May 2023

"Strange Effect On Me"

Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt

"Strange Effect On Me"

I am continually drawn to listen to the cover of this song by the Belgian band Hooverphonic done in 1998 for their album Blue Wonder Powder Milk. One could say that "Strange Effect on Me" has had a strange effect on me. (You can hear recordings of it on YouTube and Vevo.)

Originally written by Ray Davies of The Kinks, it was released by Dave Berry in 1965 and became a hit in Belgium (as well as the Netherlands but not in the United States), so it seems fitting that it also became a hit for Hooverphonic (their single of the song was used in an American TV commercial for Motorola phones).

The song has been covered many times: The Kinks themselves, Bill Wyman (he of the Rolling Stones), The Shacks, Unloved (used in an episode of Killing Eve), Squeeze, Holly Golightly, Thievery Corporation (in an odd remix with the 1998 version), The Undertones and Howlin' Jaws (a truly ear-wrecking experience).

Why the Hooverphonic version and not any of the others? Three things hook me (and I understand that while they may hook me, they may not hook anyone else – musical taste, like any taste, is personal and opaque).

In the Davies original, there is a chord change after the opening lyrics that, to my ear, changes the feel and drive of the piece because, again to my ear, the chord change sounds very pop musicky and, thus, conventional.

The opening goes like this:

    You've got this strange effect on me
    And I like it
    You've got this strange effect on me
    And I like it

And the chord change happens here:

    You make my world in white
    You make my darkness bright, oh yes

Then the lyrics comes back to the original songline:

    You've got this strange effect on me
    And I like it, and I like it

Hooverphonic doesn't make the chord change but continues using the same tune with which they open the song – the ear (my ear) doesn't have to make any adjustment but can continue floating along with the song as it soars on the ethereal voice of Geike Arnaert.

My second reason for loving this version.

She begins in a register high and clean and then climbs even higher without her voice losing any power or clarity as she sings:

    And I like the way you kiss me
    Don't know if I should
    But this feeling it's love and I know it
    That's why I feel good

The version done by The Shacks, a trio, is sung by Shannon Wise (who also plays bass), and she, too, begins in that same register. But when she comes to "You make my world in white," she doesn't take the vocal risk and instead drops down an octave. And because they are a trio (bass, guitar and drums), their version has a garage band vibe to it that moves against the delicacy of the song – guitarist Max Shrager even throws in a riff, though half-hearted, as if filling in a rock-and-roll-song obligation without much desire behind it.

And that brings me to the third reason: the song's orchestration.

Some of the other versions have interesting stylistic takes on the song: Squeeze goes more bluesy (solo harmonica, a slow-dance drum rhythm), The Undertones do an all-acoustic version (with one dude keeping the beat on an African drum) and Holly Golightly belts it out in a bar, with a hard-edged volume and rough-voiced vocals.

But Hooverphonic, as they are wont to do in their work, wrap the usual instruments of a pop music band inside what might be called a symphonic shell. In this case, the strings softly bounce against a thick-stringed surfer guitar riff while Arnaert's voice floats above it all, all braced underneath by a steady percussion and punctuated with little touches like the click of castanets and muted horn fanfares.

When music strikes you, it strikes you – it's an entirely subjective, self-located experience, immune to argument (both to defend your choice and to convince someone else to make your choice). You like it or you don't, and that is the end of the story.

An interesting side note about Hooverphonic. I heard "Strange Effect on Me" while flying back from the Gambia on Brussels Airlines. The reason I did that is because the company has employed Hooverphonic to do their pre-take off safety video – a very cheeky and watchable production which provides both a great music experience and invaluable information in one wee tasty dram.

You like it or you don't. It strikes you or it doesn't. What a delightful mystery.


Share This Page

View readers' comments in Letters to the Editor


Michael Bettencourt is an essayist and a playwright.
He writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate"
and wife, María-Beatriz.
For more of his columns, articles, and media,
check the Archives.

©2023 Michael Bettencourt
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




and creates



May 2023

  Sections~Cover · This Issue · inFocus · inView · inSight · Perspectives · Special Issues
  Columns~Adler · Alenier · Bettencourt · Jones · Luce · Marcott · Walsh 
  Information~Masthead · Your Support · Prior Issues · Submissions · Archives · Books
  Connections~Contact Us · Comments · Subscribe · Advertising · Privacy · Terms · Letters

|  Search Issue | Search Archives | Share Page |

Scene4 (ISSN 1932-3603), published monthly by Scene4 Magazine
of Arts and Culture. Copyright © 2000-2023 Aviar-Dka Ltd – Aviar Media Llc.

sc4cover-archives-pic1Subscribe to our mail list for news and a monthly update of each new issue. It's Free!


 Email Address

        Please see our Privacy Policy regarding the security of your information.

Thai Airways at Scene4 Magazine