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Still Kokomo

No band is more likely to make me smile from the first note than Kokomo. Almost 50 years after they emerged in the pubs of London, they’re still at it. Much changed, as we all are since we first gathered in Islington’s Hope & Anchor to marvel at the authenticity of their feeling for funk, but still keeping the faith.

Of the original members, the singer Frank Collins, the singer/keyboardist Tony O’Malley, the percussionist Jody Linscott and the guitarists Jim Mullen and Neil Hubbard were present last night at the Half Moon in Putney, one of their favourite venues. They were joined by the bassist Jennifer Maidman and the drummer Andy Treacey, long-term replacements for Alan Spenner and Terry Stannard, the saxophonist Jim Hunt, filling Mel Collins’s shoes, and the singers Helena May Harrison and Charlotte Churchman, who since 2014 and 2017 respectively have replaced the late Dyan Birch and Paddie McHugh.

The repertoire doesn’t change much as these reunions come around. No Kokomo fan would go away entirely happy without having heard Bill Withers’ “Lonely Town Lonely Street”, O’Malley’s instrumental “Tee Time”, Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can”, Hubbard’s sweetly soaring “Anytime” or their traditional showstopper, Bobby Womack’s “I Can Understand It”.

The sound was rough last night, and one or two instrumental stretches went on a bit too long, but the general vibrancy made up for it. The highlights for me were Churchman’s storming delivery of Stevie Wonder’s great “So What the Fuss”, Harrison bossing “Stuff Like That”, the divine Linscott’s beautifully subtle conga-playing on the closing “Third Time Around”, and Jim Hunt’s gruff Texas tenor touches throughout. It all made me very glad that there are still nights like these.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chris Charlesworth #

    Nice to know Kokomo are still at it. Their first two albums, packaged together as a double CD, get regular plays in our house. I remember seeing them at the Bottom Line in NY, and having a great time. They were managed by Steve O’Rourke who’d delegated my pal Glen Colson as their tour manager, an arduous role as keeping them in line was like herding cats. I somehow ended up back at their hotel, in the bar, but don’t remember how the night ended, only that I didn’t envy Glen his job.

    April 28, 2023
  2. stewart gunn #

    Always enjoy Kokomo – Shoreham for us this time. I can still picture them dancing across the stage at Birmingham Town Hall on the Naughty Rhythms Tour in 1975.

    April 28, 2023
    • Mick Tarrant #

      I also attended the Shoreham gig, with my wife and a couple of friends, all big fans. 185 mile round trip for us but Kokomo are special and we all agreed it was well worth the effort.
      The passing years have not dimmed their greatness. Having a stand in drummer and sax player didn’t detract from their excellence on the night, they were on it from the start. Sound was excellent we thought.
      Liked the Ropemakers Arts Centre, we ate there too. Grand night out, hope you enjoyed it too.

      May 1, 2023
      • stewart gunn #

        We did! Lucky to have this venue a 15 minute train ride away. Keep your eyes peeled for a big 2nd May 2024 show 🙂

        May 1, 2023
  3. Peter F #

    I recall Kokomo as one of those few special bands who didn’t take time on stage working up to their best – they just hit you between the ears from the first note.

    April 28, 2023
  4. Chris Morris #

    How great to read a plug for Kokomo who must be one of the mostly underrated bands of the last half century. Dylan obviously rated them because he used them on the great Catfish and a couple of other tracks. Yeah, Richard, they always make me smile, too.

    April 28, 2023
  5. Steve Hurrell #

    Just seeing the title of this entry brought on smiles and excitement at the memory of dancing. I too am delighted they are still enjoying entertaining us all.

    April 28, 2023
  6. Yes, remember seeing them at the Hope & Anchor. Happy, happy days!

    April 28, 2023
  7. As it was through Arrival that I first met Liz in Tony Hall’s office, Frank, Tony and indeed the others, mean a lot to us. Haven’t ventured to London in the evening (we do theatre matinees) but for a while they played a church in Godalming – even Dyane made a couple of them, and reunited with three of them at Tony Hall’s funeral in Brighton. And of course Frank is always on Facebook…he doesn’t hold back, and he and Andy King made a fine online pair.

    Guess all is well with you.

    All the best



    April 28, 2023
  8. John Hannah #

    Great review of a great band. And delighted to be heading to Chipping Sodbury again for tonight’s gig.

    April 28, 2023
  9. notharry #

    Have never forgotten their gig at the Chancellor Hall in Chelmsford in (apparently) 1975, along with Dr. Feelgood and Chilli Willi. One of, if not the best evenings of live music I have ever experienced. Long may they continue.

    April 28, 2023
  10. Sedat Nemli #

    Wonderful band that always succeeded to make cover songs sound like their very own. Aside from being a superb guitarist, Neil Hubbard is quite the songwriter, too: I wish Kokomo would cover his (latter day) Grease Band song “Reminiscing”. I was never convinced that John Sussewell (“Rise and Shine” era) was the right drummer for the band, and find that Andy Treacey’s style more in keeping with Terry Stannard’s (RIP). Although exclusively a “live” band nowadays, a new studio album would be most welcome. Long may they thrive!

    April 28, 2023
  11. Tim Adkin #

    Always loved Kokomo after hearing them in early 1975, in my student flat on Tyneside, on a Radio One ‘In Concert’. I was intrigued as to how the Arrival singers plus lags from the likes of Crimson, Juicy Lucy, Oblivion Express,Piblokto! and The Grease Band would sound. Time seemed suspended during ‘I Can Understand It’ and ‘Angel’ rarely sounded better. A personal favourite has always been Dyan’s take (on a radio session) on Syreeta and Stevie’s sublime ‘Cause We’ve Ended Now As Lovers’.
    A dream gig for me would be to get them down here to The Acorn in Penzance but I imagine the economics and logistics would make it impossible. Still they play Chipping Sodbury regularly so you never know – and they’d be guaranteed a decent sound mix at The Acorn.
    Do you still regret not luring them to Island Richard? Those CBS albums were good but not as great as they could have been…

    April 29, 2023

      I’m always delighted, Tim, whenever reference is made to Arrival. I thought they were one of the very best British vocal groups and I treasure my copy of their first album – the American issue on London, which includes the great ‘I Will Survive’. It’s surely no coincidence that the sleeve photo of the band alighting from a helicopter was evoked by another helicopter-based image on an album by Abba – titled, of course, ‘Arrival’.

      April 29, 2023
  12. Joachim Kettner #

    Great band! I once met Jim Mullen before a gig with his band. He was more than willing to answer my questions about Kokomo. I also admire his fast right hand playing, using his thumb only.

    April 29, 2023
  13. Richard Cooper #

    Just found your blog (I know!) and by the look of your photo I was stood right behind you. What a fab gig from Kokomo – funky as f.. well you know the rest and I had a brilliant night dad dancing and groovin’ along. Round these parts (N Herts) and in the past (1970’s) the first album was Saturday morning get up music and it brought back such fab memories seeing them live once again. The Kokomo singers – outrageous! Now where is my Cado Belle CD?

    May 19, 2023

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