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"Boom Boom" is a song written by American blues singer/guitarist John Lee Hooker and recorded in 1961. Although a blues song, music critic Charles Shaar Murray calls it "the greatest pop song he ever wrote".[1] "Boom Boom" was both an American R&B and pop chart success in 1962 as well as placing in the UK Singles Chart in 1992.

"Boom Boom"
Boom Boom single cover.jpg
Single by John Lee Hooker
from the album Burnin'
B-side"Drug Store Woman"
ReleasedMay 1962 (1962-05)
Format7-inch 45 rpm record
RecordedChicago, late 1961
Songwriter(s)John Lee Hooker

The song is one of Hooker's most identifiable and enduring[2] and "among the tunes that every band on the [early 1960s UK] R&B circuit simply had to play".[3] It has been recorded by numerous blues and other artists, including a 1965 North American hit by the Animals.


Recording and compositionEdit

Prior to recording for Vee-Jay Records, John Lee Hooker was primarily a solo performer or accompanied by a second guitarist, such as early collaborators Eddie Burns or Eddie Kirkland.[4] However, with Vee-Jay, he usually recorded with a small backing band, as heard on the singles "Dimples", "I Love You Honey", and "No Shoes". Detroit pianist Joe Hunter, who had previously worked with Hooker, was again enlisted for the recording session.[1] Hunter brought with him "the cream of the Motown label's session men, later known as the Funk Brothers":[4] bassist James Jamerson, drummer Benny Benjamin, plus guitarist Larry Veeder, tenor saxophonist Hank Cosby, and baritone saxophonist Andrew "Mike" Terry.[1] They have been described as "just the right band" for "Boom Boom".[1] Hooker had a unique sense of timing, which demanded "big-eared sidemen".[5]

The original "Boom Boom" is an uptempo (168 beats per minute) blues song, which has been notated in 2/2 time in the key of F.[6] It has been described as "about the tightest musical structure of any Hooker composition: its verses sedulously adhere to the twelve-bar format over which Hooker generally rides so roughshod".[1] The song uses "a stop-time hook that opens up for one of the genre's most memorable guitar riffs"[7] and incorporates a middle instrumental section Hooker-style boogie.[1]

According to Hooker, he wrote the song during an extended engagement at the Apex Bar in Detroit.

I would never be on time [for the gig]; I always would be late comin' in. And she [the bartender Willa] kept saying, "Boom boom – you late again". Every night: "Boom, boom – you late again". I said "Hmm, that's a song!" ... I got it together, the lyrics, rehearsed it, and I played it at the place, and the people went wild.[8]

Also included are several wordless phrases, "how-how-how-how" and "hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm". "Boom Boom" became the Hooker song that is "the most memorable, the most instantly appealing, and the one which has proved the most adaptable to the needs of other performers".[1] ZZ Top later used similar lines ("how-how-how-how") for their popular "La Grange".[7]

Releases and chartsEdit

When "Boom Boom" was released as a single in May 1962,[9] the song became a hit. It entered the Billboard R&B chart on June 16, 1962, where it spent eight weeks and reached number 16.[10] The song also entered the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached number 60, making it one of only two Hooker singles to enter the pop chart.[10] It was included on the 1962 Vee-Jay album Burnin' (SR 1043) as well as many Hooker compilations, including John Lee Hooker: The Ultimate Collection.

Thirty years later in the UK, after being featured in a Lee Jeans commercial in 1992, the song reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart.[11] Hooker recorded several later versions. Following the success of the Animals' version, Hooker re-recorded the song in 1968 for Stateside Records as the B-side of "Cry Before I Go" under the longer title "Boom Boom Boom". He reworked the song as "Bang Bang Bang Bang" for his Live at Soledad Prison album, as a South Side Chicago street musician in the film The Blues Brothers (but the song itself is not included in the film soundtrack), and as the title track for his 1992 album Boom Boom with Jimmie Vaughan.[12]

The Animals versionEdit

"Boom Boom"
Single by The Animals
from the album The Animals
B-side"Blue Feeling"
ReleasedNovember 1964 (1964-11)
Format7-inch 45 rpm record
RecordedJanuary 1964
GenreBlues rock
Songwriter(s)John Lee Hooker
Producer(s)Mickie Most
The Animals singles chronology
"I'm Crying"
"Boom Boom"
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"

English rock band the Animals recorded "Boom Boom" for their 1964 UK debut album The Animals. Their blues-rock[13] rendition generally follows John Lee Hooker's original, although they add "shake it baby" as a response to the "come on and shake" refrain in the middle section,[14] taken from Hooker's "Shake It Baby" (recorded during the 1962 American Folk Blues Festival tour in Europe, where it became a hit in 1963).[15]

The Animals' version was released as a single in North America in November 1964.[16] It reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100[17] and number 14 on the RPM Top 40&5 singles chart.[18] The song was also released in Australia and India and is included on the Animals' second American album The Animals on Tour as well as various compilation albums (sometimes with the twelve-bar guitar solo edited out).

Over the years, several versions of "Boom Boom" have been recorded by various Animals reunion lineups as well as by former members Eric Burdon and Alan Price. In 2012, the original 1964 version was used in the film Skyfall.

Recognition and legacyEdit

In 1995, John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of "The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".[19] It was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2009 in the "Classics of Blues Recording" category.[4] A Detroit Free Press poll in 2016 ranked the song at number 37 in "Detroit's 100 Greatest Songs".[20] A version by Big Head Todd and the Monsters is used as the opening theme for the television series NCIS: New Orleans.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 237–240. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3.
  2. ^ John Lee Hooker interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  3. ^ Koda, Cub; Russo, Gregg (2001). Ultimate! (Boxed set booklet). The Yardbirds. Los Angeles: Rhino Records. OCLC 781357622. R2 79825.
  4. ^ a b c Blues Foundation (November 10, 2016). "2009 Hall of Fame Inductees: Boom Boom – John Lee Hooker (Vee-Jay, 1961)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  5. ^ Dahl, Bill (1996). Erlewine, Michael (ed.). John Lee Hooker. All Music Guide to the Blues. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. p. 116. ISBN 0-87930-424-3.
  6. ^ "Boom, Boom". Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Janovitz, Bill. "John Lee Hooker: Boom Boom – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  8. ^ Obrecht, Jas (2000). Rollin' and Tumblin': The Postwar Blues Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 426. ISBN 978-0-87930-613-7.
  9. ^ The Very Best of John Lee Hooker (CD compilation notes). John Lee Hooker. Los Angeles: Rhino Records. 1995. R2 71915.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 194. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 258. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. ^ Later re-recordings are often in different keys; a 1992 version featuring Jimmie Vaughan is in the key of E.
  13. ^ Nick Talevski (1998). The Unofficial Encyclopedia of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Greenwood Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-313-30032-5.
  14. ^ Hal Leonard (1995). "Boom Boom". The Blues. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-7935-5259-1.
  15. ^ Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1989). I Am the Blues. Da Capo Press. p. 122. ISBN 0-306-80415-8.
  16. ^ "The Story of the Animals". The Singles+ (CD liner notes). The Animals. the Netherlands: BR Music. 1999. p. 2. BS 8112-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  17. ^ "The Animals: Charts & Awards – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  18. ^ "RPM Magazine: Top Singles - Volume 2, No. 21, January 18 1965" (PHP). Library and Archives Canada. March 31, 2004.
  19. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Archived from the original on May 2, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  20. ^ McCollum, Brian. "Detroit's 100 Greatest Songs". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  21. ^ ""Boom Bom" – Theme Song for NCIS: New Orleans". Retrieved March 14, 2019.