Music Flashback: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” 

music flashback hooked on a feeling

By Randal C. Hill 

Ooga-chaka ooga ooga // Ooga-chaka ooga ooga 

Ooga-chaka ooga ooga // Ooga-chaka ooga ooga 

These nonsense syllables kicked off Blue Swede’s smash hit of “Hooked on a Feeling.” As absurd as the “words” are, this opening chant proved to be a goldmine gimmick for grabbing music-listeners’ attention.  

In 1959, singer Johnny Preston topped the American charts with “Running Bear,” a Big Bopper-composed tale of two Native Americans who love each other but are kept apart by their warring tribes. (Shades of Romeo and Juliet) Preston’s million-seller opened with “ugga-ugga ugga-ugga ugga-ugga ugga-ugga,” a chant provided by both uncredited country superstar George Jones and the session’s recording engineer. 

In 1968, songwriter Mark James composed “Hooked on a Feeling” for his friend, singer B. J. Thomas. (Mark wrote the song about the thrills of being in love with his childhood sweetheart.) Thomas took James’s snappy tune to Number Five on Billboard’s Hot 100.  

Three years later, UK music star Jonathan King took inspiration from the opening of “Running Bear” to create his own nonsense syllables —“ooha-chagga ooga ooga”— to open his cover version of “Hooked on a Feeling.” 

Related: Music Flashback: Teen Sensation “Do the Loco-Motion With Me” 

This brings us to 1974. In Stockholm, Blue Swede recorded the most popular version ever of “Hooked on a Feeling.” Released on EMI Records, it reached Number One in several countries. 

Mark James’s lyrics had claimed that love is “like a drug,” that one can be “high on believin’,” and that the singer wants to “stay addicted” to a girl who can turn him on. All innocent stuff, really, but Blue Swede wanted to avoid any possible drug references, so they changed a few words: 

B. J. Thomas penned:

I got it bad for you, girl // But I don’t need a cure //

I’ll just stay addicted // If I can endure. 

But Blue Swede changed it to:

Got a bug from you, girl // But I don’t need no cure //

I just stay a victim // If I can for sure.

Even that awkward change didn’t hinder the song from becoming a worldwide winner.