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Boom Boom

by

John Lee Hooker



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

John Lee Hooker first recorded in 1948, and the next year released his classic "Boogie Chillen," which eventually sold over a million copies. In the '50s, he recorded under several different names ("Delta John" and "Birmingham Sam" among them) and refined his craft with constant live performances. By 1962, he was signed to Vee-Jay Records, who teamed him up with seasoned session players and tried to bring his music to a wider audience.

"Boom Boom" was the song that crossed over, marking his only entry on the US Hot 100 and becoming his signature song. Hooker told Bruce Pollock how the song originated: "I used to play at this place called the Apex Bar in Detroit. There was a young lady there named Luilla. She was a bartender there. I would come in there at night and I'd never be on time. Every night the band would beat me there. Sometimes they'd be on the bandstand playing by the time I got there. I'd always be late and whenever I'd come in she'd point at me and say, 'Boom Boom, you're late again.' And she kept saying that. It dawned on me that that was a good name for a song. Then one night she said, 'Boom boom, I'm gonna shoot you down.' She gave me a song but she didn't know it.

I took that thing and I hummed it all the way home from the bar. At night I went to bed and I was still thinking of it. I got up the next day and put one and one together, two and two together, trying to piece it out - taking things out, putting things in. I finally got it down right, got it together, got it down in my head. Then I went and sang it, and everybody went, Wow! Then I didn't do it no more, not in the bar. I figured somebody would grab it before I got it copyrighted. So I sent it to Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress, and I got it copyrighted. After I got it copyrighted I could do it in the bar. So then if anybody got the idea to do it I had them by the neck, because I had it copyrighted. About two months later I recorded it. I was on Vee-Jay then. And the record shot straight to the top. Then, after I did it, the Animals turned around and did it. That barmaid felt pretty good. She went around telling everybody I got John Lee to write that song. I gave her some bread for it, too, so she was pretty happy."
Hooker performed this when he appeared in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. It was the only movie Hooker ever appeared in.
Many Blues bands have covered this over the years, including The Animals and The Yardbirds. It has become a Blues standard.
Members of Motown's house band (known as The Funk Brothers) played on this. The Funk Brothers were outstanding musicians and played on hundreds of hit records, but Motown didn't pay them very well, so they would take gigs at other labels in the Detroit area to make extra cash.
Hooker didn't play this live for a long time, because he feared that he wouldn't do it justice. He finally played it in his last two shows before his death.
In 1992, this was used in a UK ad for Levi's jeans. It was re-released that year and went to #16. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
This was used in a 2002 commercial for The Gap. In the ad, it was performed on roller skates by Baba Oje, a former member of Arrested Development. The advertising campaign, dubbed "For Every Generation," used a variety of artists, including Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Natalie Imbruglia.
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker Artistfacts
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Comments (8):

When the James Bond movie "Skyfall" came out last year, The Animals' version of "Boom Boom" was in the soundtrack near the movie's end-----when Bond is holed-up in that huge old house awaiting the final confrontation with villains. You can hear the song playing as artillery explodes! I first hear this song as the Animals' version from 1964 when I was in high school. In this area back in '64 I recall it was on our local rock charts Top Ten. Not many of us kids paid much attention to the Billboard charts back then. Then later, I learned it was written & recorded by Hooker. I then became a Hooker fan in '65. What a blues master! It's unfortunate that VeeJay Records in Chicago folded up and cheated so many of its artists (the Four Seasons included!) of royalties and other monies due them. Hooker did a double album with Canned Heat in the Seventies I really loved too. And I am not sure, but think Boom Boom was on it too. I didn't keep that album, unfortunately. Last year (2013), ABKCO Records released a "Best of The Animals" CD with digitally remastered songs, to include Boom Boom. Mercy! This version still can "raise the dead" if ya know what I mean. It is a blues song, but it is an "all out rocker!!" About ten or 12 years ago, Eric Burdon reunited with the Animals for a U.S. tour and I caught them in KC. When Boom Boom was played, they brought down the house!!
- Rotunda, Tulsa, OK
What a song!! I'm a fan of John Lee Hooker from way back. When I was a teen, I used to listen to R&B and Blues radio stations from Louisiana and Arkansas at late night. I recall when BOOM BOOM hit the radio airwaves on blues stations in 1962. While other teens were listening to Twist songs on radio by Chubby Checker, I was groovin' to Hooker's BOOM BOOM and other songs. My fascination with the Blues began that year with Hooker and other blues artists. Then in the British Invasion of rock, I heard the song again, but a slightly altered version by The Animals (with Eric Burdon's lead vocals). Man the dude Burdon could wail piercing high notes! I got the 45 rpm single (MGM Records) cause I jusst had to have his version of the song too. But the Hooker original------you gotta listen to it!
- Rocky, TULSA, OK
On December 5th, 1964, "Boom Boom" by the Animals entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #43 and stayed on the Top 100 for 7 weeks...
It reached #14 on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
RIP John Lee Hooker (1917 - 2001) and Eric Burton will celebrate his 73rd birthday come next May 11th, 2014.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The Animals' version in their live show (youtube)is pretty amazing. The mid-60s Animals were in rare form.
- Rise, Exeter, CA
Okay, time for me to get picky here. Although in the extended version of The Blues Brothers, John Lee Hooker refers to what he was playing as "Boom Boom" (and argues with his bandmates over writing it!), what he was playing was actually more of an amalgam of "Boom Boom" and another of his songs, "Bang Bang Bang Bang." In fact, the overall sound is much closer to that of "Bang Bang Bang Bang."
- Sean, Chicago, IL
John Lee also recorded this tine with Big Headed Todd & The Monsters. Well worth seeking out!
- Don, Newmarket, Canada
John Lee Hooker re-recorded Boom Boom for his 1998 album 'Best of friends'.
- Ragnar, Horten, Norway
John Lee was inspired to write Boom Boom by a waitress he knew in a diner. She would make a gun with her hand and go boom boom at john lee telling him she was gonna shoot him right down.
- Ron, Folly Beach, SC
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