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You know the Hokey Pokey, right? When was the last time you actually heard a recording of the Hokey Pokey?
For me, it was this morning. At 6:00 a.m. In the coffee shop down the road.
The f**king Hokey Pokey!… What?
What controls the coffee shops music feed? Is it the Radio? Probably not, there’s never a break for ads. Is it a curated list from Spotify, or a personal device? After was a Bastille song. Who puts Bastille on the playlist as the Hokey Pokey?
Understandably I was confused. Too confused to get any real work done. So I tried to figure out if someone had recorded a version of the Hokey Pokey someone that would fit on a playlist with Indie pop and dance.
And I fell down a rabbit hole…
First off, the song the “Hokey Pokey” as it’s called in the US and Australia, has a few names. In England, it’s called the “Hokey Cokey”. Sure, that works. In New Zealand they called it the “Hokey Tokey”, and apparently nobody’s told them what that means. And in Denmark they call it the “Boogie Woogie” because sure, why not.
Nobody knows where the Hokey Pokey comes from, and some people have very strong opinions on the matter. So much so that it appears whoever edited this article made a bold enough claim that Wikipedia felt the need to respond with a “Prove it”.
While we may not know who these “Hokey Pokey” scholars are, we do have cited examples of early versions of the infamous dance. One of the earliest comes from 1826 Scotland:
Okay, Scotland, what? Are those supposed to be words? What are you doing? I did try to look up the word “Hinkumbooby” and the definition I got back was “Similar to a looby-loo.”
Lucky for all of us the English pick up the tune around 1857 and they try to bring some sort of sense to the dance.
If I am being honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the Hokey Pokey danced with “Slow rhythmical motions.” But, overall, good job. This is better.
But in 1891 the Scottish had to “contribute”.
Scotland, I don’t have time for this nonsense. What do you mean “all” my right feet? How many feet do you think I have. HOW MANY FEET DO YOU HAVE? Why does it have to be Saturday?
And sadly, the English decide their version, too, will be hot nonsense.
Are we not sure if we can dance? Or if it’s Friday? WHY IS THIS A QUESTION ENGLAND? Also, was “wag” the best word you could come up with?
It’s not until about WWII that we see songs that really resemble the Hokey Pokey in both lyrics and tune, and, of course, multiple people claim to have come up with the modern version, including Al Tabor and Jimmy Kennedy in the UK, and at least three different bands in the US. All of them claim to have added the defining element that turned the evolving folk song into The Hokey Pokey. And the fight matter because the Hokey Pokey charted in the UK top 100 twice. Try to think of a year that would even happen in.
You’re wrong though, it charted in 1981 and 1985. WHAT!?
But none of that matters, because nobody owns the rights to the Hokey Pokey…
I’m kidding of course. Sony owns the rights to the Hokey Pokey because of course someone owns the rights to the Hokey Pokey, at least in the US.
In the UK, nobody owns the rights anymore, because it’s in the public domain in the UK… Because it’s the f**ing Hokey Pokey.
I think it’s hard to hear that story and not see how preposterous it is arguing over the Hokey Pokey. It’s easy to think of the song as this concrete thing that’s always been. But it isn’t. It’s constantly been evolving, and changing, and becoming weirder and stupider because GOD DAMN IT SCOTLAND!
But for anyone to claim they came up with the Hokey Pokey is silly. The Hokey Pokey was a process. A collaboration that took over 100 years and any changes Jimmy Kennedy might have made to Al Tabor’s version are no more game change than the changes the British made to the Scottish version.
Maybe I’m just a process too. Maybe I’m still a Hinkumbooby or Looby-loo…