Hey, everybody, look! It's the amazing, time-traveling song!
No other song pulled this off. It got made in 1988 by a band from the 1960s, for the soundtrack to a movie (Cocktail) about a man who goes to work at a TGI-Friday's (a franchise named for the 1978 disco film). The song replaced a cover of a 1965 song ("A Groovy Kind of Love") in the hit charts. Oh, yeah, that movie Cocktail's soundtrack also had "Don't Worry, Be Happy," a song whose title and chorus was taken from an Indian mystic in the 1960s. When the soundtrack album was released, oldies radio stations were so confused that they played it. To this day, you can't convince people that Cocktail came out during the Reagan administration.
Since this is the Internet, we can't let it go without comment: 1988 was also the year a song came out which has enjoyed much popularity in the 21st century on the Internet. It's a little number called "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. That's how powerful Kokomo is. It can make songs near it time-travel, with its mighty reality-warping vortex.
If you think that this is illogical, we're just getting warmed up.
"Kokomo" is a song that mentions many, many tropical locations around the Caribbean, including Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince. But chiefly, it mentions Kokomo, a fine, tropical paradise in the state of Indiana. Wait, doesn't that sound a little far north? Okay, there's also a Kokomo in Mississippi. Warmer, granted, but still not Mai Tai weather.
Well, there used to be a place called Kokomo Island in the Caribbean, but it was actually named that by the Sandals/Royal Caribbean resort/cruise line company. And they named it after the song. We told you this song could warp reality! Today the former Kokomo Island goes by the name of "Sandals Cay," anyway. Since this time, numerous Caribbean-area businesses involved in the tourist industry have cashed in on the popularity of the song, naming bars, hotels, and casinos after it. If you go south of the U.S. and start asking "Where's Kokomo?" you're likely to get a sign tacked up and a hearty "Right here!" for a response.
Where does this leave us? We are not going to embarrass ourselves trying to dance in a hula skirt and trying to be tropical in Indiana. But we'll be saved.
According to the band, the inspiration for the song was a pool-side bar at a hotel in Islamorada, one of the little island towns in the Florida Keys. In fact, the video was shot at Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida. Yes, that's right, we're in Florida. And we're staying there. With Walt Disney involved, if we dig any deeper we're likely to find out that they used animatronic Beach Boys.
Van Dyke Parks was called in to help record the song. He worked closely with Brian Wilson and was a big part of the "Smile" project - an album Wilson worked on when he was going through drug addiction and severe mental problems. Parks was one of the few people in Wilson's world at the time, and helped with lyrics on the project, which wasn't finished until 2004 when Wilson released it. Having Parks at the sessions made it more of a legitimate Beach Boys song: he arranged the steel drum band and played accordion on the track.
Album : Cocktail Soundtrack Released : 1988 US chart position : 1 UK chart position : 25