What’s That Crazy Song During The First Big Shootout in ROBOCOP?

Jordan's favorite Dutch prog rock/folk song makes an appearance in the remake.

What’s That Crazy Song During The First Big Shootout in ROBOCOP?

I just saw the remake of RoboCop. It's not all that good. It isn't a crime against cinema and you can lower your pitchforks - it's better than the Total Recall remake, for example - but it is pretty much a loser.

The worst part of the movie is the action. Videogamey and bland. At one point there's a big battle and they just decide to do it in the dark. An interesting cinematic approach.

However, the first big-ass set piece – where Joel Kinnaman finally goes guns blazing in an abandoned warehouse (naturally) against Jackie Earle Haley's test robots – director José Padilha finally scored some major points with me.

Robo's visor clamps down, the camera swoops around him and we hear some familiar, clanging Nugent-esuqe chords.

But it isn't Nugent. It's one of classic rock's strangest and most badass songs. The weird kid brother to “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group: none other than “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.

Here is the studio version of the lyrics-free (but not vocals-free!) cock-rock guitar anthem that I've loved for years.

Focus is a prog rock/folk/fusion group from the Netherlands. Its central figure, one Thijs van Leer, is the organist/flautist and principal writer.

In 1972 they released Focus II. The entire second side was one song, “Eruption,” which goes on for over twenty-three minutes and has lots of different sections. Nestled on side one was “Hocus Pocus,” which, when shaved down from its original six minute forty-two second run time (by expunging some of its Popeye the Sailor Man mouth effects) it became an unexpected hit in the UK and US.

When Focus whipped out their big hit in live performances they dared themselves to play it even faster. Here they are kicking ass on Dutch television in 1974. The yodeling around 3:45 gets really intense.

Here they are going nuts on American television, introduced by Gladys Knight of all people. It's at light speed. These drum breaks are unreal. And the faces they're making! There's Japanese writing on this video because the Internet is the greatest.

I first became aware of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus in 8th or 9th grade. It may shock you to learn this, but way back in the stone ages, The Howard Stern Show was a great resource for odd bits of culture. They had fewer guests and less of a budget, so they would eat up time talking about ANYTHING. Somehow the topic of this song came up – I distinctly remember Robin Quivers was a fan – and they all started doing their version of it. If I had a time machine I'd go back and tell my younger self to record the whole Stern crew doing the yodeling as one. (I'd also slap myself across the face and shout “You fool! You idiot! Melanie Nowaczyk is giving you ALL the signs – she is DYING for you to take her virginity – and you are BLIND BLIND BLIND and if you'd only just talk to her she'd be yours and you wouldn't still be thinking about her decades later.")

Anyway, I never actually bought Focus II, but I bought some sort of “Best of Guitar Rock” tape that had “Hocus Pocus” on it. At the Princeton Record Exchange I bought their fourth album, Hamburger Concerto, for 99 cents. At this point I was really into Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention and this wasn't quite as good as that. I remember a friend came to my house once who was always pushing me around, and he looked at it and said “What the fuck is this gay shit?” He sells real estate now. But if you want to hear some real nerd-ass Dutch folk/prog here you go.

Jordan Hoffman's photo About the Author: Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and StarTrek.com.
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