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Pete Lawrence - 17 Nov 2017


If I have a favourite band at the moment, it's probably Kokomo, 70s veterans who reformed in 2014 and, on the evidence of last nights Milton Keynes show, are still major players, soul pioneers who can effortlessly bring on shivers down the spine, put smiles on faces and bring on spontaneous outbreaks of dancing too.

Their shows are well worth looking out for, now featuring a combination of original members and new younger talent, perfectly exemplified by new recruit Charlotte Churchman, at 23 years showing bags of promise and fitting in perfectly alongside the band's elder statesmen Tony O'Malley, Neil Hubbard and Jim Mullen.

I first loved Kokomo in mid 70s when they appeared as part of a wave of homegrown grass-roots soul-funk practitioners that included the likes of The Average White Band, Jess Roden, Cado Belle, Ace, A Band Called O and Supercharge. I probably first heard them on John Peel and immediately recognised the sublime vocal harmonies that had evolved from Arrival, a group from earlier in the decade who had grazed the UK charts with their hit 'Friends'.

Kokomo never had a hit but become a touring outfit that quickly established a reputation for excellence and some dynamite live shows, featuring a few legends in the making, notably Scottish guitarist Jim Mullen, sax player Mel Collins and front-man keyboard vocalist Tony O'Malley.

Their debut album was surprisingly on CBS - not the trendiest label at the time - but together with their follow up Rise and Shine, offered a high octane template for 'blue eyed soul' that was coming into focus in the post-prog, pre-punk interim months of the mid 70s. 

At The Stables there gig was a joyous celebration of all things soulful and funky. Absolute highlight was the Frank Collins led cover of Aretha Franklin's gospel opus 'With Everything I Feel In Me'.. spine-tingling brilliance.

Here's a very DIY iPhone video I spontaneously shot at their glorious Half Moon comeback gig three years or so ago in the iconic dark, sweaty pub venue in south London.. glorious!




Sharon Prendergast

Wonderful.... Pop this into the very appropriately named 'loving it live' project?


Pete Lawrence



Graeme Holdaway

I followed, indeed, still follow Kokomo with friends whom I met at school, Kingsbury High School, London NW9 in the 70s, and formed a band with, which slightly to all our surprise is still going now, with four or five gigs a year to raise money for the Peace Hospice in Watford. Kokomo’s music has been a thread that has run through all our lives, from gigs in the early 80s supporting The Kursaal Flyers (!) and one exceptional gig in, I think, Reading supporting Chaka Khan. We had ‘Use Your Imagination’ in our band’s sets for a while, but nobody plays it like Kokomo. Tony O’Malley played some gigs at the 606 club in Fulham about five years ago, but they might as well have been Kokomo gigs, so many members showed up on stage, so it was no surprise when the band did a gig at the 100 club in Oxford Street, which we all went to, and were delighted to see the band back on form, although it was sad that one of the legendary trio of vocalists Diane was taken ill onstage, and I believe Charlotte Churchman was in the band supporting them that night, if memory serves. They have always been an excellent live band, although the first release of ‘Rise and Shine’ was a disappointment, not because of the quality of the music, but because the album’s cut was very quiet and seemed flat, which was surprising as CBS at the time had their own vinyl cutting facility off Tottenham Court Road, where I used to get albums I had produced mastered by the brilliant Tim Young.
Nevertheless, they are great, they are still going, and I will no doubt be going a gig or two of theirs next year, with my band-mates

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