A new Nike marketing campaign features the studio single version of “Hocus Pocus” by Dutch masters Focus as backing music. It’s great to hear this song getting a new lease on life in this capacity, but most folks who have only heard the clean single version don’t really what a rip-snorting rock number this thing was. I have a tattered, well-played vinyl version of Live at the Rainbow by Focus, which was recorded in 1973 by what I consider to be the definitive version of the band: singer-keyboardist-flautist Thijs Van Leer, guitarist Jan Akkerman, drummer Pierre Van Der Linden and bassist Bert Ruiter. I accidentally (ahem) borrowed my copy of this album from the Nassau Community College media center circa 1975 and somehow never managed to return it. Accidentally. Ahem. It’s a monumental, though now forgotten, epic concert album, with Jan Akkerman demonstrating why he’s one of the great under-appreciated guitar heroes of the decade.
So here’s a link to a real live, not lip-synched, version of “Hocus Pocus” from that 1973 version of the band that can give you a sense of how powerful Focus were in their heyday. They played with punk energy, but only with flutes and yodeling instead of safety pins and spitting. Not a bad trade off, to my ears and eyes.