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 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

More From Laurel Canyon, Fiona Apple and ‘In My Room’

Thankfully I’ve managed to keep most of my pandemic related thoughts to myself around here of late. I’m all pandemicked-out, so instead have been enjoying writing about some new musical discoveries. Most of these discoveries have come about via telly, which I seem to have been watching an unhealthy amount of recently. It feels wrong, but my regular trips to the cinema/theatre are in abeyance, and trying to meet up with with friends is becoming a bit of a logistical nightmare. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting a tad colder, it’s quite comforting to curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a full set of remotes – Hopefully I’ll not start morphing into a Maris Piper anytime soon.

Before the rules changed (yet again), I’d been regularly meeting up with my friend Eve, as we are working our way through The Affair, that award winning drama starring Ruth Wilson and Dominic West. Somehow I’d missed it when it aired first time around, but it had been mentioned in the comments boxes around here in relation to a particular song, so I got curious and thought I’d give it a whirl. I should have known from the title there would be many, many scenes of a sexual nature, and although I’m no prude, it can be a bit awkward watching such shenanigans with your ‘walking buddy’. Now that we can no longer meet indoors here in Scotland, my blushes will be spared for the foreseeable, but as we both intend to carry on watching it independently, we’ll still be able to discuss the latest twists and turns when we meet up for our weekly walk outdoors. Such times.

And here is where a wonderful bit of synchronicity has kicked in. I have really been enjoying the show’s theme song, Container, but only took note of who recorded it last week. It was Fiona Apple, an American singer-songwriter who was new to me, as I seem to to be firmly stuck in the last millennium when it comes to such things.

Fiona Apple

How good is that? Fiona also wrote the song and in the first line she is ‘screaming into the canyon’. Over the last week I have spent much of my time revisiting the music that poured forth from the artists who lived in California’s Laurel Canyon in the late ’60s and as well as the documentary written about last time, I’ve also watched Echo In The Canyon fronted by Jakob Dylan, son of Bob.

The young Bob and Jakob

He looks and sounds uncannily like his dad at times during the film, where he and a selection of other musicians cleverly intersperse candid interviews with performances of some of the most memorable songs from the era. One of these guest musicians was my new discovery, Fiona Apple. I was bowled over when they got up on stage to sing the Brian Wilson song In My Room. Short, but oh so beautiful.

In My Room by Fiona Apple and Jakob Dylan:


Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys had been a Laurel Canyon resident in the late ’60s and despite starting out writing songs that represented the youth culture of southern California (basically surfin’, surfin’ and more surfin’) it soon became obvious that Brian was a bit of a musical genius, the like of whom doesn’t come along very often. Their album Pet Sounds, written and produced by Brian, was released in 1966 and is often cited as having inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper.

Apparently Brian had been an agoraphobic during his teens and had refused to leave his bedroom for some time. The song was written from the perspective of a teenager who felt safe and comfortable there. I’m pretty sure DD doesn’t have agoraphobia, but the amount of time she has been spending in her old school bedroom since returning home is concerning me. She is studying, and possibly doesn’t want to interfere with our routines, but as for many other young people who may not have work right now and can no longer be with friends, it just doesn’t feel very healthy at all. Maybe why I’ve been affected by the song so much.

Although it’s the Fiona Apple/Jakob Dylan version that I’ve fallen in love with this week, I can’t go without sharing the original by the Beach Boys themselves. Lots of screaming from the girls in the audience, but I think we still get the sense of it (and a lovely boyish smile from Brian at 0:35).

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I may have over-egged the pudding about how much television I’m watching, but with many other leisure-time activities still unavailable to us, it has become a bit of a saviour. I’m trying to avoid watching rolling news channels nowadays and instead am finding escapism in quality dramas and documentaries – Why so many people flocked to the cinema during the war to watch Hollywood musicals I suppose.

As for DD, she is currently ‘in her room’, but hopefully she’ll join us to watch Gogglebox later on, which always raises a smile. The world in 2020 – We work from home on laptops, socialise via Zoom, and sit in our living rooms watching television programs about other people sitting in their living rooms watching television programs. Like a wacky hall of mirrors, it really doesn’t sound healthy at all does it?

The ‘Stars’ of Gogglebox

Until next time….

In My Room Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson)

There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it’s dark and I’m alone
But I won’t be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

Beach Boys, Phil Collins and “There’s a Ghost in My House”

Well, it’s been a bit of a week, with no time for heavily researched blog posts. When that happens I usually resort to a web-diary type affair and a few songs have come to mind. First of all, after reading a post written by Jez over at Dubious Towers last weekend, where he recommended watching the film Love & Mercy about the life of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, I did just that. In doing so I fell in love with the album “Pet Sounds” all over again. I think I knew a bit about the troubled life that Brian had post Beach Boys, but this film really highlighted the nightmare he went through in the 1980s under the supervision of highly controlling psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy – Fortunately the love of a good woman saved him and joy of joys they are still married today, so a happy ending to a sorry tale.

ps

What was great about this film however was that we got to witness the creative genius that went into producing “Pet Sounds” back in 1966. The sounds on this album were just that, Brian’s favourite, or pet sounds, and the infamous Wrecking Crew that worked with him on that album acknowledged his genius above all others they collaborated with. Brian at this point was still aged only 24. I have featured the wonderful song God Only Knows before in this blog (link here) so here is another from that album, Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Something interesting that came out of this biopic was that contrary to popular belief, The Beach Boys didn’t actually surf!

Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys:

So, what else has been happening this week? – Turns out that giving up the job you were very generously slotted into post re-structuring and leaving the organisation you’ve been part of for 30 years isn’t easy. I made the terrible mistake of wanting to leave in a good way, leave in a way that caused the least disruption, but it’s making me miserable. Having discussed it with friends who have retired recently, leaving work is a kind of bereavement and there are “stages” you go through. If I’d given the standard four weeks notice, after taking annual leave I would have been gone two weeks ago and all would have been well. Instead, I have hit the wobble zone that comes about a month after resigning when you start to question the rash decision-making that led you to forego your livelihood for a life of speculative self-employment. Fortunately for those who choose to retire there are many courses you can go on to pave the way, but of course I am not retiring, so I’ll just have to wobble on for another three weeks.

Phil_Collins_-_Face_Value

Over at Rich Kamerman’s excellent blog, where in his Forty Year Friday series he reviews  the albums of 1977, the band Genesis were featured last week. This in turn made me look into the whole Phil Collins negativity issue a bit more. Personally I quite liked his albums from the 1980s but somehow down to his sheer omnipresence and success during that decade, and perhaps his not-so-great actions and opinions, he became quite unpopular. Whatever, I did mention in Rich’s comments boxes that when a good wallow is called for this is one of the songs I turn to – Somehow it seems very apt for someone who has all of a sudden decided that the paperless office is not quite so bad after all (there is still a lot of paper) and that having everyone you’ve ever worked with over a thirty year period in the same building is now a good thing. Oh well, I give you If Leaving Me Is Easy which was one of the singles released from Phil Collins’ 1981 album “Face Value”. The answer by the way is…. No Phil, it’s blinking not.

If Leaving Me Is Easy by Phil Collins:

The final song that comes to mind this week is There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. Why would that be I hear you ask? Well, whilst at our local art-house cinema with my girlfriends last night (two of whom are the aforementioned 55-year-old retirees), we somehow managed to display the most ridiculous display of giggling fits ever to have taken place in a non-comedy venue. The film we choose to watch is purely down to whatever is showing on the last Thursday of the month – Some we win, some we lose but it’s easy to organise and a great excuse for a get-together.

Last night’s film was called A Ghost Story and despite expecting it to be all scary and full of the supernatural, it turned out to be (inadvertently) the best comedy we have ever witnessed. The main character was a ghost draped in a sheet and all we could think of whenever he appeared was this character from John Carpenter’s Halloween, a film we had also seen recently and again had a slight fit of the giggles.

mm2
Michael Myers in Halloween

I am very sorry that our fellow cinema-goers had to suffer our childish guffaws but once a giggling fit starts it’s hard to stop and we all fed off each other. At one point I had to rush out of the cinema into the little foyer area for fear that holding my nose and breath for so long would induce a fainting fit. Needless to say I was joined by one of my buddies very soon after and we all threw in the towel after an hour and retired to the bar for a large glass of calming red wine. Just to be clear, this was a very “inventive and artful film about love and loss” but what can I say, even at the combined age of 220, once the giggles start, we four ladies just couldn’t control them!

And so as an homage to our embarrassment here is that song from 1967, There’s A Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. This was a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition from the Motown stable that was not a hit when originally released but then became so in 1974 after finding favour on the Northern Soul circuit. That’s when I remembered it from but only really came to understand the whole Northern Soul phenomenon when I wrote a post about it a few months ago (link here).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes it’s all about control. Brian Wilson was totally in control of the recording studio in 1966 but by 1986 had lost control of his life to Dr Landy.

Sometimes, our plans go awry because we let a stupid piece of paperwork control them – Had the notice period not been unusually long I wouldn’t be having to endure the current wobble. Had I not lost control of my emotions a month ago, it wouldn’t even be an issue (although I’m sticking to my guns that it’s still the right decision).

ghost

But best of all, although everyone else around us was in control, sometimes a fit of the giggles just can’t be controlled – The rest of the audience might not have approved but it’s been the best therapy I’ve had in years and the plethora of ghost emojis on our phones today, and the visit to my friend’s back garden draped in a sheet goes to prove it!

Until next time….

Wouldn’t It Be Nice Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Michael Love/Tony Asher)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know it’s gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we’ve been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let’s talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Postscript:

Having just delved into the background to A Ghost Story a little more, I found this quote from the film’s creator David Lowery. He had apparently wanted to make a film for quite some time featuring a man in a simple rudimentary ghost costume – “I just loved that image. I love taking something that is understood to be funny or charming or sweet or naive and instilling it with some degree of gravity“. Oh dear David, I’m afraid we just found it funny!

Music from Love Actually, Part 1 – The Beach Boys and “God Only Knows”

It’s been a game of two halves, or actually a game of three thirds, but my annual viewing of the very seasonal film Love Actually, is now complete. Spotted that it was on television this week so recorded it and dipped in whenever I had a free hour or so (it’s a very long film).

love actually.png

Like just about everything this Christmas, it made me sad, but also gave me hope.

Sad, because the wonderful Alan Rickman was one of the main cast members and of course we lost him earlier this year. Realising that this film is now 13 years old, I have just worked out that he was my age when it was filmed. In terms of the conveyor belt of life, I am a fair way down the line now, and there is still so much I want to do and achieve – This shitty year of loss is taking its toll and making a lot of us really appreciate what we still have.

The hopeful part is because of Hugh Grant’s voice-over at the start of the film, which goes as follows:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world,
I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.
General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed,
but I don’t see that.
It seems to me that love is everywhere.
Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy,
but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters,
husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phonecalls
from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge –
they were all messages of love.
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion…,
love actually is all around.”

Thirteen years on and many of us are indeed feeling very gloomy about the state of the world but having just rewatched Love Actually (yet again) it does remind me that at the end of the day, love usually wins out, and we even have the wonderful Bill Nighy (playing rock and roll legend Billy Mack) to remind us of that, through the medium of song. As he points out however, it is very hard to substitute a one syllable word like love with a two syllable word like Christmas but he makes a brave attempt and ends up making it to the coveted No. 1 spot in the process, with his version of the classic Troggs‘ hit, Love Is All Around. After briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy decides that his long-suffering manager Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe simply celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn! A hilarious but very touching scene. Yes, new friends come and go, but never forget those who have been with you for the journey.

Bill Nighy is one of my favourite actors and I am constantly amazed by how he can play an aging rocker like Billy Mack one minute, and perhaps a senior civil servant or downtrodden husband the next, using exactly the same mannerisms and quirks of speech. Please God let him grace our screens for many more years to come.

The song I want to feature for this post is the one used for the closing credits of the movie, God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Now this is one of my favourite songs and was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. It was released in May 1966 (very close to my favourite year for music 1967) as the eighth track on the wonderful Beach Boys’ album “Pet Sounds” and is of course from the baroque pop camp, of which I am so fond. The sentiments expressed in the lyrics were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any “higher power”, being a song apparently about moving forward after loss. Well I don’t know about that because the lyrics seem to infer that moving forward would be nigh impossible. Whatever, it is still one of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century so thank you Brian and the boys for giving it to us.

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s pretty obvious, don’t you?

God Only Knows Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows