Kokomo (song)

Kokomo (song)
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Cocktail and Still Cruisin'
B-side "Tutti Frutti"
Released July 18, 1988 (US)
October 1988 (UK)
Format 7" single
12" maxi
Recorded March 22, 1988, April 5–6, 1988
Genre Pop, Tropical music
Length 3:35
Label Elektra Records
Capitol (reissue)
Writer(s) Mike Love
Scott McKenzie
Terry Melcher
John Phillips
Producer Terry Melcher
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Happy Endings"
"Still Cruisin'"

"Kokomo" is a song written by John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, Mike Love and Terry Melcher and recorded by The Beach Boys in spring 1988. Its lyrics describe two lovers taking a trip to a relaxing Caribbean island called Kokomo. It was released as a single in July 1988 by Elektra Records and became a No. 1 Hit in the United States, Japan and Australia (where it topped for about two months). The single was released to coincide with the release of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, and its subsequent soundtrack. It was nominated in the Grammy Award category: Best Song written specifically for a Motion Picture or Television in 1988, but lost to Phil Collins's "Two Hearts" (from the film Buster).[1]


Composition and recording

The place referred to as "Kokomo" in the song is fictional. Although Kokomo, Indiana and Kokomo, Hawaii do exist, the song refers to a place "off the Florida Keys."[2] The name was later used by resorts in Sandals Cay, Jamaica, and Grassy Key, Florida. The song also mentions many places in or near the Caribbean: Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama(s), Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince.

In addition to the Beach Boys' signature layered-singing style, the song's instrumentation makes heavy use of steel drums played by Vince, Milton & Mike (but not Mike Love) according to the "Kokomo" track sheet info supplied by engineer Keith Wechsler. Wechsler also says that there is a percussionist by the name of Chili who played a little drum in the intro of the song. Van Dyke Parks, who had worked on some of the group's earlier albums, played accordion, while session veteran Jim Keltner played drums.[3] Other players are Jeff Foskett (acoustic guitar), Rod Clark (bass), Joel Peskin (alto saxophone) and Ry Cooder (electric slide guitar).

On the original "Kokomo" demo version, lead vocals were performed by Mike Love and Terry Melcher. The demo harmonies include Terry Melcher, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love and Jeff Foskett. At Disney Films request, the "Kokomo" demo was 'upgraded' to a master recording thus requiring members of the Beach Boys to re-record the demo vocals except for Mike Love's lead.

The final recorded and released "Kokomo" background vocals are sung by Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston & Al Jardine. Terry Melcher's and Jeff Foskett's demo vocals were erased and replaced by Carl Wilson's & Al Jardine's vocals. The final released "Kokomo" lead vocals are sung by Mike Love and Carl Wilson. The only active Beach Boys member not involved with the recording was Brian Wilson, who, according to his autobiography, was given short notice of the recording session and unable to attend.[4] He was, however, included in concert recordings of the song, including a live concert filmed for the television show Full House (episode 028). The 2008 A&E Network Biography on Brian Wilson stated that Mike Love "bragged" about having a #1 hit without Wilson's help.


The "Kokomo" single backed with "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard was first released through Elektra Records in July 1988. It peaked at the #1 position on the Billboard charts on November 5, 1988 after knocking out "A Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins. This meant that it was The Beach Boys' first #1 hit in the United States since "Good Vibrations" in 1966, making it the longest time span between two number one hits in America for a band (22 years). It is also their only #1 hit not written or produced by Brian Wilson. After spending just one week at the top of the charts, the single was knocked out of the number one spot by The Escape Club song "Wild, Wild West". After being signed to Capitol Records following the success of the initial single, Capitol issued the song in the United States for a second time. The song was re-released in July 1989 as the B-side of the "Still Cruisin'" single, which peaked at number 93 on the Billboard chart. Capitol again re-issued the song, just two months later, as the B-side of the "Somewhere Near Japan" single, but the single failed to chart.

In the United Kingdom, the single was first issued by Elektra in October 1988. The single peaked at number 25 on the charts. After Capitol had signed the band, as they had in the U.S., they released the single for the second time as the B-side of the "Still Cruisin'" single. However it failed to make any impact on the charts. In Australia the single became the band's third number one hit in Australia after "Do It Again" in 1968 and "Cottonfields" in 1970. In New Zealand the single peaked at the number 5 position. In the Dutch singles chart, the single peaked at the number 6 position. The song also peaked at number 19 in Belgium and at number 7 in Germany.

Album and alternative releases

"Kokomo" was first released on an album in 1989 on the band's Still Cruisin' album. The band had been given a one-off album contract by their former label Capitol Records after the song became a number 1 hit in both the United States and Australia. Brian Wilson, who did not perform on the original recording of the song, did later contribute vocals to a Spanish-language version.

In 2006, Beach Boys member Mike Love recorded a critically panned Christmas remake of the song, titled "Santa's Going To Kokomo".

Music video

The video for "Kokomo" was filmed at the then-recently opened Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida. The resort had not opened when the video was shot and the band were their first guests. The staff of the hotel practiced their menu on the band by trying out recipes and drinks. The crowd on the fake beach contained college cheerleaders from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It took less than two hours to shoot the video because it threatened to rain. The members of the Beach Boys in the video are: Carl Wilson (playing guitar), Al Jardine (playing tambourine), Bruce Johnston (playing bass guitar), and Mike Love (playing saxophone). Actor and part time Beach Boys band member John Stamos can be seen playing the conga steel drums. Brian Wilson was not featured and Kokomo represents the only promotional video the Beach Boys produced in the 1980s without him.

Appearances/References in other media

  • The Muppets performed this song for the 1993 album Muppet Beach Party, with Kermit the Frog singing the lyrics. The lyrics "under a tropical island sky" replaced the lyrics "gave me a tropical contact high", in keeping with the family-friendly nature of the Muppets. On the version recorded for the album, the alto sax solo has been replaced by a bottleneck electric guitar solo played by either Nick Brown or George Doering. For the music video of the song, however, there is a tenor sax solo that plays over the bottleneck solo, and is played by Dan Higgins.
  • In a Two Guys and a Girl episode, "Two Guys and a Girl and a Vacation", the three main characters sing the song throughout the episode in celebration of their upcoming holiday.
  • On an episode of Scrubs, Turk suggests Elliot and Keith honeymoon in Kokomo, but Elliot shoots down his fantasy, telling him blankly "For the last time, there is no such place as 'Kokomo'!" to which Turk angrily responds, "Then *where* did The Beach Boys shoot the video, huh?!"
  • The Season 15 episode of The Simpsons "Today I Am a Clown" features a parody of both the band and the song, with Jewish themes, during the bar mitzvah of Krusty


  • A Norwegian group, The Shiptare Boys, performed a parody of the song called "Kosovo". It was originally done by Bob Rivers.
  • Political satire group Capitol Steps has also recorded a parody called "Kosovo".
  • There was a parody of the song referencing the characters of the anime Ranma 1/2.
  • Bob & Tom parodied the song as Camel Toe.
  • WWLS The Sports Animal in Oklahoma released a parody to celebrate the 2000 Oklahoma Sooner football team's trip to the National Championship game.
  • In a 2001 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Derek Jeter owned a taco restaurant in one skit, "Derek Jeter's Taco Hole," whose theme song was a parody of "Kokomo."
  • On 13 October 2010, pilot and amateur musician Mike Wagner released a parody of the song called "Teterboro" on Youtube, poking fun at the frequent delays encountered at Teterboro Airport.[5]

Recognition and criticisms

"Kokomo" appeared on VH1's "40 Most Awesomely Bad No. 1 Songs". However, it received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song — Motion Picture in 1989. The song also ranked at #12 on Blender magazine's list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever",[6] while the music video was named the #3 worst video of 1988 on MuchMoreMusic's Back In... '88.

Track listings

3" single
  1. "Kokomo" — 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard — 2:23
  3. "Hippy Hippy Shake" by The Georgia Satellites — 1:45
7" single
  1. "Kokomo" — 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard — 2:23
12" maxi
  1. "Kokomo" — 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard — 2:23
  3. "Hippy Hippy Shake" by The Georgia Satellites — 1:45


Country Certification Date Sales certified
France[7] Silver 1989 200,000
U.S.[8] Platinum January 10, 1989 1,000,000

Chart positions

Chart (1988–1989) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[9] 1
Belgian Singles Chart[10] 19
Dutch Singles Chart[11] 6
French SNEP Singles Chart[12] 6
German Singles Chart[13] 7
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[14] 5
Swedish Singles Chart[12] 14
Swiss Singles Chart[12] 8
UK Singles Chart[15] 25
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[16] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks[16] 5
End of year chart (1989) Position
Australian Singles Chart[17] 9
Preceded by
"Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
November 5, 1988 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Wild, Wild West" by The Escape Club
Preceded by
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin
Australian ARIA number-one single
January 8, 1989 — February 12, 1989 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers

See also

  • List of songs by The Beach Boys


  1. ^ "Grammy Award". http://www.metrolyrics.com/1989-grammy-awards.html#ixzz0bxi469dF. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Kokomo By The Beach Boys Songfacts". http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=505. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ Brown, Scott; Endleman, Michael (May 28, 2004). "Kokomo". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,640541,00.html. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Brian, Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story. HarperCollins, 1991.
  5. ^ "Teterboro by Mike Wagner". http://www.mdwagner.com/blog/?s=kokomo. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  6. ^ The 50 Worst Songs Ever! Watch, Listen and Cringe! from Blender.com. Retrieved on 23 August 2010.
  7. ^ Elia Habib, Muz hit. tubes, p. 156 (ISBN 2-9518832-0-X)
  8. ^ U.S. certifications riaa.com (Retrieved August 19, 2008)
  9. ^ "Australian Singles Charts". mountvernonandfairway.de. http://www.mountvernonandfairway.de/charts10.htm. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  10. ^ "Belgian Singles Charts". mountvernonandfairway.de. http://www.mountvernonandfairway.de/charts7.htm. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "Dutch Singles Charts". mountvernonandfairway.de. http://www.mountvernonandfairway.de/charts6.htm. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  12. ^ a b c "French, Swedish and Swiss Singles Charts". lescharts.com. http://lescharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=The+Beach+Boys&titel=Kokomo&cat=s. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "German Singles Charts". mountvernonandfairway.de. http://www.mountvernonandfairway.de/charts9.htm. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  14. ^ "New Zealand Singles Charts". mountvernonandfairway.de. http://www.mountvernonandfairway.de/charts5.htm. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  15. ^ "UK Singles Chart". chartstats.com. http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=15929. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  16. ^ a b "Billboard". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p3640/charts-awards/billboard-singles. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  17. ^ 1989 Australian Singles Chart aria.com (Retrieved August 19, 2008)

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