|Years active||1973–1991; Reformed August 2014|
|Past members||Dyan Birch
Kokomo is a British band whose members were prime exponents of British soul in the 1970s. They released three albums in their fragmentary existence, with the second of them, Rise & Shine, being hailed by one journalist as "the finest British funk album of the 1970s".
Formed in May 1973 by Tony O'Malley and Terry Stannard, ex-members of the pop group Arrival, Kokomo's ten-piece line-up became: Dyan Birch (vocals), Frank Collins (vocals), Paddy McHugh (vocals), Tony O'Malley (keyboards, vocals), Alan Spenner (bass), Neil Hubbard (guitar), Mel Collins (saxophone), Jody Linscott (percussion), Terry Stannard (drums) and Jim Mullen (guitar). It drew personnel from defunct UK bands: Spenner and Hubbard from the Grease Band; Birch, McHugh, Collins and O'Malley from Arrival; and Collins from King Crimson. Kokomo's first performance was at The Pheasantry, King's Road, Chelsea in 1973, where Franky Blackwell, the band's roadie, coined the band's name. Kokomo built an early reputation in the UK pub rock scene. In 1974 Collins, Birch, McHugh, Spenner, Hubbard and Collins, together with Tim Hinckley (keyboards) and Ian Wallace (ex-King Crimson, drums) joined up with Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee for a one-off performance at London's Rainbow Theatre. The performance was recorded and subsequently released as 'Alvin Lee & Co. In Flight'. In 1975, they toured with Dr. Feelgood and Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers on the 'Naughty Rhythms' tour, and appeared at the Reading Festival.
Musicians who played with the band at different times included: Glenn LeFleur (drums, The Olympic Runners), Tony Beard (drums), John McKenzie (bass), Chris Mercer (saxophone), Andy Hamilton (saxophone), Mark Smith (bass), Neal Wilkinson (drums) and Neil Conti (drums).
The band's first album, Kokomo, released in 1975, was hailed by the NME as the best debut by a British band for several years. Inspired by the tight disciplined playing of Spenner and Hubbard, Kokomo was unusual (among white soul bands) for its use of four featured vocalists. In 1975, Bob Dylan recruited the band to help record his Desire album. One song featuring the band, the Latin flavoured "Romance in Durango," appeared on the album; another, "Catfish," subsequently appeared on The Bootleg Series compilation. One track left behind was a disco funk version of "Hurricane".
Stannard, Linscott and Mullen left after the first album. Kokomo's second album, Rise & Shine, released in January 1976, was viewed as a disappointment by the NME and the band quickly lost impetus. Both albums sold in pitifully small quantities in Britain. Both charted in a small way in the United States: Number 159 for the debut and Number 194 for the follow-up, whose lead track "Use Your Imagination" reached Number 81 in the US Billboard R&B chart in mid-1976. John Sussewell(drums) played on 'Rise and Shine. In January 1977 an indefinite hiatus was announced, with band musicians going separate ways. The last studio album released in 1982 after an extended sabbatical, contained a minor hit single in "A Little Bit Further Away", which peaked at Number 45 in the UK Singles Chart. Versions of Kokomo continued to perform until Spenner died in August 1991. In May 2008, Kokomo was reformed temporarily with Mel Collins, Tony O'Malley, Neil Hubbard, Mark Smith, Adam Phillips, Andy Hamilton, Paddy McHugh, Dyan Birch, Frank Collins, Bernie Holland, and Glenn Le Fleur.
The band lived on in the memory of a multitude of fans and requests to see Kokomo perform live again became increasingly strong. The seeds of a reunion were sown and in August 2014, Sue Martin from Roots Around The World organised a short Kokomo revival tour, with sold-out club gigs in London.
The August 2014 Kokomo line-up was as follows:
Tony O'Malley: keyboard & vocals
Frank Collins: vocals
Dyan Birch (first show only, due to illness): vocals
Paddie McHugh: vocals
Helena-May Harrison (Miss May): vocals
Neil Hubbard: guitar
Jim Mullen: guitar
Jennifer Maidman: bass
Nigel Hitchcock: saxophone
Frank Tontoh: drums
Glenn LeFleur: percussion
In view of the great success of the reunion tour, negotiations are now underway for further concerts in late 2014/early 2015, which will take the band back to large(r) venues, where they belong.
- Kokomo Live at The Venue (2014) Live recordings from the 1980s.
- Kokomo (1975) (produced by Chris Thomas)
- Rise & Shine (1977) (produced by Brad Shapiro)
- Kokomo (1982) (produced Leo Graham and James Mack)
- The Collection (1991)
- To Be Cool (2004)
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