Halleluwah: Can’s Trance Funk Monster Groove From Outer Space

Can's Tago Mago song Halleluwah

Halleluwah is one of Can’s most iconic tracks, a monster groove punch of avant-funk that’s pretty remarkable.

Over 18 sprawling minutes, the band’s genius as musicians shines through very brightly indeed. Especially with drummer Jaki Liebezeit, whose looping performance is just ridiculous.

The centrepiece of the band’s landmark Tago Mago album in 1971, it’s kind of unlike anything you’ll hear in this lifetime.

Halleluwah as Avant/Funk From Another Dimension

Halleluwah was one of many instant compositions from Can, but is typical of the band’s impressive range of abilities.

There’s a huge array of guitars, keyboards, tape editing, and one hell of a monster trance/funk beat going on.

Featuring the type of propulsive beats as Oh Yeah, the third track off Tago Mago, it’s Liebezeit’s robotic genius that holds the song together.

And we want to be clear on this, as he nearly topped our Best Drummers Ever List. He was no ordinary drummer—he was a total master. An incredibly rare talent and super genius.

Liebezeit had an exceptional metronomic ability as a drummer, which was his own style and is called motorik. A whole book has been written about it in Jaki Liebezeit: The Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer (2020).

It’s thanks to motorik that guitarist Michael Karoli could go off and do his thing.

He has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in history, as his work is remarkable. He was a composer, above all else, steeped in a sense of classical music grandeur. But with a confident, brilliant style that was crisp clear, multi-layered, and evocative.

It couldn’t be any clearer on Halleluwah.

Also, and interestingly, Karoli said he wasn’t actually 100% sure about Liebezeit’s abilities… until he heard his work on Halleluwah. Yeah, that’d certainly do it.

Singer Damo Suzuki’s contributions are minimal throughout the song, but believe it or not there’s a catchy chorus in there! It’s just at the 10-minute mark.

Oh, shadow coming out,
While I call the story, storey that,
Oh, it’s all about,
Spinning that all the time.

Shoot all the proof and lust and shout and it’s all, just you sow,
Shoot all the proof and lust and shout and it’s all, just you sow,
Shoot all the proof and lust and shout and it’s all, just you sow,
Shoot all the proof and lust and shout and it’s all, just you sow.

Searching for my brother,
Searching for my brother, let him, let him, let him up,
Searching for my brother, let him, let him, let him up,
Searching for my brother, let him, let him, let him up,
Searching for my brother, let him, let him, let him up.

Now, there’s no official lyrics book to go with Can. It’s often a bit unclear what Suzuki is saying… but then that’s kind of the case with a lot of songs out there, eh?

Halleluwah also drifts into one of the band’s legendary hypnotic surges, where the members loop everything around on an increasingly berserk level.

Probably enough to send anyone off to a psychiatric ward if they were on drugs at the time.

But otherwise, what a number!

What’s it about? Erm… no idea. At all. But it’s certainly a demonstration of Can at its very best—18 minutes of complete genius from a band like no other.

Not to get all “back in our day” about it, as we weren’t even alive in 1971, but there simply aren’t any bands nearing this level of brilliance now.

Halleluwah… Live!

Amazingly, and this is super rare, but there’s footage of the band in 1971 performing Halleluwah. There is a God after all…

Or at least someone smart enough to record this incredible band at its peak for posterity.

The clip includes a half naked Damo Suzuki at his best, plus Liebezeit wearing a pair of funky shades. But that rhythm section, man. Jaysus.

And as you can see, as a live bind the members were bloody hypnotic and brilliant together.

It’s also proof all the fancy special effects, dance routines, and all that jazz going with many modern pop groups and bands… not really needed, eh?

Just stick an incredible bunch of musicians in front of a white wall, on something that’s barely a stage, and let them do their thing.

There’s also a great version from 1972 here, although we’re not sure where this was recorded. But again, listen to that intro! Those shuffling, funky drums.

Again, pretty hypnotic. That was the band’s speciality at the time, especially live, although after Tago Mago they began experimenting with more melodic sounds.

We can only thank our lucky stars they did their thing 50 years back.

Halleluwah’s Single Release & B-Side Turtles Have Short Legs

On a final note, Halleluwah was released as a single in 1971.

The band wasn’t huge in the way Led Zeppelin and The Who were, they had more of a cult following due to the experimental nature of the music.

This is to the point the UK pressing of Tago Mago spelled the title as Hallelujah. Those bloody Brits, eh? Can’t get anything right.

Anyway, the song was condensed down massively to make it a bit more accessible.

After the brain-melting experience of Halleluwah, the band seemed aware the single version needed something more accessible.

Enter the excellent Turtles Have Short Legs, more along the lines of Vitamin C’s indie perfection.

Glorious little ditty, eh? Complete with Suzuki’s super charming Japanese dropping of “l”s for “r”s.

But it’s also further proof of Can’s versatility. From the monster grooves off Tago Mago… to an uplifting pop ditty like this. Bloody brilliant.


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