375. ‘Barbados’, by Typically Tropical

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome aboard Coconut Airlines… It’s August ’75, and we’re spending the summer in the Caribbean.

Barbados, by Typically Tropical (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 3rd – 10th August 1975

‘Captain Tobias Wilcock’ delivers a pretty convincing pre-flight welcome, detailing our cruising altitude and speed, sounding just like what you might hear if you stepped on a plane today. Until he reminds us to refrain from smoking until the aircraft is airborne… that is. Ah, the seventies.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Woah, Back to the palm trees… Let’s address the elephant in the room before going any further. We’ve got two white guys, one of whom is giving us a heavy Caribbean accent (ah, the seventies…) I’m going to see my girlfriend, In the sunny Caribbean sea…

London’s rainy, Brixton’s a mess: it’s time to go home. ‘Barbados’ is one of the first ‘summer holiday’ hits – not a song about summer (we’ve had plenty of them); more a song that sums up the summer holiday feeling – the escape from the daily grind to a world of sun and cocktails. A song that wouldn’t hit #1 at any other time of year. (The ‘90s will be the peak of this phenomenon, when record buyers will send one cheesy Europop record after another to the top of the charts.)

However, the singer doesn’t seem to have much intention of coming back from Barbados. Maybe he’s there to stay. Maybe this isn’t a holiday hit at all! The fact his girlfriend is called ‘Mary Jane’ adds another layer to it… Maybe he’s just high as a kite? Layers upon layers… The song itself is catchy – I like the twiddly synth riff – but very disposable. By the end, the cabin crew have taken over again, preparing us for landing: The weather is fine, with a maximum temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit… Sounds lovely!

If time and space permitted, I might make more of social commentary on the growing accessibility of foreign travel in the 1970s, and the growing impact of the Windrush generation on British culture. Plus, there’s this decade’s clear and undying love for a novelty single. All of which culminate in a week at the top for Typically Tropical, who were two Trojan Records engineers, Jeff Calvert and Max West, stepping out from behind their mixing desks to record this single. It is a 100% certified one-hit wonder: none of their later singles charted at all.

I knew this song as a teen, as ‘We’re Going to Eat Pizza’… sorry… ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’, in which it was neither sampled nor covered, more reimagined, by one of those Euro-cheese acts I mentioned earlier: The Vengaboys. I’m not linking to it, though, as we’ll be meeting it atop the charts in twenty-four years.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that yet again this is a record completely absent from Spotify. It’s interesting to observe that it wasn’t until 1972 that I encountered this problem. All those pre-rock ‘n’ roll #1s that nobody has listened to in decades were all present and correct, but several big hits from the mid-seventies aren’t. Not sure what point I want to make, but it’s definitely something to note.

10 thoughts on “375. ‘Barbados’, by Typically Tropical

  1. I still quite like this one, even though it’s supposed to be unforgivable in this PC days. I was always a bit dubious about them being white and not from Barbados, and novelty records do outstay their welcome very quickly – but in comparison with the awful Vengaboys (sorry if I’m raining on childhood enjoyment!) I’ll take this version, specially now you’ve mentioned they worked for Trojan records! Trojan was the top UK reggae label, anything released on it had “cool” written all over it (or naughty in the case of white Judge Dread who made quite a bit of cash for the label with his banned records from Big Six onwards). Island Records took over thanks to Mr Marley hopping over to them, but in the early 70’s Trojan was King. Tracks like Double Barrel were fab.

    1. Important clarification: any fondness I have for the Vengaboys’ version is solely due to time and place, as it is a genuinely horrible piece of music! (I watched the video when writing this, and it looks and sounds so cheap and nasty now. I mean, it probably did back in 1999.)

      I guess these guys get a bit of a pass with them working for Trojan – they obviously liked the music and it was coming from a place of love. (Though I doubt many serious reggae fans were buying this…)

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    I never heard this one before…Why is it absent from Spotify? Surely it’s not because of the accents? It’s not that big of a deal.
    Pleasant song.

    1. I don’t think it’s the accents, I think it’s because this song is so forgotten and nobody’s bothered to upload it…! Like you, I had never heard it before writing, and only knew it through the terrible 90s remake.

  3. Pingback: 385. ‘December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’, by The Four Seasons – The UK Number Ones Blog

    1. Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that the song went down well in Barbados. I hadn’t heard of the Merrymen, but I like it. That sounds more like authentic Barbados, as catchy as Typically Tropical may be…

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