Kokomo (song)

"Kokomo" was penned by John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, Mike Love, and Terry Melcher and recorded by The Beach Boys in 1988. It was released as a single in 1988 at Elektra Records and became a No. 1 Hit in the U.S. and Australia. The single was released to coincide with the release of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, and its subsequent soundtrack.

Composition and recording

Kokomo is the name of a Tiki-style poolside bar within the Holiday Isle resort Complex in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. The song mentions also many places in the Caribbean, including Kokomo, Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama(s), Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince (Haiti).

In addition to the Beach Boys' signature layered-singing style, the song's instrumentation makes heavy use of steel drums.

In the original version, lead vocals were performed by Mike Love and Carl Wilson. The harmonies include Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston. The only active Beach Boys member not involved with the recording was Brian Wilson. According to his autobiography, Brian Wilson claimed to have been given short notice of the recording session and was (unfortunately) unable to attend . Brian Wilson, however, would be included on live 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 would "brag" about having a #1 hit without the help of Brian Wilson.

Despite being recorded after 1975, the song is often played on oldies playlists, simply because it has the "style of an oldie" and was recorded by a band known for their success prior to 1975. Because of this, it is often one of the newest songs played on oldies playlists.


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 off "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 off 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 clearly tried to take advantage of the song's popularity by issuing the song in the United States for a second time. On the second occasion the song was 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, however on that occasion 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 alternate 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. Although Wilson did not perform on the original recording of the song, he 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

In the music video for the song, actor and part time member of the Beach Boys John Stamos can be seen playing the conga drums. The members of the Beach Boys in the video are: Carl Wilson (playing guitar), Al Jardine (playing tamborine), Bruce Johnston (playing bass guitar), and Mike Love (playing saxophone).

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


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


Chart (1988-1989) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 1
Belgian Singles Chart 19
Dutch Singles Chart 6
French SNEP Singles Chart 6
German Singles Chart 7
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 5
Swedish Singles Chart 14
Swiss Singles Chart 8
UK Singles Chart 25
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 5
U.S. ARC Weekly Top 40 1
End of year chart (1989) Position
Australian Singles Chart 9

See also


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