The Extended Mix of Toto Coelo “Milk from the Coconut” Is New Wave Heat

Toto Coelo "Milk from the Coconut" extended dance mix 12" single on vinyl (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)
Toto Coelo 12″ single with the extended dance mix of “Milk from the Coconut.” (Pic: Liz O.)

On a Sunday afternoon, I flipped through a bin of new wave records at Sonido del Valle in Boyle Heights. At this point in the dig, I had already found a 12” of Bananarama’s cover of “He Was Really Saying Something” for 99 cents that was dusty, but definitely playable. I was starting to feel lucky. Not lottery ticket lucky, but lucky enough to take a chance on a Toto Coelo 12” single called “Milk from the Coconut.” 

In a way, it was a safe bet. The record was $4.99 and I was familiar with Toto Coelo (sometimes known as Total Coelo here in the U.S.), a producer-driven, new wave girl group from the U.K. that existed in the first half of the 1980s. Their biggest hit— and by “hit,” I mean top 10 single in the U.K. and more culty in the U.S.— was “I Eat Cannibals,” which is on the very short list of songs I have attempted to sing at karaoke. The group followed up their debut with “Dracula’s Tango (Sucker for Your Love),” which I play every October because its genius is best appreciated when the clubs are decked out with cobwebs. Both of those singles came out in 1982. “Milk from the Coconut” was released the following year, so I could reasonably assume that it wouldn’t suck. 

This Toto Coelo 12”, though, far surpassed my expectations. It’s the extended version of “Milk from the Coconut” and it’s split into two parts, with the first part on the A side and the second on the flipside. In a weird, annoying quirk of the vinyl era, a DJ would need two copies if they wanted to play the full extended version. I have no idea if anyone ever did that and don’t have any particular interest in going that route myself. I have a favorite side for this 12”, but we’ll get to that in a minute. 

Like I mentioned earlier, Toto Coelo was a producer-driven project. In this case, the producer was Barry Blue. About a decade earlier, Blue had a hit in the U.K. with a song called “Dancin’ (On a Saturday Night),” a pop-rock jam in the vein of groups like The Bay City Rollers and The Sweet that puts an early ‘70s spin on ‘50s style rock ’n’ roll. Later in the 1970s, he produced Heatwave’s disco hit “Boogie Nights.” 

As for the group itself, information is sparse. On the cover, the members are credited by first names only — Ros, Anita, Lindsey, Sheen and Lacey— although their full names are available online, along with other bits of info in you can find in a “citation needed”-heavy Wikipedia post. 

All of this more or less gels with the time in which Toto Coelo existed, when ’60s style girl groups whose sound was more-or-less masterminded by a single producer were coming back into vogue. You would hear that more as freestyle gained popularity, but it was already happening in the earliest years of the decade. In fact, The Flirts, orchestrated by Bobby Orlando, released their debut album in 1982. 

“Milk from the Coconut” rides the early ‘80s sing-song/rap hybrid vibe (e.g. Tom Tom Club’s 1981 hit/best dance song ever “Genius of Love”) and does so in a pretty heavy-handed fashion in the original version. The first part of the extended mix makes more effective use of the vocals by relying mostly on the chorus “you take the milk/from the coconut” and spacing out what remains of the verses. It’s a dubbier, funkier version of the song that is much better for the dance floor. 

When I finally got around to listening to “Milk from the Coconut” at home, though, I first let the needle drop on the B side. It’s fairly short, but wildly funky and includes vocoder vocals and a bizarre-o pan flute thing that somehow works. I was immediately struck by how weird, yet dance floor-friendly, it was. I could totally play this with Tom Tom Club, I thought. Whether or not that happens, though, will remain a mystery until my next all-vinyl gig. 

(Plug: That’s the punk ’n’ funk edition Disco Matinee at Grand Star Jazz Club on April 7, where I’m playing alongside Jus’ B and Televandalist. Tix available now via Restless Nights.)

In the meantime, though, if you do come across Toto Coelo’s extended dance mix of “Milk from the Coconut” in your digs, get it. Both sides of are pure, new wave heat.  

Bonus fun fact: “Milk from the Coconut” is one of the Toto Coelo songs featured in Grizzly II: Revenge, which I have to find because, frankly, I can’t believe it exists. It’s a horror movie with George Clooney, Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern that was made in 1983, but not released until 2020. A compilation of the concert scenes with with Toto Coelo is up on YouTube.





Liz O. is an L.A.-based writer and DJ. Read her recently published work and check out her upcoming gigs.