How The Beach Boys’ Mike Love Reacted When Kids Thought Kokomo Was Real

TL;DR:

  • Mike Love revealed what separated The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” from all of the band’s other songs.
  • Some children believed the fictional island of Kokomo was a real place.
  • Some adults thought it was a real place as well.
The Beach Boys on a beach
The Beach Boys | Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

The Beach Boys‘ “Kokomo” is the band’s most famous song from the 1980s. It led some listeners to think the island from the song was a real place. Subsequently, Mike Love had a specific reaction to children who wanted to learn the location of Kokomo.

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In his 2016 book Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy, Love discussed “Kokomo.” “‘Kokomo’ climbed the charts to No. 1, 22 years after ‘Good Vibrations,’ the longest interim between two No. 1 songs by the same group,” he wrote.

“‘Kokomo’ became the most successful song in the history of The Beach Boys, selling a remarkable 7 million records at a time when 45s had already begun their slide into oblivion,” Love added. “The ‘Kokomo’ video was also No. 1 on VH1.”

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Mike Love said kids and adults had the same misconception about The Beach Boys’ ‘Kokomo’

Love revealed how some kids reacted to “Kokomo.” “But it was the other stuff that got me,” he recalled. “We started receiving bags of mail from school children and teachers describing how the song spurred their interest in geography, with some students even pouring over maps in search of this enchanted island.”

Love didn’t want to shatter any illusions. “Far be it from me to tell them it didn’t exist,” he said. “I was invited to Newark to speak to the Boys & Girls Club, and the kids sang an absolutely beautiful version of the song. If they believed in a place called Kokomo, then so did I.”

During a 1988 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Love revealed some adults also thought Kokomo was real. He learned people were calling up travel agents looking to go there. Love revealed The Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips came up with the name because he liked its sound.

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How ‘Kokomo’ and its parent album performed on the charts in the United States

“Kokomo” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week. It stayed on the chart for 28 weeks in total. The Beach Boys never again released a No. 1 single.

The band released “Kokomo” on the album Still Cruisin’. The album included Beach Boys songs that had been featured in movies. Still Cruisin’ became a minor hit in the United States, reaching No. 46 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 22 weeks.

“Kokomo” remains a classic hit even if it’s responsible for some geographical misconceptions.

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