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Author Topic: Kokomo Is 30 article in Stereogum  (Read 2084 times)
Cristian Kiper
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« on: July 23, 2018, 01:50:59 PM »

https://www.stereogum.com/2006749/kokomo-beach-boys-story/franchises/sounding-board/

“Kokomo” Is 30: The Strange Backstory To The Beach Boys’ Last Cultural Gasp

by Brad Shoup


We’ll start with the most obvious thing: there is no Kokomo. Not off the Florida Keys, anyway. Sure, a couple places staked claims, but only after the occurence of the least obvious thing: a has-been pop act, minus their lead singer and creative engine, scoring a #1 hit off the soundtrack to a forgettable film about bartending. “Kokomo” — released 30 years ago this month — was the Beach Boys’ first original Top 20 single in 20 years, and their first chart-topper in 22.


With or without their erstwhile captain Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys never came close to replicating their early success, but no matter: Every time a quizmaster asks what the seven locations are in the song’s chorus, every Gen-X hand in the bar lunges for the pen. “Kokomo” was a peculiar last cultural gasp for everyone involved: not just the performers, but also their collaborators. Together, they formed a coastal coterie, an assemblage of connections both fortuitous and tragic.

The state of the Beach Boys in 1988 was, in a word, shitty. Their last record, 1985’s digitally crispy The Beach Boys, performed middlingly despite contributions from Culture Club, Ringo Starr, and Stevie Wonder. A couple clues to their malaise appear within the record. On the back, there’s a dedication “to the memory of our beloved brother, cousin and friend”; Dennis Wilson, the band’s drummer and only true surfer, had drowned in the water off Marina Del Rey in December of 1983. And on the label, there are three songwriting credits for E. E. Landy.

That would be Dr. Eugene Landy, Brian’s personal therapist, business manager, and professional ghoul. At one point, Wilson’s family had to sell some of his publishing rights in order to afford Landy’s $430,000-a-year fee. Landy’s role as confidant, coupled with Brian’s reluctance to tour, kept him largely away from his bandmates, though they had the right to perform and record as the Beach Boys. And so, when director Roger Donaldson sought the band to pad out the soundtrack to his film Cocktail, they turned the assignment over to their producer, Terry Melcher.


Though Melcher had only been been producing the group for a few years, his relationship with the band was a couple decades old at that point. In the mid-’60s, he and future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston made surf-pop as Bruce & Terry, and then as the Rip Chords. Melcher moved behind the boards, becoming a major architect of the West Coast folk-rock sound. At one of his house parties, he re-introduced Brian Wilson to Van Dyke Parks, who tried to help Wilson through the aborted Smile sessions. Parks continued to provide lyrical and instrumental daubs to Beach Boys tracks in the years afterward. In a twisted return of favor, Dennis introduced Melcher to a guy he first met trashing his house: Charlie Manson.

The aspiring megalomaniac also aspired to be a songwriter, and both Dennis and Melcher were impressed with his embryonic sketches. But Manson’s psychotic behavior scotched his chance at a record deal; incensed, he dispatched some of his followers to Melcher’s old house, where they murdered five people, including the actress Sharon Tate. The Manson Family’s spree killings blew a hole in the psyche of America’s counterculture, and sent Melcher into something of a tailspin. He took on fewer projects, eventually signing on to produce a couple television shows for his mother, the actress and singer Doris Day. By the mid-’80s, he was back in the Beach Boys’ orbit. When he was tabbed to find a song for Cocktail, he reached out to an old friend: John Phillips of the Mamas And The Papas, whose hit “California Dreamin'” the Beach Boys had recently covered.

Phillips had spent the decade juggling different Mamas And Papas lineups. He and Denny Doherty were the only returning members; Cass Elliot died in 1974, and Michelle Phillips divorced John in 1970. Their roles were filled by former Spanky & Our Gang leader Elaine McFarlane and Phillips’ daughter Mackenzie, respectively. The group toured and did the requisite casino residencies, but legit success was hard to come by. (The entire time, according to Mackenzie Phillips, she and her father were involved in what was termed an “incestuous relationship.” She made the accusation in her 2009 memoir, as well as on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Immediately afterward, various relatives and family friends issued statements attesting to their belief or disbelief in her account.) By 1986, John was demoing tracks with Scott McKenzie, best known for his Phillips-written 1967 smash “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair).” One of those tracks was “Kokomo.”

You can hear Phillips’ version on the 2010 collection Many Mamas, Many Papas. (The set also contains the racist ditty “Chinaman,” as well as a song called, simply, “Yachts.”) His “Kokomo” is stately and wistful. Other than Florida, Kokomo is the only place mentioned, making the composition a sort of paean to a lost paradise of the mind. It’s been suggested that he was thinking of Mustique, an island in the Grenadines purchased in the ‘50s by Phillips’ friend, the British aristocrat Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner. Tennant nearly went broke maintaining the damn thing, eventually transferring ownership to the islands’ wealthy homeowners (a group which has, at one time or another, included Bryan Adams, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger). Regardless of origin, the “Kokomo” demo was missing a chorus. And that’s where Mike Love enters.


If Brian Wilson was like Paul McCartney, pushing his bandmates to precisely render his sonic fancies, Mike Love was like … well, Paul McCartney, desperately trying to keep all the stakeholders happy and productive. He’s rarely given his due as a songwriter: He sued Brian in 1992 more or less for this reason, eventually winning co-writing credit for 35 Beach Boys tunes. The occasional “Good Vibrations” aside (a lyric written with McKenzie’s “San Francisco” in mind), his gift is punch-ups: tweaking phrases and adding earworms. He scrapped Phillips’ past tense. It sounded like regret, which is not Love’s bag. All he’s ever wanted to do is provide escape. So when it came time to write the chorus, Love sang Melcher a map.

The result was ruthlessly catchy: a combination of dreaminess and insistence, like a tank disguised as a cloud. The “Aruba, Jamaica” bit was bumped to the beginning for maximum effect; Love managed to work in a reference to cocktails, and possibly (in the line “that Montserrat mystique”) a reference to Baron Tennant’s island folly. Van Dyke Parks parachuted in to arrange the steel pans and play accordion, despite (allegedly) being stiffed by Love on plane fare. Studio saxophonist Joel Peskin (whose professional relationship with the Boys stretched back to 1979’s L.A.) contributed the oddly poignant solo. One name was notably absent: Brian was unable to attend the sessions, possibly due to his doctor’s interference. When he first heard the song on the radio, he didn’t even recognize it as a Beach Boys tune. His solo record had just dropped — deliciously, the opening lines are “I was sittin’ in a crummy movie/With my hands on my chin.”


Released 7/18/88 in advance of Cocktail — with Little Richard’s soundtrack closer “Tutti Frutti” as the B-side — “Kokomo” didn’t get any traction. It was only after moviegoers heard the tune scoring Tom Cruise’s move from New York to Jamaica that it caught on. Despite critical indifference (the movie is Cruise’s worst film on Rotten Tomatoes) both Cocktail and “Kokomo” became #1 hits: the former for two weeks, the latter for one. In November, “Kokomo” supplanted Phil Collins’ “Groovy Kind Of Love” at the summit. (Collins, however, got the last laugh when “Two Hearts” beat “Kokomo” for Best Original Song at the 46th annual Golden Globes.)

A couple weeks after “Kokomo” hit #1, the Beach Boys (with Brian) guest-starred in an episode of the sitcom Full House. The climax of “Beach Boys Bingo” features the Tanner clan rockin’ out to a stadium performance of “Kokomo,” then climbing onstage to do “Barbara Ann.” The whole thing was old hat for Full House star John Stamos, who had been the Beach Boys’ ancillary percussionist for a few years by then. (He played steel drums in the “Kokomo” video, but not on the record.) If you watch the scene carefully, you’ll see Brian sporting a “Californians For Dukakis” shirt; Mike, infamously, is a Trump supporter and a contributor to Tipper Gore’s pro-censorship Parent’s Music Resource Center.



Having scored an improbable hit, the Beach Boys pivoted to movie soundtracks for a time. They landed “Still Cruisin'” in Lethal Weapon 2 and the Melcher-written title track for Problem Child; neither went anywhere, and the band returned to the state-fair circuit. “Kokomo” was, it turns out, irreplicable. Its lightweight arrangement and hermetic vibe have proven resistant to imitators: You won’t find many notable covers beyond, say, the Muppets. Its real legacy was in lending its name to a host of bars and resorts across the Caribbean Sea. The Orlando Sentinel found a few in a December ’88 investigation, with Key Largo’s Chamber of Commerce noting that “[w]e are flooded with calls, absolutely flooded. We had six calls on the answering machine this morning and several calls during the day.” Sandals renamed their Montego Bay resort “Kokomo Island” for a while, which must have been a nice two-for-one for the song’s fans.

In time, though, “Kokomo” fever faded, and the men responsible for it are starting to pass on. Carl Wilson died in 1998, John Phillips in 2001, Terry Melcher in 2004, Scott McKenzie in 2012. Mike Love, who has long enjoyed the exclusive rights to tour under the Beach Boys name, is the sole living writer. Last fall, he released a double album, with the second half devoted to re-recordings of Beach Boys classics. “Kokomo” is nowhere to be found. Presumably, he decided not to mess with perfection.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2018, 11:00:23 PM »

"They returned to the state fair circuit"...they never left it! And I was glad they were on it, cause I got to see the guys at our state fair every year from 1984-88; and again in 91.
I have very fond memories of this time, and it was nice that my favorite band was on everybody's radios, with a current #1 song.
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2018, 07:06:42 AM »

I'm curious if the "Cocktail" director actively sought out the BBs, or if instead it was a case of Terry Melcher brokering another movie soundtrack deal as he had already done with "Happy Endings" and would go on to do with "Make It Big", "Still Cruisin'", "Problem Child", etc.

There was a discussion recently in another thread that touched on Melcher's (on the surface) peculiar ongoing association with the band in the mid 80s through to the early 90s, and it was Howie Edelson that pointed out that one of the main draws was that Melcher was regularly getting BB songs into films (which is a relatively lucrative deal even when the movies underperform at the box office).

It's interesting to read the McParland book on Gary Usher and how, circa 1986, Usher and Melcher were both jockeying to produce the "next" Beach Boys album. Ultimately, one didn't materialize in that time frame. Instead, it was the hodge podge "Still Cruisin" that made it out on the back of the success of "Kokomo" (with Melcher involved in many of the tracks) several years later, and then of course the essentially "Mike and Terry" album "Summer in Paradise" in 1992.

Interestingly, by the time of "SIP", for whatever reason BB songs weren't making into movies anymore (the best they did was "Summer of Love" being in a "Baywatch" episode three years after its initial release, and I'm not even sure that had anything to do with Melcher).
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2018, 12:56:27 PM »

Has anyone ever sought out an interview with Cocktail director Roger Donaldson?  I bet he'd have some bits of trivia we don't know about yet.

I quite like Kokomo, cheesy as it is. Mike makes people like it less by bragging about it too much.
That said, it's one of his best lead vocals in terms of delivery and a solid vocal performance without a hint of over-nasality.

Some people may not like some (or all) of the lyrics, but I'd be surprised if anyone would say that his vocal delivery (not talking about lyrics) was anything less than really good.

And of course Carl elevates the song exponentially.
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2018, 06:30:29 PM »

I'm curious if the "Cocktail" director actively sought out the BBs, or if instead it was a case of Terry Melcher brokering another movie soundtrack deal as he had already done with "Happy Endings" and would go on to do with "Make It Big", "Still Cruisin'", "Problem Child", etc.

There was a discussion recently in another thread that touched on Melcher's (on the surface) peculiar ongoing association with the band in the mid 80s through to the early 90s, and it was Howie Edelson that pointed out that one of the main draws was that Melcher was regularly getting BB songs into films (which is a relatively lucrative deal even when the movies underperform at the box office).

It's interesting to read the McParland book on Gary Usher and how, circa 1986, Usher and Melcher were both jockeying to produce the "next" Beach Boys album. Ultimately, one didn't materialize in that time frame. Instead, it was the hodge podge "Still Cruisin" that made it out on the back of the success of "Kokomo" (with Melcher involved in many of the tracks) several years later, and then of course the essentially "Mike and Terry" album "Summer in Paradise" in 1992.

Interestingly, by the time of "SIP", for whatever reason BB songs weren't making into movies anymore (the best they did was "Summer of Love" being in a "Baywatch" episode three years after its initial release, and I'm not even sure that had anything to do with Melcher).
I lived through that time, and my memory is that the Boys didn't want to put out an album at the same time as Brian's solo album, didn't want to detract from it. So it's funny that they did just one song in the studio that year, and it ends up completely overshadowing Brian's album. A lot of us were psyched for Brian's album, and with all the stops being pulled out for promotion, expected it to be a big comeback commercially. Instead, we got an album that the Brian fans loved, but nobody else heard.
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2018, 07:10:02 PM »

I'm curious if the "Cocktail" director actively sought out the BBs, or if instead it was a case of Terry Melcher brokering another movie soundtrack deal as he had already done with "Happy Endings" and would go on to do with "Make It Big", "Still Cruisin'", "Problem Child", etc.

There was a discussion recently in another thread that touched on Melcher's (on the surface) peculiar ongoing association with the band in the mid 80s through to the early 90s, and it was Howie Edelson that pointed out that one of the main draws was that Melcher was regularly getting BB songs into films (which is a relatively lucrative deal even when the movies underperform at the box office).

It's interesting to read the McParland book on Gary Usher and how, circa 1986, Usher and Melcher were both jockeying to produce the "next" Beach Boys album. Ultimately, one didn't materialize in that time frame. Instead, it was the hodge podge "Still Cruisin" that made it out on the back of the success of "Kokomo" (with Melcher involved in many of the tracks) several years later, and then of course the essentially "Mike and Terry" album "Summer in Paradise" in 1992.

Interestingly, by the time of "SIP", for whatever reason BB songs weren't making into movies anymore (the best they did was "Summer of Love" being in a "Baywatch" episode three years after its initial release, and I'm not even sure that had anything to do with Melcher).
I lived through that time, and my memory is that the Boys didn't want to put out an album at the same time as Brian's solo album, didn't want to detract from it. So it's funny that they did just one song in the studio that year, and it ends up completely overshadowing Brian's album. A lot of us were psyched for Brian's album, and with all the stops being pulled out for promotion, expected it to be a big comeback commercially. Instead, we got an album that the Brian fans loved, but nobody else heard.


Just a correction, that is not entirely true. The Beach Boys did not have a record deal at the time "Kokomo" came out, they had no label on which to release an album if they did want to put an album out. Kokomo was released solely as a part of the Cocktail soundtrack on the Elektra label, which handled "Cocktail". Kokomo in the US came out as a single a few days after Brian's solo album was released, July 1988. The movie and soundtrack drove the release, in other words without Cocktail and Elektra putting it on the soundtrack (and putting out the MTV video featuring Tom Cruise and scenes from Cocktail intercut with  The Beach Boys playing on the beach) there would be no Kokomo.

Bobby McFerrin got the same kind of bump with his single "Don't Worry Be Happy", *that* was also on Cocktail's soundtrack, rereleased as a single like Kokomo, and it became a smash hit too. Without the movie, it just did OK. With the movie, it became a massive success.

The success of Kokomo led to interest from Capitol, which was not there when Elektra released the soundtrack.

So it wasn't a case of not wanting to overshadow Brian's album, it was more the BBs had no label deal but hit the lottery in terms of getting Kokomo in a film that became a major summer blockbuster with all associated attention and promotion (and money to promote it).

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“Some people think you have to knock somebody down in order to build yourself up, I don’t look at it that way. To the mentality that likes to disparage other people, I say perhaps you should get a life. It’s just wrong thinking in my opinion and I don’t mind saying that.” - Mike Love

"Every single person who criticized Brian for having She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Sebu and Nate Ruess guesting on his solo album can now officially go heartily f*** themselves." - Wirestone
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2018, 07:32:32 PM »

I'm curious if the "Cocktail" director actively sought out the BBs, or if instead it was a case of Terry Melcher brokering another movie soundtrack deal as he had already done with "Happy Endings" and would go on to do with "Make It Big", "Still Cruisin'", "Problem Child", etc.

There was a discussion recently in another thread that touched on Melcher's (on the surface) peculiar ongoing association with the band in the mid 80s through to the early 90s, and it was Howie Edelson that pointed out that one of the main draws was that Melcher was regularly getting BB songs into films (which is a relatively lucrative deal even when the movies underperform at the box office).

It's interesting to read the McParland book on Gary Usher and how, circa 1986, Usher and Melcher were both jockeying to produce the "next" Beach Boys album. Ultimately, one didn't materialize in that time frame. Instead, it was the hodge podge "Still Cruisin" that made it out on the back of the success of "Kokomo" (with Melcher involved in many of the tracks) several years later, and then of course the essentially "Mike and Terry" album "Summer in Paradise" in 1992.

Interestingly, by the time of "SIP", for whatever reason BB songs weren't making into movies anymore (the best they did was "Summer of Love" being in a "Baywatch" episode three years after its initial release, and I'm not even sure that had anything to do with Melcher).


According to an interview Mike gave in November 1988 after Kokomo hit #1, the filmmakers were asking for a song from the group to fit the film. It suggests the song as reworked by Love and Melcher did not exist prior to the Cocktail team requesting one, so it's hard to imagine Melcher actively plugging something that had not yet been recorded, other than John Phillips' original recording of it.

Love acknowledged in an interview this week that it felt a bit strange singing about places like Bermuda and Key Largo after years of celebrating "California Girls" and the Southland.

"When we recorded the song, I said to myself: 'We're cutting into Jimmy Buffet territory this time,' " said Love, who co-wrote the song that is featured on the "Cocktail" sound-track album.

"But in a way, it's good that we're singing about (somewhere other than Southern California) because the Beach Boys' music was really more about a state of mind than a particular place.

"We've just transferred that state of mind to the Caribbean this time because that's what the scene in the movie called for. Tom Cruise is this bartender who flies to Jamaica to tend bar for the season, and we were asked to write a song to fit that scene."


If anything, perhaps Melcher was acting as the point-man or go-between in connecting the Cocktail producers to The Beach Boys. But as far as him plugging the song itself, again there was no song to plug unless the original Phillips take was involved. Melcher in the same interview is quoted as saying Phillips came up with the name "because it sounded good", yet makes no mention of the fact Phillips had recorded it on solo effort and the hit version was basically a reworked cover.
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“Some people think you have to knock somebody down in order to build yourself up, I don’t look at it that way. To the mentality that likes to disparage other people, I say perhaps you should get a life. It’s just wrong thinking in my opinion and I don’t mind saying that.” - Mike Love

"Every single person who criticized Brian for having She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Sebu and Nate Ruess guesting on his solo album can now officially go heartily f*** themselves." - Wirestone
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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2018, 05:58:31 PM »

I'm curious if the "Cocktail" director actively sought out the BBs, or if instead it was a case of Terry Melcher brokering another movie soundtrack deal as he had already done with "Happy Endings" and would go on to do with "Make It Big", "Still Cruisin'", "Problem Child", etc.

There was a discussion recently in another thread that touched on Melcher's (on the surface) peculiar ongoing association with the band in the mid 80s through to the early 90s, and it was Howie Edelson that pointed out that one of the main draws was that Melcher was regularly getting BB songs into films (which is a relatively lucrative deal even when the movies underperform at the box office).

It's interesting to read the McParland book on Gary Usher and how, circa 1986, Usher and Melcher were both jockeying to produce the "next" Beach Boys album. Ultimately, one didn't materialize in that time frame. Instead, it was the hodge podge "Still Cruisin" that made it out on the back of the success of "Kokomo" (with Melcher involved in many of the tracks) several years later, and then of course the essentially "Mike and Terry" album "Summer in Paradise" in 1992.

Interestingly, by the time of "SIP", for whatever reason BB songs weren't making into movies anymore (the best they did was "Summer of Love" being in a "Baywatch" episode three years after its initial release, and I'm not even sure that had anything to do with Melcher).
I lived through that time, and my memory is that the Boys didn't want to put out an album at the same time as Brian's solo album, didn't want to detract from it. So it's funny that they did just one song in the studio that year, and it ends up completely overshadowing Brian's album. A lot of us were psyched for Brian's album, and with all the stops being pulled out for promotion, expected it to be a big comeback commercially. Instead, we got an album that the Brian fans loved, but nobody else heard.


Just a correction, that is not entirely true. The Beach Boys did not have a record deal at the time "Kokomo" came out, they had no label on which to release an album if they did want to put an album out. Kokomo was released solely as a part of the Cocktail soundtrack on the Elektra label, which handled "Cocktail". Kokomo in the US came out as a single a few days after Brian's solo album was released, July 1988. The movie and soundtrack drove the release, in other words without Cocktail and Elektra putting it on the soundtrack (and putting out the MTV video featuring Tom Cruise and scenes from Cocktail intercut with  The Beach Boys playing on the beach) there would be no Kokomo.

Bobby McFerrin got the same kind of bump with his single "Don't Worry Be Happy", *that* was also on Cocktail's soundtrack, rereleased as a single like Kokomo, and it became a smash hit too. Without the movie, it just did OK. With the movie, it became a massive success.

The success of Kokomo led to interest from Capitol, which was not there when Elektra released the soundtrack.

So it wasn't a case of not wanting to overshadow Brian's album, it was more the BBs had no label deal but hit the lottery in terms of getting Kokomo in a film that became a major summer blockbuster with all associated attention and promotion (and money to promote it).


I recall some comments from Bruce back in 1987, that they had considered a couple record deals, but decided against them "because we don't want to record". I remember how disappointed I was when I read that. They were happy just to do a couple singles every year. There were also rumours at the time about Carl working on another solo project, but nothing ever came of that.
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2018, 10:28:58 AM »

LS - Interesting to note as soon as Kokomo caught on via Cocktail and climbed the charts and MTV playlists, *both* Mike and Bruce were giving interviews saying they wanted to get more into recording, writing, and perhaps spend less time on the road to devote that time to getting back to cutting new records.

Their opinions and quotes on the studio recording-versus-live touring issue seemed to change with the direction of the wind at that time.
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“Some people think you have to knock somebody down in order to build yourself up, I don’t look at it that way. To the mentality that likes to disparage other people, I say perhaps you should get a life. It’s just wrong thinking in my opinion and I don’t mind saying that.” - Mike Love

"Every single person who criticized Brian for having She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Sebu and Nate Ruess guesting on his solo album can now officially go heartily f*** themselves." - Wirestone
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2018, 12:15:15 PM »

Also, regarding the band's attitude towards Brian's '88 album, it was "mixed" to put it diplomatically. They all didn't like the Landy aspect, understandably. Carl said some nice things about the *music* on the BW '88 album in a 1989 interview.

But read Mike's 1992 Goldmine interview. He doesn't mince words about what he thinks about the BW '88 album (or the prospect of an album called "Sweet Insanity"). While it would have been unlikely for the band to go out of their way to like put an album out the same day as Brian's '88 album, had a huge record deal fallen into Mike's lap in, say, late 1987 for a 1988 BB album with a firm deadline, I doubt they would have foregone the deal so as not to compete with Brian. Here are Mike's comments on BW '88:

Q: Have you heard Brian's unreleased second solo album, Sweet Insanity?

A: No, I haven't. Have you?

Q: Yeah.

A: What do you think?

Q: I like it a lot but it would be much better with the rest of the Beach Boys singing on it.

Q: Did it come out with a record company?

A: No. But anyhow, I still love Brian.

Q: Hey, there's nobody more talented at arranging and writing.

Q: Did you like his first solo album?

A: No.

Q: You didn't like it?

A: Fu ck no.

Q: What didn't you like about it?

A: First of all the lyrics. Second of all the arrangements weren't commercial enough. Third of all it sounded like sh*t compared to what he could sound like.


Also interesting that Mike was so out of the loop in 1992 that he didn't even know whether "Sweet Insanity" had been commercially released or not. (Not pertinent to this discussion, just interesting).

Also, here's Bruce briefly commenting on BW '88 in a 1990 Record Collector interview:

Q: What did you think of his solo album?

A: I think he can do better. I think it was as good as mine, and I don't like mine. I think that it wasn't close to anything he did in the past. No solo album from anyone matters after 30 years. I don't know - we've been talking about Brian for twenty years. It's like he had this five-year career, and we've been talking about it ever since. It's like a great composer or conductor, walking of the stage for twenty years, but the orchestra can still play the parts - and make the charts.

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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2018, 12:37:02 PM »

I wouldn't immediately buy on its face a comment from a Beach Boy in 1987 that the sole/main reason they didn't have a new album out was by choice. As guitarfool said, they didn't have a record deal.

Now, it *does* seem that Bruce, for instance, seemed to be more interested in having a hit and getting "on the radio" than making an artistic statement with a full album. This would probably explain the spate of one-off singles in the 80s.

Here's Bruce from a 1989 LA Times article:

Explained Johnston, who joined the Beach Boys in 1965 after Brian Wilson gave up full-time touring: "I don't want the Beach Boys to be the futile endless road show of 'The King and I' or 'I Love Lucy' reruns. I live, eat and breathe getting on the radio. I just think, 'How can we get back on the radio?' "

Johnston didn't pause before answering himself: "With great songs, that's how!"


and later in the article:

"Just because you've had a No. 1 doesn't mean you're automatic," Johnston said during a rehearsal break, acknowledging that the Beach Boys could go on forever recreating the endless summer with its stockpile of old hits. But that isn't good enough for him.

"It's records that matter," he said. "There's no point in touring without new records. It's just huge payments to me. We've got to be better than that."


Though, again, I think they would have taken an album deal had one been offered. And indeed, they took the deal from Capitol in 1988/89 for what became the "Still Crusin'" album.

I'll avoid honing in too much on the irony of Bruce saying there's no point in touring without new records, considering what he's doing now and has been doing for decades.

Also worth noting concerning "Still Cruisin'" is what Capitol expected of them. Interestingly, much like Bruce's attitude, Capitol was also more fixated on *hit singles* than solid album sales apparently. Al, from that same LA Times article (the "Berman" is David Berman, then-president of Capitol):

It's clear to the Beach Boys what Capitol expects from them.

"Three hit singles, to tell you the truth," Jardine said. "That's what they told us."

"That's fair," Berman said. "That's what I would hope for."


Meanwhile, Mike Love felt the "Still Cruisin'" album had been watered down. But unlike fans, who felt it was watered down with oldies, Mike apparently felt (though he somewhat contradicted himself) that the *new*, non-soundtrack songs were what watered the album concept down. From Mike's 1992 Goldmine interview:

But the problem with a major is that just as recently as the Still Cruisin' album, the same week that we went to radio with a song called "Somewhere Near Japan," which was getting really good airplay, Capitol Records went to CHR radio stations with eight singles. That was just one label in the same week. They'd also just done a deal with Duran Duran. They had paid a lot of money for Duran Duran, whereas we did an album of half new and half older songs. The theme of that album was to have been songs that have been in movies. It was basically a repackage.

But then in got watered down with politics, meaning Brian's Dr. Landy forcing a song called "In My Car," which was never in a movie, and a song by Jardine, which ultimately ended up on the album, called "Island Girl," which was never in a movie either. So to me the concept was a little bit diluted there politically.

So what happened in this instance was I was not happy that the album was half repackage and half politics. What happens when you do things politically just to accommodate the fact that if you're in a group and you divide it by five members, and you got two songs each, it may be a nice thing to do but everybody has their own point of view that isn't taken into consideration objectively.


On the one hand, he agrees with many fans that the album was diluted a bit. But he feels it was diluted by the "non movie" songs, like Brian's and Al's songs. But then, at the same time, he seems to trumpet "Somewhere Near Japan" a bit, even though it was also one of the "non movie" songs (perhaps not coincidentally, one *he* co-wrote).

Relating back to "Kokomo", I think the things that developed in the next several years with Capitol, and "Still Cruisin'", and "Summer in Paradise", all help to indicate that "Kokomo" was a fluke, a happy accident. If only Mike were content to contextualize it properly, as folks like Al Jardine have, as a catchy single that was a good shot in the arm for the band, instead of the EVENT that Mike characterizes as. I've mentioned in the past that the way Mike talks about the song in the "Endless Harmony" documentary is telling. He mentions that Brian was called and asked "to be a part of Kokomo." Maybe I'm over-analyzing, but his verbiage indicates he sees the song (and everything attached to it, including the recording sessions) as an EVENT. So Brian wasn't called to "sing at the session", he was asked to "be a part of" the event.

I think it's on SiriusXM where they've been playing an Al interview where he (correctly) points out that not only did the band NOT know the song was going to be a hit, but that it didn't *immediately* become a hit. I think for a while they thought it was just another "Chasin' the Sky" or "Happy Endings."
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2018, 07:21:56 PM »

I wouldn't immediately buy on its face a comment from a Beach Boy in 1987 that the sole/main reason they didn't have a new album out was by choice. As guitarfool said, they didn't have a record deal.

Now, it *does* seem that Bruce, for instance, seemed to be more interested in having a hit and getting "on the radio" than making an artistic statement with a full album. This would probably explain the spate of one-off singles in the 80s.

Here's Bruce from a 1989 LA Times article:

Explained Johnston, who joined the Beach Boys in 1965 after Brian Wilson gave up full-time touring: "I don't want the Beach Boys to be the futile endless road show of 'The King and I' or 'I Love Lucy' reruns. I live, eat and breathe getting on the radio. I just think, 'How can we get back on the radio?' "

Johnston didn't pause before answering himself: "With great songs, that's how!"


and later in the article:

"Just because you've had a No. 1 doesn't mean you're automatic," Johnston said during a rehearsal break, acknowledging that the Beach Boys could go on forever recreating the endless summer with its stockpile of old hits. But that isn't good enough for him.

"It's records that matter," he said. "There's no point in touring without new records. It's just huge payments to me. We've got to be better than that."


Though, again, I think they would have taken an album deal had one been offered. And indeed, they took the deal from Capitol in 1988/89 for what became the "Still Crusin'" album.

I'll avoid honing in too much on the irony of Bruce saying there's no point in touring without new records, considering what he's doing now and has been doing for decades.

Also worth noting concerning "Still Cruisin'" is what Capitol expected of them. Interestingly, much like Bruce's attitude, Capitol was also more fixated on *hit singles* than solid album sales apparently. Al, from that same LA Times article (the "Berman" is David Berman, then-president of Capitol):

It's clear to the Beach Boys what Capitol expects from them.

"Three hit singles, to tell you the truth," Jardine said. "That's what they told us."

"That's fair," Berman said. "That's what I would hope for."


Meanwhile, Mike Love felt the "Still Cruisin'" album had been watered down. But unlike fans, who felt it was watered down with oldies, Mike apparently felt (though he somewhat contradicted himself) that the *new*, non-soundtrack songs were what watered the album concept down. From Mike's 1992 Goldmine interview:

But the problem with a major is that just as recently as the Still Cruisin' album, the same week that we went to radio with a song called "Somewhere Near Japan," which was getting really good airplay, Capitol Records went to CHR radio stations with eight singles. That was just one label in the same week. They'd also just done a deal with Duran Duran. They had paid a lot of money for Duran Duran, whereas we did an album of half new and half older songs. The theme of that album was to have been songs that have been in movies. It was basically a repackage.

But then in got watered down with politics, meaning Brian's Dr. Landy forcing a song called "In My Car," which was never in a movie, and a song by Jardine, which ultimately ended up on the album, called "Island Girl," which was never in a movie either. So to me the concept was a little bit diluted there politically.

So what happened in this instance was I was not happy that the album was half repackage and half politics. What happens when you do things politically just to accommodate the fact that if you're in a group and you divide it by five members, and you got two songs each, it may be a nice thing to do but everybody has their own point of view that isn't taken into consideration objectively.


On the one hand, he agrees with many fans that the album was diluted a bit. But he feels it was diluted by the "non movie" songs, like Brian's and Al's songs. But then, at the same time, he seems to trumpet "Somewhere Near Japan" a bit, even though it was also one of the "non movie" songs (perhaps not coincidentally, one *he* co-wrote).

Relating back to "Kokomo", I think the things that developed in the next several years with Capitol, and "Still Cruisin'", and "Summer in Paradise", all help to indicate that "Kokomo" was a fluke, a happy accident. If only Mike were content to contextualize it properly, as folks like Al Jardine have, as a catchy single that was a good shot in the arm for the band, instead of the EVENT that Mike characterizes as. I've mentioned in the past that the way Mike talks about the song in the "Endless Harmony" documentary is telling. He mentions that Brian was called and asked "to be a part of Kokomo." Maybe I'm over-analyzing, but his verbiage indicates he sees the song (and everything attached to it, including the recording sessions) as an EVENT. So Brian wasn't called to "sing at the session", he was asked to "be a part of" the event.

I think it's on SiriusXM where they've been playing an Al interview where he (correctly) points out that not only did the band NOT know the song was going to be a hit, but that it didn't *immediately* become a hit. I think for a while they thought it was just another "Chasin' the Sky" or "Happy Endings."
Exactly - it was just another single, under the plan that they would do 1 or 2 singles a year in an effort to get on the radio. "Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue" and "California Dreamin" fulfilled that function in 1986, and neither one was a massive hit (although California Dreamin' went top 10 on the AC chart); "Wipe Out" and "Happy Endings" did the job in 1987 - one being a good size hit, and the other a flop. So, at the most, I wouldn't expected Kokomo to do what California Dreamin' or Wipe Out did; never would have I imagined they'd be back in the #1 spot on the Hot 100, alongside Bobby Brown, Inxs, Cheap Trick, and Whitney Houston!
If it was a formula that Mike Love had turned into a science, he certainly would have done it again with Still Cruisin', or Problem Child, or whatever. But, as with most of the music biz, it's about being in the right place at the right time with the right song (and in this case, having that song in a hit movie), and all the pieces falling into the right place.
So they did a few new songs for Capitol, and failed to knock it out of the park again, so it was back to 1 or 2 new songs a year, in a movie (Problem Child) or on a tribute album (Crocodile Rock), until the Genius, Mike Love, came up with the idea for an album that would be the ultimate soundtrack to summer: Endless Summer.
 Roll Eyes
Oops! I was off there by a couple decades!
I meant to say, Summer in Paradise.
And you'll notice the Genius has barely a word to say about that Classic of Summer in his autobio.
But i'm sure it was someone else's fault the album didn't sell.
Let's blame it on Al Jardine. It was his piss poor attitude that killed that album.
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2018, 10:10:37 PM »

 “Kokomo” is featured on the new season of Orange is the New Black.  Used somewhat ironically (the show takes place in a prison) but effectively.
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« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2018, 06:13:06 PM »

For all the flack that song gets, it was crazy popular back when it came out.  I was just a kid, and this was long before I gave a crap about the Beach Boys, and loved that song at the time.  I remember some teenage pop group performed at my elementary school, and when they played that song, everyone erupted into song and sang along.  And to this day, people I've met that know next to nothing about the Beach Boys are at least familiar with that song.  It may be lightweight in its execution but I give it a pass due to fond memories.
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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2018, 08:53:55 PM »

For all the flack that song gets, it was crazy popular back when it came out.  I was just a kid, and this was long before I gave a crap about the Beach Boys, and loved that song at the time.  I remember some teenage pop group performed at my elementary school, and when they played that song, everyone erupted into song and sang along.  And to this day, people I've met that know next to nothing about the Beach Boys are at least familiar with that song.  It may be lightweight in its execution but I give it a pass due to fond memories.
It's hip to diss it because it's Mike's Beach Boys, and Brian isn't on it. i'm sure all the Brianistas would celebrate the idea of the group having a late career hit if Brian had sung on it - and produced and co-written it.
So how do 4 Seasons fans feel about December 1963 (Oh What a Night)? Who Loves You?
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« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2018, 05:42:03 AM »

Say sth. new. Zzzzzzz.
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« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2018, 07:24:19 AM »

For all the flack that song gets, it was crazy popular back when it came out.  I was just a kid, and this was long before I gave a crap about the Beach Boys, and loved that song at the time.  I remember some teenage pop group performed at my elementary school, and when they played that song, everyone erupted into song and sang along.  And to this day, people I've met that know next to nothing about the Beach Boys are at least familiar with that song.  It may be lightweight in its execution but I give it a pass due to fond memories.
It's hip to diss it because it's Mike's Beach Boys, and Brian isn't on it. i'm sure all the Brianistas would celebrate the idea of the group having a late career hit if Brian had sung on it - and produced and co-written it.
So how do 4 Seasons fans feel about December 1963 (Oh What a Night)? Who Loves You?

Nah, the reason most of the fans who grumble or groan about "Kokomo" do so is not because Brian isn't on it. There are other BB tracks that Brian had little or nothing to do with that are great. No, the problem with "Kokomo" (beyond being oversaturated back in 1988/89 and to a lesser degree subsequently) is that Mike Love overemphasizes the track's quality, importance, and popularity.

If Mike wasn't insistent on putting it in the same league/category (if not *above*) better tracks like "Good Vibrations", then it would be easier for fans to just view the song for what it is, which is a catchy song that was a good shot in the arm for the band, as I've said before.

A comparison I've often made: You don't see Paul McCartney regularly stating in interviews that "Pipes of Peace" (#1 in the UK) is as good or better than anything else in the Beatles or his solo catalog. I'm sure he's happy/proud it hit #1. But he has perspective as well. For that matter, his "Mull of Kintyre" *literally* outsold any Beatles single, yet you didn't see him pointing this out in every interview, and he actually relatively rarely even performs the song live.

In comparison, I don't believe a single full-length Beach Boys concert has left out "Kokomo" since it became a hit in 1988.

A "Four Seasons" comparison with their mid-70s hits is difficult to make; they essentially completely revamped the band by 1975, keeping on only Valli (and Gaudio as writer), with an eye towards actually spinning off the new "Four Seasons" guys into their own band. Those hits like "Who Loves You" and "December 1963" were essentially a case of the "New Four Seasons" cutting records with Frankie Valli guest starring.

As it is, I don't think Four Seasons fans have epic vitriol for those songs. They're very much like "Kokomo" in my mind; catchy songs that gave the band a shot in the arm. Frankie Valli kept performing those songs (though not always; "December 1963" left the setlist for a while until he found guys to start handing that lead off to), but I don't think he nor Gaudio for the subsequent decades kept saying those two songs were the best they ever did. Indeed, much like "Kokomo", the "Four Seasons" pretty much went limp after that quick shot of hit singles.
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« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2018, 07:27:16 AM »

Also, lest anyone think Mike doesn't have a complex about Brian's reputation versus his own, and has continually tried to use "Kokomo" to deal with that complex, here's a bit from Mike from his short but epic 1993 Bill Holdship interview:

Who wants to hear about Brian's mental problems anyway? I mean, to call a record "Sweet Insanity", imagine that. A whole album of Brian's madness that no one wants to release and still everyone says he's a genius! I make "Kokomo", it goes to number one in the charts and I'm still the dumb, know-nothing, talentless Mike Love.

https://www.surfermoon.com/interviews/mike693.html
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« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2018, 07:30:20 AM »

For all the flack that song gets, it was crazy popular back when it came out.  I was just a kid, and this was long before I gave a crap about the Beach Boys, and loved that song at the time.  I remember some teenage pop group performed at my elementary school, and when they played that song, everyone erupted into song and sang along.  And to this day, people I've met that know next to nothing about the Beach Boys are at least familiar with that song.  It may be lightweight in its execution but I give it a pass due to fond memories.

There's the rub. When Mike talks about the song, he doesn't say anything along the lines of "it may be lightweight, but it was a cool catchy song", or whatever. He talks about the song as if it's "Sgt. Pepper" or "Good Vibrations."

Weirdly, he talks about "Kokomo" the way some one-hit wonder singer would talk about their one 1988 hit. The same way he namedrops as if he's not in one of the greatest groups of all time.

It's like, dude, you sang on "Pet Sounds" and all those 60s hits, you were the lead singer in the Beach Boys. You don't need to overhype one additional hit single you had in 1988, and you don't need to namedrop that you know John Stamos. You're truly *better* than that.
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« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2018, 07:50:00 AM »

A comparison I've often made: You don't see Paul McCartney regularly stating in interviews that "Pipes of Peace" (#1 in the UK) is as good or better than anything else in the Beatles or his solo catalog. I'm sure he's happy/proud it hit #1. But he has perspective as well.

If Sir Paul were a bit smarter he'd be setting up a business selling actual "Pipes of Peace" branded with gold McCartney signatures. Investment opportunity! Wink

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« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2018, 08:16:55 AM »

It's hip to diss it because it's Mike's Beach Boys, and Brian isn't on it. i'm sure all the Brianistas would celebrate the idea of the group having a late career hit if Brian had sung on it - and produced and co-written it.

There are a staggering amount of people who I have met in my life who talk about how terrible this song is and have absolutely no idea who any of the members are. So I'm unconvinced by your assessment.
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« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2018, 08:37:15 AM »

No offense HeyJude, but I think you're over analyzing things. Simply put, people grumble about Kokomo because it's just not the type of material a middle aged band should have been doing. I think people also hate the song because of what it represents, the cheese factor.
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« Reply #22 on: July 30, 2018, 08:50:18 AM »

No offense HeyJude, but I think you're over analyzing things. Simply put, people grumble about Kokomo because it's just not the type of material a middle aged band should have been doing. I think people also hate the song because of what it represents, the cheese factor.

Depends on who the "people" are. Casual fans or non-fans? It's just cheese, sure (and some people like it). I think the "Full House" connection contributes to the cheese perception.

But the assertion earlier was that presumably *hardcore* Beach Boys/Brian fans have some deep hatred of the song because Brian's not on it. I think that's not really the case. The song *is* emblematic of a lot of things to do with the band, both during that late 80s era, and also speaking to some more broad issues (ego, "ownership" of the brand, etc.). But as I said, it's Mike's attitude regarding the song that grates and causes ire both towards the song and Mike himself.

I think "Kokomo" was fine as a nice bump for the band in 1988. I don't have any problem with it musically. I rate it appropriately. It's not A-list material, but it's fine, it's catchy. They've had worse songs score relative hit status ("Beach Boys Medley"), and better songs tank or go unnoticed.

I think a sympathetic, dry remix of the song would actually be quite nice. Sort of like the recent RPO album version minus the orchestra.
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« Reply #23 on: July 30, 2018, 09:56:20 AM »

I think HeyJude's post earlier was pretty much correct. A lot of the points and reasons why some offer to explain why fans aren't fans of Kokomo are often leaning toward trying to justify why Mike "should" be more respected when he is not, and also trying to dismiss any legit criticism of Mike. Offering up "Brian Wilson isn't on the record" as a reason doesn't hold water.

I'll add to HeyJude's thoughts and say some of it is and has been Mike's attitude toward the song and the success. With all of the main players who were prominent in the song's creation and performance now deceased, Mike can say whatever he chooses about the song. And that includes not only inflating his role in the creation and success of that song beyond reality, but it also has culminated in Mike's "Kokomo Brands" literature now almost giving ownership to Mike as an individual versus the reality of it being a "Beach Boys" song. It's just not accurate, and it smacks of more revisionism that can easily be countered by 1. Listening to the song (and hearing Carl sharing the lead, for one) 2. Knowing the song's history (and listening to John Phillips' original cut) and 3. Considering things like this:

The reason why it is thirteen pages is because Mike has proclaimed himself the savoir of the Beach Boys at the expense of the other members.



What interview or press release are you referring to where Mike "proclaimed himself the savior of the Beach Boys"?


"Proclamation" might be a poor word choice but we need go no further than "The Beach Boys: An American Family" or the quote from the Capital bio: "In 1974 Mike Love’s concept album Endless Summer ignited a second generation of Beach Boys fans and stirred a tempest that rocked the music world."
Everyone knows that Endles Summer is a compilation of Brian Wilson tunes, with several lyricists.

Does it also bother you when it's said that Mike wrote the lyrics to teh Beach Boys' biggest single? People will still know that Brian wrote the tune.

Brian had exactly nothing to do with any aspect of "the Beach Boys biggest single"... and Mike wrote very little of the lyric.

"the Beach Boys biggest single" being, as Mike said too, Kokomo.

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« Reply #24 on: July 30, 2018, 10:41:54 AM »

No offense HeyJude, but I think you're over analyzing things. Simply put, people grumble about Kokomo because it's just not the type of material a middle aged band should have been doing. I think people also hate the song because of what it represents, the cheese factor.

I'm not sure what you mean. It always seemed very middle-aged to me. A rather natural progression from singing about teenagers spending their summer days and nights at the beach to adults wanting to "get away from it all" on a romantic, tropical vacation. It's not like it's a rewrite of 'Be True To Your School'.
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