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