This weekend we head to Paris in 1985 for the latin, big band funk of Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
The Kid is August Darnell, leader of this rogue group of musical pirates. With Cab Calloway styling, he leads the castaways through the evening’s performance, frequently resulting in interplay with the Coconuts.
The Coconuts are his background singers and dancers. They tease him and mock him because they know him. They know he’s broke, a scammer, and has a women in every port.
By 1985, the band was firmly established, mostly overseas but in a few key US cities, too. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite fit into any of the new radio formats and didn’t get the airplay and attention they deserved. They weren’t rock. They weren’t R&B or country. They didn’t fit in.
The lyrics are clever. The background vocals are witty. The music is fabulous. (Bass player Carol Coleman once told me that August wrote the bass parts, and the charts always looked as if they were upside down.)
I got to see them once outside DC. It was an outdoor show and rained right up until showtime which kept most of the audience away. The skies cleared, though, and the show went on… to about 20 of us in an amphitheater. We got to request songs and come up on stage to dance. Very unusual and fun concert.
This show is much better, though, with a full audience and the band as hot as ever.
Don’t Take My Coconuts
My Male Curiosity
Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy
I’m A Wonderful Thing Baby
No Fish Today
Laughing With Our Backs Against The Wall
Kid Creole on iBrattleboro!
I love it. I have a long history with the band. I recorded the first KC&C album and toured with them as Production Manager and House sound mixer. I mixed the live sound at this very show (and that rainy DC show) as well as hundreds of nights in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Japan etc. Even after all of that, I can still get excited by seeing this show which was the high point of my 1985, and was appropriately presented at the Zenith in Paris.
Awesome connection. We have quite a few musically connected people here, it seems.
I could listen to Kid Creole stories all night long. Their stage shows were legendary – sort of a band’s band, almost (one other bands liked seeing).
You must know Carol, then. And Adriana. I did some interviews with them a while back.
Good sound at the DC show. : ) You might have been at the aborted DC food fest concert, too, where rain prevented the show.
Pick A Line, Any Line...
I’m so impressed that you were part of Kid Creole’s team back in the day. I first learned of Kid Creole back in the 70’s from music critic Robert Christgau. I was too young to get KC at the time. But Chris has played enough of his music around the house that I don’t have any choice but to appreciate his greatness. Way better than that Dread Zeppelin stuff he had last week.
I also love the Coconuts. It’s so rare these days to have real singing and dancing girls backing you up, not like Adriana and the other Coconuts, anyway.
Plus, there’s a message in his madness, which always makes things more interesting.
Nice Pick Chris
I saw them in London in ’82 I think. At Island Records 25th Birthday Party Bash. Dynamite stage prescence and the whole room was insanely rocking. And such clever lyrics, how do you come up with “onamatopeia, on a mat a pe a” as background vocals, I remember us all cracking up! I’ve got the first album somewhere, a beautiful picture disk. Ah.. how things used to be, now I’m feeling the nostalgia. Congrats to Julian too for such good work.
High Energy Fun
My prior familiarity with the Coconuts is via WRSI. That was never enough to fall get me hooked.
But now I won’t forget them.
For the record, the songs I’ve heard (so far – I’m not done listening):
My Male Curiosity
Annie I’m Not Your Daddy
Don't Take My Coconuts
There are so many great Kid Creole songs and a lot of the good jokes are inthe background vocals. Annie is one of my favorites — mama’s baby, papa’s maybe…That kind of thing. August Darnell is what you would call wickedly clever. But still, it wouldn’t be the same without the Coconuts. They always play it straight. I always liked Gina Gina which I imagined was about Adriana, but apparently not. Still I could see her being infatuated by a ski instructor…This is a great show.
I forgot about this song which is really how I know the band.
My question is how much are they funk and how much kind of proto hip-hop? I know it doesn’t matter, but I feel like I’m hearing several musical influences layered into this sound.
Who was that guy who did All Night Long – he was a star from one of the big pop bands, Earth, Wind and Fire or something. That dance groove that he had reminds me of Kid Creole. A lot less clever and original but similar emphasis on horns and layered arrangements and rhythm.
Lionel Ritchie from the Commodores did All Night Long. (Don’t tempt me. I have two more weekends left in May…)
Kid Creole has some proto-rap, funk, latin, and disco influences. (One of their songs jokes about the groove – “Where’s the 2 and 4? This accent’s worse that cockney!”). They came out of disco – recall Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band and the song Cherchez la Femme? That was what they did prior to Kid Creole.
There’s also a political undertone to many of their songs. No Fish Today talks about the fish dealer unable to give handouts because the wealthy want his fish today. Stool Pigeon is about being wired and ratting on people. Something Wrong in Paradise deals with Haiti and corruption.
The early albums are loosely arranged along a storyline, of Kid sailing the seas in search of Mimi. Back in the days of records, the record sleeves had maps of islands and sunken ships. Much fun.