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Song: Hooked on a Feeling (1968)
Artist: B.J. Thomas
Album: On My Way (Sceptor)
Writer: Mark James
Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede is one of the popular tracks from the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy (some of them here). But, the arrangement, with its ooga-chaka ooga-chaka refrain, is quite a bit different than the original.
The song was written by Mark James, who, in the 1960s was a writer, and a very talented one at that, for producer Chips Moman. Moman also wrote the song “Suspicious Minds,” which Elvis made a hit, although he had recorded it himself in 1968 (Sceptor) with no success. The original artist to record Hooked on a Feeling was B.J. Thomas, famous for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” both number one hits. Thomas took Hooked on a Feeling to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1969. It was also a hit in Canada. It was recorded for his album “On My Way” from which only two singles were released. The album also contained a cover of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.”
Blue Swede, a Swedish group, seems to have come out of left field with their update of the song in 1971, with which they scored a no. 1 hit in April 1974. They were the first Swedish group to make it to the top of the American charts. However, the ooga-chaka and the feel, in general, is owed to British singer Jonathan King, who recorded his version in 1971. It is hard to say, but he may have gotten the idea for this pseudo-Native American chant from “Running Bear” by Johnny Preston.
Blue Swede’s version of “Hooked on a Feeling” has a more pronounced rock flavor and seems less bubblegum than Kings’s, at least on the recorded version. What in the world possessed King to add the ooga-chaka chant in the first place, we may never know. It’s weird and off the wall, and some people prefer the original B.J. Thomas version, but I suspect Blue Swede’s version was a smash hit for a reason. For myself, it’s the vocals that made it. Still, we have to give Jonathan King some credit for his part in the evolution of the song. As for myself, I like the original B.J. Thomas version and the Blue Swede version although I could do without the ooga-chaka.
Listen to Hooked on a Feeling by BJ Thomas
Listen To Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede
King wasn’t just some nut who put weird chants in hit songs. He was the owner of UK Records and discovered such groups as Genesis, 10cc, and the Bay City rollers. He hosted a television show called Entertainment U.S.A., informing British Audiences about American show business developments, and he ran for Parliament.
He also recorded plenty of cover tunes, but not usually under his own name. Hooked on a Feeling was a rarity, and it reached no. 23 on the British charts in 1972. He also recorded under such names as 100 Ton and a Feather, Bubblerock, and 53rd and 3rd. You might even say he was a pioneer. His hit version of the Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction under the pseudonym Bubblerock is just the sort of reimagining that artists are trying to achieve today. In this case, however, he seems to have been trying to imagine what the song would have been like had Bob Dylan written it. Mick Jagger, for his part, seems to have liked it.
In the same year, another extremely similar cover of Satisfaction was released by the Italian group the Tritons (New Trolls). I am not certain which version actually came first but I suspect it was King’s.
As with any cover of any tune, there will always be someone who will claim “this is the best version of this song ever!” But, let’s remember a couple of things: Satisfaction is probably the greatest rock single in the history of the Universe. And, it has been covered more times than you can shake a stick at by pretty much everyone who is anyone. Not many people choose to remove the signature riff as it is as much “the song” as the lyrics and Mick Jagger’s delivery of them.