Sylvia

Forty years ago this week, aged 11, I bought my first record, a single, 'Hocus Pocus', by Dutch group Focus. It was basically a heavy, repetitive guitar riff with a good deal of yodelling. I must have seen it on Top Of The Pops, amongst the glam of 'Cum On Feel the Noize' and 'Blockbuster', possibly as background to the pleasures of Pan's People*. It went to number 20. 
Suitably impressed, I swiftly bought the 'follow-up', the yearning, elysian 'Sylvia', another instrumental, which unbelievably went to number 4. I bought my first album, Focus 3 (a double), and a couple of earlier albums they'd made, all bought over time with hard-earned pocket money. So there was more to music than The Beatles, Bowie, glam rock and the prog of my big brother's record collection - fine though all that was. Basically Focus introduced me to what was happening in Europe. It was hardly Krautrock or electronic, but it kind of pointed me in that direction.
1973 proved to be Focus's highpoint, though there's a version of them still knocking about fronted by stalwarts Thijs van Leer and Pierre van der Linden. They even have a new album out. Never ones for imaginative titles, it's called Focus X. I won't be getting it.

* TOTP archives confirm a grainy B&W video (more likely a 16mm film) of 'Sylvia' performed at the Hardrock in Bournemouth on 2 Feb, and Pan's People dancing to 'Hocus Pocus' on 16 Feb.

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