Cousin Kevin

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"Cousin Kevin"
Song by The Who from the album Tommy
Released 23 May 1969
Recorded September 19, 1968-March 7, 1969
Genre Rock
Length 4:03
Label Polydor, Track, Decca, MCA
Writer John Entwistle
Producer Kit Lambert
Tommy track listing

"Cousin Kevin" is a song by The Who, written by John Entwistle. It appears as the eighth track on the The Who's fourth album and their first Rock opera, Tommy (1969).[1] The song is about the album's protagonist, Tommy, being bullied and tortured by his sadistic cousin Kevin.


According to John Entwistle, Pete Townshend commissioned him to write this song and "Fiddle About" during a discussion in Detroit during the "Magic Bus" tour, which would make it July 13, 1968. Townsend told Entwistle to "Write something horrible."[2]

Entwistle said, "I actually based Cousin Kevin on a boy who lived across the street. Our parents thought we should play together, and he was completely sadistic. Musically, I wanted the piece to sound both sinister and childish, so I came up with a kind of 'Chopsticks' theme on the piano to make it sound like a simple children's song."[3]

"Fiddle About" and "Cousin Kevin" were the only two songs on Tommy written by John Entwistle. When asked why he wrote the songs "Fiddle About" and "Cousin Kevin", Entwistle replied:

Pete said that there were two characters that he thought he himself couldn't do as good a job as me in describing. One was a homosexual uncle and the other was a cruel cousin, which were supposed to be two of Tommy's traumatic experiences, that and The Acid Queen. I found it so easy that I'd written "Fiddle About," with the character of Uncle Ernie, by the time I'd got back to the room. If I've got a subject, an idea for a song, then it comes almost immediately (Cousin Kevin).[4]

In an early song list, this song followed "Fiddle About" and was preceded by the bridge song "Cousin Kevin Model Child" which was finally released on the 1998 rarities compilation album Odds & Sods. It was then followed by a song called "Dream (School Song).The Who rarely performed "Cousin Kevin" in the live version of Tommy.

Entwistle sings the lead vocals with prominent harmony from Townshend, which is often mistaken for the lead. The original LP has the vocals centered, the guitars in the left channel, and bass in the right. The remastered version has Entwhistle's vocals in the center, Townshend's vocals panned left and right, the 12-string guitar in the right channel, and the electric guitar in the left channel.


In the film Tommy, the song "Cousin Kevin" is portrayed in a scene in which Tommy's mother and stepfather, Nora and Frank, leave Tommy with his sadistic cousin, Kevin, who tortures him with such implements as spikes, electric shocks and a folding iron. Paul Nicholas plays Kevin to Roger Daltrey's Tommy.[5]