Typically Tropical

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Typically Tropical, the pseudo-Caribbean-flavored duo, was initially born from some half-cocked, half-baked scheme to compose a reggae song by two Morgan Studios employees, Geraint Hughes and Jeff Calvert,…
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Typically Tropical, the pseudo-Caribbean-flavored duo, was initially born from some half-cocked, half-baked scheme to compose a reggae song by two Morgan Studios employees, Geraint Hughes and Jeff Calvert, in 1974, in the wake of Calvert's own return from a Jamaican vacation. According to Hughes, the pair penned "Barbados" in just two hours, sitting down with just a piano and guitar. The two then took their song, later revered or reviled depending upon who was commenting, into Morgan and, under the cover of darkness, cut a demo using whatever they could get their hands on for backing tracks and instruments.

As luck would have it, Hughes and Calvert signed to Gull Records within the year, scoring themselves a three-single deal. Taking "Barbados" into the studio for proper recording, and now using the group name Typically Tropical, the pair utilized the talents of some of Morgan's finest studio musicians, including guitarist Chris Spedding, the Tornados' drummer Clem Cattini, Blue Mink's Max West and Roger Coulam on keyboards, and guitarist Vic Flick among them. Hughes himself morphed into his alter egos, producer Max West and Tobias Wilcock, who provided vocals alongside Calvert. Interestingly, Wilcock was also the hero of "Barbados," as the captain of the song's ubiquitous Coconut Airways.

Released in May 1975, "Barbados," backed with "Sandy," would spend nearly three months on the U.K. charts and score the band a completely unexpected number one. But really, how could something so catchy not infiltrate the mainstream psyche? Indeed, the single would go on to sell nearly 500,000 copies in the U.K. alone.

On the strength of the single, Typically Tropical regrouped and recorded one LP, Barbados Sky, released on Gull later in 1975. With the project already far past Hughes and Calvert's expectations, two further singles, "Rocket Now" and "Everybody Play the Fool," were pulled off the album in October 1975 and the following May, respectively. Neither one managed to chart and Typically Tropical fell by the wayside not long after. However, "Barbados" itself made a stunning return in fall 1999, when it reappeared as the Vengaboys' "We're Going to Ibiza." The song entered the charts at the top some 25 years after the original brought the scent of coconut and a heaping pinch of good humor to grizzly, drizzly England.

Hughes and Calvert, meanwhile, would continue working together, penning such truly memorable songs as Sarah Brightman's "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper" in 1978. They also produced Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny LP.