Key Largo, Kokomo and Yet Another Outrageous Musical Sub-Genre

I’ve not been a very productive blogger of late – only six posts over the last three months which is my lowest publication rate since setting up this place over six years ago. I’d like to say it’s purely because I’ve been so busy, which I have, but in reality I think I’ve become a bit of a telly addict and come evening Mr WIAA and I are drawn to the many delights offered up on the small screen. That said, even when I sat down to write this afternoon, the words just wouldn’t come – Mr WIAA suggested I try some blogging prunes, but before I avail myself of these delicacies (I think we all need them from time to time), I’ll try and make use of this draft, put together straight after revisiting the song Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross. It’s been sitting as a draft because I decided it might be a bridge too far, even for this place, but in the absence of anything new coming to mind, I’ll try again.

It’s actually all Rol’s fault, but ever since this chap popped up on his regular Saturday Snapshots quiz feature, I’ve been wondering how to shoehorn his one-hit wonder into the blog. I very recently shared a song by Christopher Cross, whose music, back in the ’80s, fell into a sub-genre called Yacht Rock. Aha I thought, as a follow-up post I can finally share that spectacular example of yacht rock from 1982, Key Largo by Bertie Higgins. When I looked into it a bit more however, it turns out that Bertie’s song was attributed to yet another sub-genre called Tropical Rock, one I had never heard of before. Is there truly no end to the number of labels we attach to the three minute pop song.

Key Largo by Bertie Higgins:


The premise of Bertie’s song is that a romance is compared to the one between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who famously fell in love and married after starring opposite each other in ‘To Have and Have Not’, when she was 19 and he was 44. The Hollywood couple went on to make many more films together, one of which being Key Largo set in the upper Florida Keys. Bertie himself was from Florida so it’s not a stretch to see how the inspiration for his song came about. Watching the video for the song now, in terms of style it just screams Miami Vice with all the boxes ticked: white clothes, jacket sleeves rolled up, gold medallion, patterned shirt with upturned collar, Barry Gibb hair and beard, a tropical breeze, speedboats, sunsets and cigarettes. The romance portrayed in the video also mirrors the Bogie/Bacall romance in that the age difference between Bertie and his co-star is obviously sizeable (20 years to be exact) but somehow this bit of tropical glamour from the early ’80s has not stood the test of time, and it ends up looking a bit comedic in 2022.

An on-screen couple who still look pretty cool today are the original stars of Key Largo, Bogie and ‘Betty’ (as he used to call her – her real name). I loved watching these old black and white movies when they popped up on telly when I was growing up and I had a pretty good knowledge of all the Hollywood greats and the films they starred in at a very young age. These oldies don’t crop up very often on our viewing schedules nowadays but if you ever seek them out on some of the streaming services, they are still well worth a watch. It’s a really difficult thing to define but if you want to know what ‘cool’ looks like on screen, watch some of Bogie’s films. He has that elusive quality in spades, Sam Spades (an in-joke). Bertie, not so much.


But what else can be attributed to this newfound sub-genre called Tropical Rock? According to the well-known online encyclopaedia, its main focus was on ‘escapism’ – a laid back lifestyle, tropical places, boating and having fun. (Well, that tallies with Bertie’s video). It is also usually associated with southern Florida and the Gulf Coast of the US.

The Beach Boys in 1988

Another perfect example of tropical rock must be that Beach Boys (minus Brian) song Kokomo then, I thought to myself, except it turns out Kokomo is not even an actual place but a fictional island off the Florida Keys. Whatever, the song about it featured in the 1988 film Cocktail starring a young Tom Cruise. I think I even went to see that film at the cinema when it came out, but yet again it perhaps hasn’t stood the test of time, because it was so very much ‘of its time’.


An awful lot of clips in this one already but my current addiction to telly means this scene came to mind when I thought of the song Kokomo. If you haven’t yet watched the American comedy drama Space Force, created by and starring Steve Carell, I would thoroughly recommend it. Whenever poor old General Naird is under severe pressure and is fast approaching a meltdown, the solution is to launch into a version of Kokomo and here we see the main cast all joining him in the final ever scene (not too much of a spoiler there).


So, ‘What’s it all about? – I seem to have managed to unblock the blockage without resorting to blogging prunes. I also seem to have found out about another sub-genre of music I had never encountered before. Despite being a supposed music blogger (although I never actually call myself that) barely a post goes by without me making some reference to a film, or television show, as that’s pretty much where I get all my inspiration from. I know a lot of you out there do probably sit in a darkened room, just listening to music, but nowadays I like mine to come with moving pictures too.

I always feel bad if I’ve been a bit dismissive about someone I’ve written about as that’s not what this place is about. It’s not lost on me either that an awful lot of the music made by George Michael, of whom I was and still am a great fan, could probably have come under the umbrella Tropical Rock – The Careless Whisper video was shot in Miami (where the humidity caused real problems for George’s naturally very curly hair) and the Club Tropicana video looks as if it’s a scene straight out of the film Cocktail. No indeed, if Bertie ever drops by to see what I’ve written about him, I can only congratulate him on having had his time in the sun (both literally and figuratively) and if I’m not mistaken he’s still going strong today, so good for him.

Any more outrageous musical sub-genres I should write about? There are certainly plenty of them out there so this one could run and run.

Until next time…

Key Largo Lyrics
(Song by Bertie Higgins/Sonny Limbo)

Wrapped around each other
Trying so hard to stay warm
That first cold winter together
Lying in each other’s arms

Watching those old movies
Falling in love so desperately
Honey, I was your hero
And you were my leading lady

We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our own late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo

Here’s lookin’ at you kid
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo

Honey, can’t you remember
We played all the parts
That sweet scene of surrender
When you gave me your heart

Please say you will
Play it again
Cause I love you still
Baby this can’t be the end

We had it all (we had it all)
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo

Here’s lookin’ at you kid (here’s lookin’ at you kid)
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo

We had it all (we had it all)
Just like Bogie and Bacall

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

18 thoughts on “Key Largo, Kokomo and Yet Another Outrageous Musical Sub-Genre”

    1. To be fair it was Mr WIAA’s term so I can’t take credit. Quite apt though!

      I’m not sure how you approach your essays, as you call them, but I imagine some weeks it’s a bit easier than others?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it was a new one on me too, but a lot of it about in the ’80s. As ever there were two opposing camps at the time – white clothes and suntans, or black clothes and alabaster skin, with the music to match. Live Aid had a mixture of the two.

      Being a daily blogger you never lose your momentum whereas some of us who post less regularly find it hard to kick start our blogs after a break. Let’s see how I get on.

      Like

  1. Happy to take the blame for this one – I’m a big fan of Key Largo, both song and film. And Bertie’s other Bogie-themed tune, Casablanca.

    I’m pretty sure JImmy Buffet also fits nicely into this genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When his picture popped up on Snapshots it was the first time I’d thought of him since his song was a big hit so revisited the video clip. Very much of its time.

      Yes, I noticed that Jimmy Buffet fitted into this genre too coming from Key West. He also seems to fit the genre Gulf and Western (yet another I’d never heard of) and is this possibly his most familiar song? Not sure but will include it.

      Like

    2. Hadn’t realised that Margaritaville wasn’t actually a real place, until Jimmy built it! (Should have guessed from the name.) There is a website about the resort and the blurb goes as follows, all very Tropical Rock-ish:

      WHERE IS MARGARITAVILLE?

      It’s in the tropics somewhere between the Port of Indecision and Southwest of Disorder, but no parallels of latitude or longitude mark the spot exactly. You don’t have to be a navigator to get there. Palm trees provide the camouflage, ocean breezes bring the seaplanes and sailboats, tourists and travelers. Passports are not required. Island music rules. No waiting lines for anything.

      There is a beach and a thatched roof bar perched on the edge of the turquoise sea where you can always find a bar stool. There are lots of lies and loads of stories. It’s a comical concoction that blends together like tequila, salt, and limes.

      Where is Margaritaville?

      It’s in your mind.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This Tropical Rock genre is a bit all-encompassing, as it seems to refer to anything recorded by someone from Florida or the Gulf Coast. Of course I knew of the song ‘It’s Always Five O’Clock Somewhere’, as it was mentioned many times amongst the party animals I used to work with (by this time I had retired my ‘Happy Hour’ hat), but didn’t know it was by Jimmy.

      Like

  2. My favorite trivia associated with Bertie Higgins is that he claims to be related to the famous German author, Goethe. My mind always links this song with Rupert Holmes’ “Pina Colada Song.” They both have that tropical feel or subject matter. To close the loop, the opening line to that song “If you link pina coladas…” was actually written as “If you like Humphrey Bogart…” So Bogie shows up in both of them!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You remember your trivia! Funnily enough, despite the fact I’ve written about it twice around here (once as a story song and once because it appeared on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack), I didn’t think of the Pina Colada song at all whilst writing this one but can see how it links. I’ve always associated that song with a place like New York or Boston where they have many bars called O’Malleys and would go to Cape Cod (to make love on the dunes – uncomfortable). If the original lyric was, ‘If you like Humphrey Bogart’ it does form a loop though. The songwriters of the early 80s grew up watching Bogie I imagine so understandable. There are a different number of syllables though so the emphasis changed from ‘like’ to ‘Pina’ which might have contributed to the success of that song.

      Yes, I saw that Bertie was a mix of various European heritages including German, so maybe he got his songwriting skills from his ancestor Goethe.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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