The Definitive All-Time Best Woos In Rock Music
It’s one of the world’s most universal words, ‘woo!’, up there with ‘taxi’ and ‘mama’, needing no translation unlike even ‘beer’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’. And the woo takes many forms, from long melodic placeholders to woo-babies, extending to the long triumphant whoa-ohs of Bon Jovi or Parkway Drive.
But not all woos are created equally, varying in expressive function, duration, purpose and dimensions. We’re searching for the uber-woo, the finest instance of the brief, immediate and unifying expression of righteousness that so many have recorded yet so few have mastered.
A woo-hoo is not a woo, which immediately rules out the most immediate candidate, Song 2 by Blur. Joyful, yes, but the woo-hoo means that Song 2 is a no-no, like a whoa whoa. As are, alas, the plaintive woos of longing that pepper the history of rock. Sorry, Springsteen — I’m On Fire doesn’t make the cut, just like Sympathy for The Devil or Built This Pool by blink-182. You’d have thought that Led Zeppelin might have a few, and Weezer too – but Rivers Cuomos’ knowing whoas are often self-aware and lifeless. Woozy woo is not good woo.
There’s a lot of good woo in hip-hop, too, but they tend to be shaped by a different impulse – generally woo as introduction, as statement: Linkin Park and Jay‑Z have a good woo at the start of Numb/Encore, and Busta Rhymes has the immortal ‘Woo-ha! Got y’all in check’. But no dice, Busta. You’ve got good woo-ha – perhaps the best – but it’s a different species.
Good woo is righteous, spare, spontaneous and unexpected. It can take many forms and appears across generations, but the best share a purity of intent that you cannot predict. The uber-woo is a universal affirmation and unifying force usually originating with the performer, but the uber-woo is a crowd sound, too. And here we think we’ve found it.
10. Foghat, Slow Ride (1975)
A solid example of old-school, back-of-the-cupboard woo – the earliest recorded instance on the list. Note: it’s not the intro woo, but the gutsier instance mid-way through that helps to earn its place. The completed track gives us Nick Jameson’s great bass parts – and Dave Peverett’s warm, vintage woo.
9. The Used, Take It Away (2004)
A heavy track with a joyful early woo from Bert McCracken, never repeated and thus never diminished across the rest of the song. The album version comes with a brief piece of existential dialogue claiming that ‘You are about to see and hear one of the most significant messages given to us from God.’ A decent working definition of the woo right there.
8. Kiss, Crazy Crazy Nights (1987)
Classic intro woo. Kicks the song off and sets the tone, but loses points due to the difficulty of ever joining in bang on time. The pre-solo woo is more than decent, too – arena-level, in fact, the scale of its design and ambition reminding us that unimaginable success can start from the smallest seed.
7. be your own PET, Super Soaked (2008)
A lesser-known, but far from forgotten array of woo comes from Jemina Pearl, who fills her vocals with snapping whoops, woos and shrieks. An exemplary one-off comes towards the end of Super Soaked, which is worth listening to in full to benefit from the build and anticipation. The band may have broken up now, but this woo echoes through the ages.
6. Van Halen, I’m The One (1978)
Dave Lee Roth brings the woo like a man dodging fireballs. In addition to one of Eddie Van Halen’s best guitar tracks, the frenzied vocal is a carnival of gibberish that speaks to the entire history of recorded nonsense. The shooby-do-wahs are bettered only by the woo’s qualities of shock and surprise, the repeated yelps of a man placing a cold foot into a hot bath.
5. The White Stripes, Rag And Bone (2007)
There are many great woos from Jack White, but here a classic is supplemented by a distinct type: the woo-as-dialogue, as Meg initially makes impressed sounds in response to Jack’s discovery of goods and plunder in a rich household. Rag And Bone is distinguished by a woo with great dimensions after the two-minute mark.
4. Refused, New Noise (1998)
You don’t get many good political woos, but Refused, with New Noise and their music-as-manifesto vibe nailed one of the best woos of the late ’90s. Its galvanising kick-off power is almost perfect in pitch and duration, an irreplaceable and essential punctuation mark. This is woo as an act of resistance, never bettered.
3. Deftones, Rocket Skates (2010)
There’s another meaning of woo, of course; to seduce and win over, something romantic and well-intentioned perhaps best shown in Something by The Beatles. But with Rocket Skates, Deftones fuse their own longing with a well-deployed post-chorus bullseye woo so unexpected that it creates an unforgettable moment in their catalogue.
2. The Prodigy, G-Force (Energy Flow) (1992)
An incredibly strong contender for number one on grounds of its anonymous yet universal quality, this woo from 1992 becomes a cavalcade, a barrage, an insistent and undeniable avalanche that could broker peace between humans and aliens. Try to sing along to every instance and you’ll feel better about the earth than with any other song on the list.
1. Biffy Clyro, The Captain (2010)
Biffy Clyro somehow managed to capture the essence of woo within 30 seconds of Only Revolutions, and within three seconds of the music starting. This brings unity, intent and joy to a woo so universal that it has united crowds of millions across the world. It brings chills. It brings tears. It brings peace. It brings harmony. The essence. The uber-woo!
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