Hooked on a Feeling
August 17, 2014
Todd plays "Hooked on a Feeling" on the piano.
BLUE SWEDE - HOOKED ON A FEELING
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: Uh...once again, we have hit a bit of a lull in the pop music world. The song of the summer, is, what...
- Clip of Iggy Azalea's...
Todd (VO): ..."Fancy", I guess. That's pretty pathetic; you don't need to hear "Fancy". If you went the rest of your life not hearing "Fancy," you wouldn't miss anything. Yeah, pretty much no one has any buzz right now. If you wanna know how...
Todd: ...bad it is, the most buzzed-about album of the year so far is full of these big, mega-popular singles...from 40 years ago.
- Beginning of trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, with "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum playing
Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where normally, we cover songs that are no longer relevant.
Todd (VO): But since Guardians of the Galaxy's [album cover of...] Awesome Mix Volume 1 [Billboard article: "'Guardians of the Galaxy' Soundtrack Hits No. 1 On Billboard 200] is "album of the year" basically, I think we should cover its signature tune, the one that was in all the trailers, that classic of '70s pop, that...
Todd: ...one that goes, "ooga chaka, ooga chaka," for no good reason—"Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Suede.
- Blue Swede: I'm...
- Video for "Hooked on a Feeling"
- Björn Skifs: Hooked on a feeling
Todd (VO): And because we're reviewing Blue Suede, I thought I'd bring back a friend of the show.
Todd: Ladies and gentlemen, That Dude In The Suede.
Suede: [looking very surprised at who called him] I'm flattered, but I'm pretty sure that's Swede, Todd.
- Cover of Blue Swede's self-titled album
Suede (VO): The name of the band. Blue Swede.
Suede: I think they were Swedish, actually.
Todd: Oh. Well, that's fine, we can still do this. I mean...you're Swedish, right?
Suede: [pissed off now] Okay, I know that you know that I'm from New Z... I'm sitting this one out.
Todd: Aw. Okay. That's a shame...
Todd (VO): ...'cause I could really use some help on this one because Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" is just a weird goddamn song. I like putting novelties like this in context, but the more I found out about this band, the less sense it made. I don't know if it even made sense at the time, and the song's long and strange lifespan as a cultural artifact has just made it even weirder.
Todd: I can't think of anything else that's been associated with [clips of Guardians...] a talking raccoon, [...cover by...] David Hasselhoff, [...and Ally McBeal] and a neurotic lawyer's fear of her own biological clock as represented by an animated .gif of a terrifying, dead-eyed baby. How did all this happen?
Todd (VO): Why does it go "ooga chaka"? What does it have to do with the baby?
Todd: I don't get it!
- Clip of Todd looking at his conspiracy wall
- Todd: What does it mean? What does it mean? There's a message in here somewhere. What are you trying to tell me?!
Todd: I wish I could tell you I found the answer, but...this case remains unsolved. So I'm just gonna gather everything I've found and present it because...I sure can't figure this song out. Can you?
- Björn: That you're in love with me
Before the hit
- Picture of band
Todd (VO): Okay, Blue Suede has its orig... Blue...
Todd: ...Swede. I get that wrong every time. Okay, Blue Swede has...
Todd (VO): ...its origins in its lead singer [picture of...] Björn Skifs, which is not a fake Swedish name I made up on my own, and he started in the early '60s with an R&B group called the [single cover of "Land of Love"/"Sweet Ruth" by...] Slam Creepers, which is not a name I could ever make up on my own because that is just...
Todd: ...too awesome for words. [poster of...] Slam Creepers.
- Single cover of "We Are Happy People"/"I Just Couldn't Get You Out Of My Mind"
Todd (VO): Now as I understand, they were somewhat successful in Europe, and listening to them, I'd say they're surprisingly credible as a soul band.
Todd: But they broke up in the late '60s, and after that, Björn started a new band, Blue Swede.
- Single cover of...
Todd (VO): They released their first single, "Silly Milly", and I couldn't find footage of it, so I'm just gonna improvise here.
- Clip of The Muppet Show featuring the Swedish Chef, with "Silly Milly" playing
- Blue Swede: Sitting in a bus stop singing silly songs
- Silly Milly, you nearly kill me
- Now why don't you thrill me
- My love is still strong
Todd (VO): Yeah, this didn't do very well. You will note that their accents are a lot thicker here than on their big hit, and maybe that's why. Or maybe because it's a complete ripoff [clip of...] of The Sweet's "Little Willy" from the year before.
- The Sweet: Little Willy, Willy won't go home
Todd (VO): Allegedly, Blue Swede were trying to model themselves on the early '70s British glam rock bands like The Sweet and [brief clip of "Cum on Feel the Noize" by...] Slade, but those were actual rock bands, and this is [single cover of "Silly Milly"] more on the doofy, [picture of...] Tony Orlando side of '70s music.
Todd: And can I just say, the fact that they sound like this kind of throws me off.
- Björn: How can I explain
- I'm trying in vain
Todd (VO): Even with the thick accents, they don't sound very Swedish.
Todd: Like, I always imagine Swedish music to sound like [clips of ABBA...] this, [...Ace of Base - "The Sign"...] or this, [...and Meshuggah - "Bleed"] or this.
- Promo pic of band
Todd (VO): But these guys sound like just another, you know, Three Dog Night or somebody. They could sing "We're an American Band" and I wouldn't bat an eye.
Todd: Which I suppose was one reason they got big in America. I wish I could tell you more, but any other reasons...[throws hands in air]
The big hit
- Video for "Hooked on a Feeling"
- Blue Swede: Ooga ooga ooga chaka
- Ooga ooga ooga chaka
Todd: You know, when I was a little kid, I had this, like, little toy tape player.
Todd (VO): Used to listen to my parents' old cassettes on it. One of which had "Hooked on a Feeling" on it, so, you know, it's just like the movie.
Todd: God, memories, I remember just turning it on and hearing that unforgettable intro.
- Clip of B.J. Thomas - "Hooked on a Feeling"
Todd (VO): Of an electronic sitar, and not a bunch of idiots chanting, "ooga chaka."
Todd: 'Cause the version I know is the original by B.J. Thomas from 1968.
- B.J.: I can't stop this feeling
Todd (VO): And you know, I don't even think I realized it, but I really love this song. Now "Hooked on a Feeling" is a pretty simple tune, based around a pretty simple idea.
Todd: Being loved feels good.
Todd (VO): It's not groundbreaking, I guess, and B.J. Thomas always sounded like a complete dork with a head cold, but he sells it.
- B.J.: That you're in love with me
Todd (VO): So why did [back to cover by...] Blue Swede decide to take this modest little song and put "ooga chaka" all over it? Well...
Todd: ...they didn't.
- Clip of Jonathan King performance with his version of "Hooked on a Feeling" dubbed over
Todd (VO): Not only is this not the first version of "Hooked on a Feeling", it's not even the first "ooga chaka" version of "Hooked on a Feeling". That comes from [single cover of "Hooked on a Feeling"/"I Don't Want To Be Gay"] British songwriter Jonathan King in 1971. [various clips of King] Now I've never heard of this guy, but he apparently had a fascinatingly diverse and successful career as a talent scout, record producer, and television personality. And like so many beloved British entertainers from the '70s, he turned out to be [News of the World article: "King Ran Child Sex Ring For Stars"] a pedophile.
Todd: Brits, how the hell does that keep happening?
Todd (VO): Anyway, King was inspired to add "ooga chaka" to "Hooked on a Feeling" after hearing a...
Todd: ...similarly goofy '50s novelty song of [single cover of Johnny Preston's...] questionable racial sensitivity called "Running Bear".
- Brief clip of Johnny Preston performing on The Dick Clark Show
- Big Bopper and George Jones: [repeated throughout] Uga-uga, uga-uga
- Johnny Preston: On the bank...
Todd (VO): I wish I could tell you about how "hoya hoya hoya" became [back to Blue Swede] "ooga chaka, ooga chaka," but that's literally all I know. I assume there's something racist about it, even though I couldn't tell you how or against who. That's the really baffling thing about it—how little connection it has to anything in or out of the song. It's just there without explanation.
- Blue Swede: I'm...
Todd (VO): So if even "ooga chaka" isn't original, what does Blue Suede...
Todd: ...Blue Swe...what does...
Todd (VO): ...Blue Swede add to "Hooked on a Feeling"? Honestly, not much. [Album cover of King Size King] The biggest difference is Jonathan King was kind of this scrawny nerd, but Blue Swede are very forceful and loud and hard to miss.
- Björn: Keep it up, girl
- Yeah, you turn me on
Todd (VO): Like, even if "ooga chaka" was just this normal thing no one cared about, you'd still notice Blue Swede instantly.
Todd: And I don't consider that a great thing.
Todd (VO): Björn Skifs, at least on this song, is just this bellowing ox of a singer who's got this almost Chad Kroeger-y thing going on. Okay, not that bad, but you know, he's still got this burly, barreling baritone that I don't like at all.
- Björn: Said I'm hooked on a feeling
Todd (VO): But if you ask me, the biggest difference between this and the original isn't "ooga chaka" or...
Todd: ...the horns or the different singer. It's the way it goes...
Todd (VO): [singing along to the alternate melody] ..."I." In the original, B.J. Thomas just holds that line to one note and just belts it.
- Clip of B.J. Thomas
- B.J.: I'm...
Todd (VO): 'Cause he's happy, he's in love. It's the best moment in the song.
That one minor change in the melody completely robs the song of any power for me.
Todd: Matter of fact, nowhere does this sound like a love song.
Todd (VO): Björn just lumbers his way through the song like he doesn't understand the lyrics, which...I don't know, maybe he doesn't. It's not even trying to be a love song, I don't think. It's...it's just trying to be kitschy and weird, which I guess is why this is the most remembered version of the song. You never forget it once you've heard it. And to be fair, that is certainly an achievement. Whatever the reason for this interpretation of "Hooked on a Feeling", it has endured.
Todd: But quite frankly, I hate it.
Todd (VO): I didn't even realize I hated it because I always turned it off instantly, 'cause who wants to listen to that? Having listened to it several times now, this version is terrible. I'm not at all surprised they didn't have a second hit.
Todd: [long pause] Except they did.
The failed follow-up
[live clip from 1974 of Blue Swede covering The Velvet Underground's "Rock & Roll"]
- Björn: It's alright.
- Blue Swede: It's alright.
Todd (VO): Their next single was also a cover, as was all their subsequent singles, and more than half of their two albums, including [single cover of...] a cover of Cher's "Half-Breed", which is pretty damn funny.
- "Half Breed" dubbed over "Hooked on a Feeling" video, as are other Blue Swede songs throughout
- Björn: Half-breed, that's all I ever heard
- (very, very white)
Todd: In the case of their follow-up, the song was [clip of...] "Never My Love" by The Association.
- The Association: Never my love
- Never my love
Todd (VO): Now, The Association have been kind of written out of rock history, but this song has held up really well. It's just got this sleek, earnest, dreamlike vibe, and if it hasn't been in a Wes Anderson movie yet, I'll be very surprised.
Todd: This is what Blue Swede did with it.
- Blue Swede: Never, never, never my love
- Björn: Never my love
- Blue Swede: Never, never, never my love
- Björn: Never my love
Todd: Well, congratulations, guys. You stomped the crap out of another classic '60s pop song. [gives a thumbs up] Way to go.
Todd (VO): And get this—this was a Top 10 hit. I wish I had known that before I started writing this episode, because I do try to avoid things like this. [Clips of Vanilla Ice - "Ice Ice Baby"...] You know, some acts, they get labeled as one-hit wonders even though they had plenty of successful songs, because they only had one that people really remember. I don't think that counts. [...and Rick Astley - "Together Forever"] I get a lot of requests for Rick Astley for this show, and it will never happen.
Todd: Never. I hope that's clear.
Todd (VO): So maybe I screwed up by including Blue Swede for this show, but...you know, you know, I'm gonna give you guys a ruling here.
Todd: Yes, they are, in fact, a one-hit wonder.
Todd (VO): No one remembers this song, it's on almost none of those '70s compilations, and I don't care if it placed in the Top 10. [Clip of...] So did "Gentleman" by PSY. That was not a hit, and neither was this. The end.
They only ever released one more album, and only had one more minor charting single.
Todd: A mash-up of [single cover of...] "It's Alive" by Tommy James, [...and clip of...] and "Hush" by Deep Purple.
- Rod Evans: Hush, hush
Todd (VO): "Hush", of course, is an all-time great hard rock song, so...
Todd: ...I'm not looking forward to seeing how they ruined that.
- Blue Swede's version sounds noticeably funkier
Todd: Ugh. Is this the intro to some kind of funky '70s cop show?
- Blue Swede: Hush, hush
- Björn: Early in the morning
- Blue Swede: Hush, hush
- Björn: Late in the evening
Todd: [flatly] Honestly, this is kind of awesome.
Did they ever do anything else?
- Clip of Björn singing in Swedish
Todd (VO): Blue Swede broke up after Björn decided to go solo. Unfortunately, most of the information I could find about him was written in [screenshot of Wikipedia entry written in Swedish] complete gibberish with weird marks over the vowels. But from what I can tell, Björn has continued to be a big deal in Swedenland.
Todd: Like, I can't remember if I've mentioned Eurovision before...
- Clips of Eurovision featuring the Epic Sax Guy, ABBA, and Björn
Todd (VO): ...but, in case you don't know, it's this super-cheesy European song contest that brought ABBA to the world. Well, just like ABBA, Björn represented Sweden at Eurovision too...twice. From what I can tell, at this point, his stuff became a lot more recognizably Swedish. Not just in Swedish, but, you know, Swedish-sounding. And it's not only Eurovision that connects him to ABBA either.
Todd: Like, you know the guys from ABBA wrote a [poster for...] musical, right? You know, Chess?
- Clip of "One Night in Bangkok"
Todd (VO): [singing] One night in Bangkok, and the tough get going, yeah, that's from that musical. Well, Björn has a song from it too.
- Clip of "The Arbiter"
- Björn: Yes, I'm the Arbiter and I know best
- Chorus: He's impartial, don't push him, he's unimpressed
Todd (VO): I'm not much of a Broadway guy, but I do hope I get to see Chess someday, just so I can find out what the hell is going on 'cause it looks insane. [More recent clip of Björn] And even many decades after his biggest success, he still seems to be a major star over there. He's still having Swedish hits into the new millennium, and he even performed a couple years ago [brief clip of...] at the Royal Wedding. The Swedish Royal...[clip of Swedish Royal Wedding, with Björn singing with Agnes] God. Thank you. So, yeah, all of that in a career all because...
Todd: ...of "ooga chaka."
Did they deserve better?
Todd: Uh...Sweden, you seem to like the guy, you could've kept all this for yourself, honestly.
- Björn: Hooked on a feeling
Todd (VO): Look, '70s AM bubble-rock was made by a bunch of these short-lived, manufactured bands that no one took seriously as artists, not even themselves. So trying to analyze them as, you know, artists is difficult. But I've listened to enough Blue Swede now that I think I've got a handle on who they were, and I would call them a very poor man's [album cover of Spinning Wheel by...] Blood, Sweat & Tears. Blue Swede, I am confident in saying, did not need to exist. But you know, if you have a bottomless tolerance for '70s kitsch, then, yeah, go ahead. Ooga chaka all you want. Me? No, I'll pass.
Todd: Sorry, Starlord. Awesome Mix Volume 1 is a little less awesome than you think it is.
- Björn: Yeah!
Closing tag song: Vonda Shepard - "Hooked on a Feeling"
"Hooked on a Feeling" is owned by EMI Svenska
This video is owned by me