Focus

FocusFrom: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Focus is a Dutch rock band which was founded by classically trained organist/flautist Thijs van Leer in 1969, and is most famous for the instrumental pieces “Hocus Pocus” and “Sylvia”. The band have found renewed fame due to the use of “Hocus Pocus” by guitarist Gary Hoey on his 1993 album Animal Instinct, and as the theme for the Nike 2010 World Cup commercial, Write The Future, directed by the Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu.

At the release of their first album Focus Plays Focus (aka In and Out of Focus) (1970), Focus comprised keyboardist and flutist Thijs van Leer, guitarist Jan Akkerman, bassist Martin Dresden, and drummer Hans Cleuver. The album was little noticed outside the Netherlands, where a small but avid fan base developed. Akkerman left the group to form another band with bassist Cyril Havermans and Pierre van der Linden, a drummer he had previously performed with in Johnny and the Cellar Rockers, The Hunters, and Brainbox. When Cleuver and Dresden left Focus shortly after, Van Leer joined Akkerman, Van der Linden, and Havermans as the new lineup of Focus.

Focus

In 1971, the group released Focus II (aka Moving Waves), which brought the band international acclaim and a hit on both sides of the Atlantic with the radio edit of “Hocus Pocus”. This rock classic consists of Akkerman’s guitar chord sequence used as a recurring theme, with quirky and energetic interludes that include alto flute riffs, accordion, guitar, and drum solos – along with Van Leer’s whistling, nonsensical vocals, falsetto singing, and yodeling.

But in September 1971, shortly before the band went on tour to support the album, Havermans quit and was replaced by Bert Ruiter. He released a solo album, Cyril, in 1973, on which he was backed by all three of his former bandmates from Focus.

The Focus 3 double album was released in 1972. Van Leer and Akkerman were still producing much of their most seminal work, but critics claimed that the album was not as cohesive as Focus II/Moving Waves and the material did not support the length of a double album. However, the album contained the Van Leer-penned “Sylvia” which became a major hit in many markets outside the US and was spent eleven weeks in the UK Singles Chart where it peaked at No. 4.

In late 1973, Focus released the album At the Rainbow.

Focus

In 1974, Van der Linden was replaced by ex-Stone the Crows drummer Colin Allen, before the Focus recorded the Hamburger Concerto album. An attempt to repeat the chart-topping performance of the “Hocus Pocus” sound in the single “Harem Scarem” was not successful, and this contributed to the band’s declining fortunes at this time.

The album Mother Focus (1975), featuring new drummer David Kemper, was released to mostly negative reviews. In 1976, frustrated with group’s lack of direction and the constraints of working with its commercial ambitions, Akkerman left on the eve of a sell-out UK tour. His last minute replacement was Belgian jazz-fusion guitarist Philip Catherine. The group’s US label Sire Records released Ship of Memories, an album of largely unfinished Focus tracks from the aborted 1973-1974 rehearsal sessions to produce a follow-up album to Focus 3. The liner notes were written by Mike Vernon who was the group’s producer at the time, and claimed that Akkerman’s lack of interest in the project was the reason the sessions fell through. Ship of Memories was released largely due to the effort of Vernon and without the active involvement of the band. The title track is a Van der Linden composition.

American singer P. J. Proby, drummer Steve Smith (later of Journey) and guitarist Eef Albers joined Philip Catherine and the rest of Focus to record Focus con Proby (1978). The album received dismal reviews and a lack of interest, and after a short tour the band decided to call it quits.

~ Wikipedia


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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From 1970 album Focus Plays Focus aka In And Out Of Focus
In And Out Of Focus

  • House of the King
  • Sugar Island
  • Why Dream

From 1971 album Focus II aka Moving Waves
Moving Waves

  • Hocus Pocus
  • Janis

From 1972 album Focus III
Focus 3

  • Sylvia