It's not surprising that Blue Swede's "Hooked On A Feeling" was a huge hit; after all, it's a great song. But, according to Chris Molanphy -- pop chart analyst and contributor to NPR Music, Pitchfork, Slate, and elsewhere -- the song's long-winding, evolving journey to the top of the charts in 1974 was so improbable, we made it the latest subject Soundcheck's ongoing series, That Was a Hit?!?
As Molanphy explains in a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, a very different version of "Hooked On A Feeling" first made the charts in 1969. The tender, mid-tempo love song performed by B.J. Thomas hit No. 5 on the Hot 100.
Then, Jonathan King — a producer and novelty recording artist — released the next major version in 1971, which reached No. 23 in England. It was the first to include the “ooga-chaga” chant.
A Swedish producer heard King's version and had a Swedish group record it. When that became a hit in Scandinavia, the record label decided to go for an American release. They needed an English name for the band, so they took the literal translation of the band's Swedish name — Blue Denim — and changed it to Blue Swede. The pun is intentional, so it's not surprising that many, including Schaefer, always thought the band was called Blue Suede.
By becoming the first Swedish act to score a No. 1 hit in the U.S., Blue Swede paved the way for ABBA... for which you can either love them or hate them.