Famous hooks dissected: Lipps Inc, Funky Town

An oldie-but-goodie, this 1979 slice of disco/funk fusion is a masterclass in how to assemble multiple hooks into one smash hit. Here's a tick-by-tick rundown of Funky Town's attention-seeking tactics.

0:00 This tune’s rhythm track, from the word go, is a hook in itself, with rapid fire, dual-tone cowbells clattering over a solid disco beat played on a live kit. At the same time, a beautiful round Moog synth bass kicks things off with an insistent eighth-note sequence of alternate octaves on C.  

0:05 We’re straight in with the main synth hook: a bright, bleepy monophonic synth sound played in the mixolydian mode over the key of C major. This means that, although the song is in the key of C major at this point, the synth part has a Bb rather than the B normally found in C major.

0:12 After just four bars, the riff is joined by another great hook – the vocoded lead verse vocal, playing another single-line melody, also in C major. The synth lead fills in the gaps after the first two lines.

0:27 “Well, I talk about it...” in comes a regular, three-part harmony vocal, repeating “talk about it” four times, stepping down a note each time.

0:43 “Gotta move on...”, the three-part harmony continues, repeating this C Bb C phrase over the first three notes of the main synth riff as it continues for another six bars.

0:59 Here we get a rhythmical hook – four bars of white noise stabs, probably from a Minimoog. The chorus bassline also makes an early appearance in the last two bars, as does a seemingly random ‘peep-peep’ on a whistle!

1:07 It’s chorus time! Heralded by a glorious, full-stereo guitar lick that pulls us into the key of C minor with a funky Cm7 chord – yet another hook.

1:07 Meanwhile, the lead vocal, without harmonies this time, takes us in a whole new direction, entreating “Won’t you take me to Funkytown?” using notes from the C minor blues scale.  

1:23 Essentially an instrumental repeat of the chorus, this section features a unison string section playing the chorus melody in place of the lead vocalist.  

1:35 Bada-ba-ba-bakow! go the guitar and snare drum in unison, playing an F major chord stab to announce the middle 8. This happens four times, with a bluesy sax riff filling the gaps.  

3:17 The final hook is a male vocoded version of the chorus lead vocal that takes over from the female lead for the “Won’t you take me to” line of the final sung chorus. We could analyse this track all day, thanks to its catchiness... but we gotta move on.

Get a full dose of tactics and inspiration for making catchy tunes, and discover How to write Perfect Hooks across 19 pages and 21 videos in Computer Music issue 240.

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