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Mark as guest
January 12th, 2012 08:19 PM
Great post Richard. I didn't know so much about the band until I became friendly with Tony O'Malley, probably as a result of knowing Jim Mullen or Fred or someone. I did however own - and still own on vinyl - their albums but I never saw them live. Well, actually I did catch part of their set at a festival once (probably the early 80's?) but Tony wasn't on it and I'm not sure how many original members were involved. I do also remember playing 'Angel' to death back in the day. I love that tune. A lot of people I've bumped into recently have said that Kokomo were better than AWB live - or, correction, that they preffered them to AWB - but I'm in no position to judge. All I do know is Frank and Tony and the guys are big fan of AWB and say nothing but good things about them. Any, my marathon - and thanks for the kind words Harry - was inspired by a fantastic, i mean really fantastic, gig (or gigs) last weekend. The groove was off the hook. Simply fantastic. I think plans are afoot to do it again....watch this space!
Richard
January 12th, 2012 07:08 PM
After your marathon effort Mark, I thought I better respond with a bit of nostalgia.Way back I was tipped off about AWB and Kokomo and was fortunate to see their early gigs. Later as social sec I put on AWB, Kokomo and Cado Belle gigs at my college. If push came to shove I'd have to say Kokomo were my favourites even though I can see AWB had the songs and were commercially a better bet.
I'm writing to say that I think Kokomo played the best gig I have ever seen.
To qualify this I should say I've seen Hendrix, Cream,Fleetwood Mac, James Brown,Stones etc all in tiny venues when they were desperate to make it.I have stood at the side of the stage and watched hundreds of well known acts. However the Kokomo gig always stays in my mind.
The venue was a tiny pub - Newlands on the the borders of Peckham and Brockley. Small it may have been but the cream of the UK's bands could be seen playing there on a weekly basis.On arrival we were treated to the site of the road crew trying to get the mixing desk into the venue. That desk alone was worth more than the venue and the ground it was built on. The desk of course was normally used by Pink Floyd.On stage there were six vocal mikes set up.As a music fan you soon realise that such an operation is costing somebody a fortune.You also realise that to spend this amount of cash somebody thinks the band are extra special. And that night Kokomo were.
For whatever reason there was magic in the air. It was one of those nights when anything was possible.The sound was perfect, the Kokomo ensemble(the first line-up with Terry Stannard) were on fire and the audience had come in from the cold to experience one of the best nights of their life.
The singing that night was sensational.And just when you thought you'd seen/heard the best set of your life Frankie lost the plot.The man was possessed. As he started to testify I felt I'd been transported to the Apollo in Harlem. That night the band were touched by greatness and I shall remember the thrill of that wet night in Peckham as long as I live.
Harry M.
January 11th, 2012 09:59 PM
Um.....Uh...duh..........what he said. This....is the post style..Id almost forgotten...was at least a weekly event on this web site. A post...that very nearly puts one.....there...at the concert. This....is the old Mark...post.. What made us all check in daily here. Made actual discussions occur. This post....and its absence of regularity here answers the questions posed on the other part of this forum. Im very happy to hear Toney Omalley is still going at it. And Id love to hear and see the "People get ready" number...and Jo Harmon. Sounds like a very special night...and yes...more please.
mark as guest
January 11th, 2012 09:45 PM
Oh, fantastic gig(s), Richard, fantastic!

KOKOMO - heard of them or not, a genuine groove super group

The great thing about 70's UK Soul pioneers Kokomo is that their reputation as one of the finest 'groove' units ever to come out of this country has remained largely intact. Unlike rather better known contemporaries and touring mates, Kokomo's status hasn't been devalued by playing endlessly as something of a tribute to themselves with increasingly suspect line -ups and nor have Kokomo suffered the pressures to remain relevant to changing musical trends and industry whims. No dodgy 80's drum machined, synthetic horned, embarrassing 'trend' following albums in this particular back catalogue, thank you very much.

Instead, beset by internal conflicts and other problems, Kokomo simply imploded when all seemed set fair. One or two low key re-unions aside, the band - if certainly not the individual players - has been inactive ever since.

So who are Kokomo? Well, they were - and still are, but we'll come to that- one of the, if not the, finest 'groove' units that this country has ever produced. In keeping with many legendary American bands from that period, such as the 'The Band' and 'Little Feat', Kokomo gained a reputation based not so much on their versatility or musical vocabulary, good as it was, but one based more on the band's distinctive 'sound' and 'feel'. A 'sound' and 'feel' which in their case owed much to, without being solely derivative of, 'old school' American r&b, soul, gospel and groove based rock.

Formed in May 1973, Kokomo's first performance was at The Pheasantry, King's Road, Chelsea where Franky Blackwell, the band's roadie, coined the band's name. Their reputation quickly spread and a major label deal was nailed. The band's debut, Kokomo,released in 1975, was hailed by the NME as the best debut by a British band for several years. The original ten-piece line-up consisted of a trade mark vocal sound using four vocalists: Dyan Birch, Frank Collins,Paddy McHugh and Tony O'Malley (also keyboard duties), all from the band 'Arrival', two top ten hits to the good. A key axis of Alan Spenner (bass) and Neil Hubbard (guitar) were recruited from Joe Cocker's Grease band; Mel Collins (saxophone) from King Crimson. Percussionist Jody Linscott (who went on to tour with The Who, Elton John, Dave Gilmour and more), Terry Stannard (drums) and Jim Mullen (guitar) completed the line up. Such was the unit's skill and reputation that Bob Dylan recruited the band to help record his 'Desire' album. Despite seemingly having it all in place - including being seen as a priority for their label (CBS) enjoying a top manager (Steve O'Rouke who also managed Pink Floyd), and making increasing in-roads into the lucrative American market - by January 1977 the band's melt down was such that an indefinite hiatus was announced. After an extended sabbatical, a further studio album was released in 1982, containing the single 'A Little Bit Further Away' which peaked at Number 45 in the British chart. By and large, that was then that, further compounded by the tragic premature death of influential bassist Alan Spenner
in August 1991.

The band's enduring pedigree is, however, evidenced by how many of the original members have gone on to enjoy considerable success in their subsequent careers. Jim Mullen is now a much feted award winning jazz guitarist, Hubbard a regular fixture with Bryan Ferry, Linscott continues to work with everyone from McCartney to Will Young and Mel Collins sax work has graced albums and gigs by Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones, to name but a few.

To some extent the The Kokomo torch has continued to be carried by the solo career of co-founder Tony O'Malley (himself briefly a member of 10cc). Whilst O'Malley maintains his integrity as an originals artist, regularly releasing new work, a number of his former Kokomo bandmates inform much of both his live and studio work, alongside other legendary sidemen such as Hamish Stuart, Pino Pallidino and Andy Newmark.

Indeed, it was two recent 'Tony O'Malley' gigs which brought the whole Kokomo experience back into the spotlight. Two back to back sold out gigs at London's prestigious 606 club and The Chichester Inn saw O' Malley take to the stage alongside not only regular sidemen Neil Hubbard and Mel Collins but also singers Frank Collins and Dyan Birch. These five original Kokomo members were augmented by the revered engine room of bassist Steve Pearce (whose CV is like a 'whos who' of popular music, Stevie Wonder included), drummer Ralph Salmins (ditto) and guitarist Adam Phillips, all noted sidemen with (original AWB frontman) Hamish Stuart's much admired band. Emerging and highly rated young soul/blues singer, Jo Harman, completed the line up which, whether by happy accident or design, collectively nailed both the spirit and sound of the original Kokomo vibe.

Anyone who was there - and legendary drummer Steve Ferrone was one -will bear witness to two very special and extraordinary gigs indeed. Lead by O'Malley's distinctive 'down home' piano style - not a thousand miles away from that of Ray Charles, at times - the ensemble joyously ploughed through an amazing two and half hours of uplifting and heartfelt music. O'Malley handled most of the lead vocal duties with due aplomb, his famous trademark growl 'owning' classics like 'Lovely Day' and 'Tears in Heaven' as much as his own compositions such as 'Serious', 'Mr Operator' and 'For The Children'. Dyan Birch's took over lead vocals on 'Yes We Can Can' and Frank Collins impressed likewise on the joyous gospel romp that was 'Gone At Last'. Jo Harman's distinctive blues/soul voice provided the perfect lead vehicle for the ensembles take of classics 'I Can't Stand The Rain', 'Little Help With Friends' (Joe Cocker style), 'Love The One You're With' and 'People Get Ready', the latter featuring a particularly gorgeous guitar solo from Adam Phillips. With the engine room of Pearce, Salmins and Hubbard (also excelling on co-lead guitar) creating a pillow of groove so satisfying and spacious that you could lie on it, this was ensemble playing of the highest quality. Mel Collins blew by turns, melodically and bluesely, and the four vocalists weaved and teased, occasionally joining together with full on
gospel fuelled intensity.

What a gig. What a band. I was, for one, just glad I was there to see it. More please. And soon.
Richard
January 8th, 2012 11:00 PM
Must have seen Kokomo a dozen times in the 70's, so I was pleased to learn that the remnants still get together. After your mention Mark I spent the afternoon listening to their best tracks and boy they still sound good. If they do another 606 show please let us know. Thanks
Mark as guest
January 6th, 2012 05:49 PM
Got 5 original members of UK soul pioneers Kokomo (once Bob Dylan's backing band) on stage at the 606 club tonight (sold out). Anyone who knows their history will understand this is quite an event. Still groovin' like mothers, soulful and gospel infused harmonies galore...a rare and welcome treat! I got a table...I'm happy!

Jo Harman is their special guest, singing 4 numbers out front with them before being the 'missing' third voice in that classic 'Kokomo' wall of vocal sound alongside legends Frankie Collins and Dyan Birch.

She's one excited girl I can tell you...she's loving the Kokomo ensemble vibe. They still groove like muthas and Steve Pearce from Hamish's band is on bass!

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