Kokomo (song)

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Kokomo song cover.jpg
Single by the Beach Boys
from the album Cocktail and Still Cruisin'
B-side"Tutti Frutti" performed by Little Richard
ReleasedJune 21, 1988[1]
RecordedMarch 22, April 5–6, 1988
Producer(s)Terry Melcher
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Happy Endings"
"Still Cruisin'"
Music video
"Kokomo" on YouTube

"Kokomo" is a song by the American rock band the Beach Boys from the 1988 film Cocktail and album Still Cruisin'. Written by John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, Mike Love, and Terry Melcher, the song was released as a single on June 21, 1988 by Elektra Records and became a number one hit in the U.S. and Australia. It was the band's first original Top 20 single in 20 years, their first #1 hit in 22 years,[2] and to date, their final Top 40 hit.

The lyrics describe two lovers taking a trip to a relaxing place on Kokomo, a utopic island off the Florida Keys. In addition to the fictional Kokomo, the song also makes references to many real Caribbean islands, including Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Martinique, and Montserrat.

The verse of the song came from a demo by John Phillips (formerly of The Mamas & the Papas) and Scott McKenzie (best known for his 1967 song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)," which Phillips wrote). The Beach Boys' Mike Love added the chorus which lists the names of islands.[2]


"Kokomo" was recorded on March 22 and April 5–6, 1988 with production by Terry Melcher, who had previously produced the band's "Rock 'n' Roll to the Rescue" (1986) and "California Dreamin'" (1986).[3] It was created through overdubbing parts onto the band's demo for the song.[4]

The recording featured every current member of the group except Brian Wilson, who did not attend the sessions. In his 1991 memoir Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story, it was stated that Wilson was unable to contribute to the song because he was committed to recording his first solo album, and his bandmates deliberately did not inform him of the session date until it was too late.[5] According to biographer Mark Dillon, "Available session-date information does not substantiate this claim, however."[5]

Mike Love stated that Wilson was not on "Kokomo" because Eugene Landy, Wilson's therapist-turned-collaborator, refused to "let Brian sing on it unless Landy was a producer and co-writer" and Melcher did not "feel he needed Landy since he had produced some number-one records. It was pathetic of Landy to do that, but he controlled Brian completely at that time."[4] According to a 2018 article in Stereogum, "When [Brian] first heard the song on the radio, he didn’t even recognize it as a Beach Boys tune."[2] The group later recorded a Spanish-language version of "Kokomo" with participation from Wilson.[4]

Music video[edit]

The video for "Kokomo" was filmed at the then-recently opened Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida. Although they had not played these instruments on the recording, Mike Love is seen playing saxophone, while actor and occasional Beach Boys live guest John Stamos is shown playing steel drum.[4]

NME ranked the video as the 17th worst of all time, commenting, "It was as if Mike Love had taken the 'Beach Boys' name straight out of Brian Wilson's hands and we were forced to watch footage of Tom Cruise mixing up Bloody Marys. Thanks guys."[6]


After being released as a single in 1988, the song was included on the soundtrack album for the movie Cocktail as well as the 1989 Beach Boys album Still Cruisin'.

"Kokomo" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television in 1988, but lost to Phil Collins' "Two Hearts" (from the film Buster).[7][better source needed] "Two Hearts" and Carly Simon's "Let the River Run" from Working Girl jointly beat it for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

In spite of its commercial success, "Kokomo" has attracted uniformly negative reviews from music writers.[8] Jimmy Guterman of Rolling Stone wrote that the song "sets the pattern for the new, passion-free songs" on Still Cruisin',[9] while the Rolling Stone album guide called it a "joyless ditty".[10] In a 1998 piece, Steve Simels of Stereo noted "just how insipid 'Kokomo' was".[11] Blender stated the song was "perhaps most kindly described as a Beach Boys–influenced song with the Beach Boys singing on it."[12]

In the years following its release, "Kokomo" has become notorious for its perceived poor quality: as Tom Breihan of Stereogum writes, "People hate 'Kokomo.' The Beach Boys' improbable late-career hit has a reputation as a monument to mediocrity. To this day, it serves as a textbook cautionary tale of a once-beloved group poisoning its own legacy and goodwill by making smarmy '80s yuppie pablum."[13] In a retrospective dubbing the song the "worst summer song ever", MEL Magazine's Tim Grierson similarly noted, "A lot of us have taken immense delight in hating this 1988 smash."[14] As such, it has appeared on several worst songs of all time lists, such Blender's top 50 worst songs,[15] Dallas Observer's ten worst songs by great artists,[16] and Forbes' worst lyrics of all time.[17] Both Breihan and Grierson attribute the personal unpopularity of Mike Love as a possible factor for the song's reputation.[13][14]

Drummer Jim Keltner, who played on "Kokomo", attributed the critical disdain to the fact that "it's just sooo syrupy pop." He continued, "But while the critics killed it with their words, they couldn't kill the 'hitness' of it. It's just a bona fide hit record, that's all there is to it."[8]

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Kokomo" is featured in the American workplace comedy Space Force as the song that main character General Naird (portrayed by Steve Carell) sings at the end of the series premiere when faced with a stressful situation. It is again used at the end of the season 2 finale, in which it is sung by the main cast when they discover a large asteroid headed toward Earth.[18]
  • In season 2, episode 8 of American mockumentary comedy horror series What We Do in the Shadows, Laslow Cravensworth (played by Matt Berry) and Nadja (played by Natasia Demetriou) perform their own variation of the song for a crowd, claiming to have written the song themselves.

Track listings[edit]

3-inch CD single

  1. "Kokomo" – 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" performed by Little Richard – 2:23
  3. "Hippy Hippy Shake" performed by The Georgia Satellites – 1:45

7-inch single

  1. "Kokomo" – 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" performed by Little Richard – 2:23

12-inch maxi

  1. "Kokomo" – 3:34
  2. "Tutti Frutti" performed by Little Richard – 2:23
  3. "Hippy Hippy Shake" performed by The Georgia Satellites – 1:45


Per Mark Dillon[4] and engineer Keith Wechsler.[19]

The Beach Boys

Additional musicians

Charts and certifications[edit]


Country Certification Date Sales certified
France[40] Silver 1989 200,000
U.S.[41] Platinum January 10, 1989 1,000,000



  1. ^ "American single certifications - The Beach Boys - Kokomo". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Shoup, Brad (July 23, 2018). ""Kokomo" Is 30: The Strange Backstory To The Beach Boys' Last Cultural Gasp". Stereogum. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Dillon 2012, p. 261.
  4. ^ a b c d e Dillon 2012, p. 264.
  5. ^ a b Dillon 2012, p. 263.
  6. ^ Schiller, Rebecca (November 21, 2011). "50 Worst Music Videos Ever". NME. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  7. ^ "Grammy Award". metrolyrics.com. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ a b Brown, Scott; Endelman, Michael. "The truth behind that annoying hit song "Kokomo"". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  9. ^ Rolling Stone Review
  10. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely New Reviews : Every Essential Album, Every Essential Artist. Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-73729-2.
  11. ^ Simels, Steve (August 1998). "Wilson: Home of the Wave" (PDF). Stereo: 77. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  12. ^ Wolk, Douglas (October 2004). "The Beach Boys Still Cruisin". Blender. Archived from the original on June 30, 2006. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Breihan, Tom (June 4, 2021). "The Number Ones: The Beach Boys' 'Kokomo'". Stereogum. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Grierson, Tim (May 17, 2020). "'Kokomo' Is Still the Worst Summer Song Ever". MEL Magazine. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  15. ^ "Top 50 Worst Songs of All Time (part 2)". Blender. Archived from the original on January 24, 2005. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  16. ^ Gravley, Garrett. "Top 10 Worst Songs by Really Great Artists". Dallas Observer. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  17. ^ Baltin, Steve. "The Worst Lyrics Of All Time". Forbes. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  18. ^ Dumaraog, Ana (February 20, 2022). "Space Force Season 2 Ending Song: Why Everyone Sings The Beach Boys". screenrant.com. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  19. ^ Brown, Scott; Endleman, Michael (May 28, 2004). "Kokomo". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  20. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  21. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  22. ^ Canada Top Singles (November 12, 1988) RPM Magazine
  23. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 17. April 29, 1989. pp. 30–31. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  24. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. p. 96. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  25. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo" (in French). Les classement single.
  26. ^ a b "Billboard". Allmusic. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 17, 1989" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  28. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  29. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo". Top 40 Singles.
  30. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo". Singles Top 100.
  31. ^ "The Beach Boys – Kokomo". Swiss Singles Chart.
  32. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. LI, no. 16. November 5, 1988. p. 2. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  33. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – The Beach Boys – Kokomo". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  34. ^ Hope, Carolyn (February 13, 2017). "Barry's Hits of All Decades Pop rock n roll Music Chart Hits". Hitsofalldecades.com. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  35. ^ "1988 The Year in Music & Video: Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 100, no. 52. December 24, 1988. p. Y-20.
  36. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1988". Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  37. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 31, 1988". Tropicalglen.com. December 31, 1988. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  38. ^ 1989 Australian Singles Chart aria.com (Retrieved August 19, 2008)
  39. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 1989" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 51. December 23, 1989. p. 6. OCLC 29800226. Retrieved January 17, 2020 – via World Radio History.
  40. ^ Elia Habib, Muz hit. tubes, p. 156 (ISBN 2-9518832-0-X)
  41. ^ U.S. certifications riaa.com (Retrieved August 19, 2008)


Further reading[edit]