The song is about a bus driver who escapes Brixton, London for the tropical island of Barbados, where he's going to see his girlfriend. The song has a tropical feel and a reggae vibe, but the Typically Tropical duo of Jeffrey Calvert and Max West are from a very different climate: Wales.
They were engineers at Morgan Studios in London when they wrote this song. Calvert had been on vacation in Jamaica, and they wanted to write a reggae song. They came up with "Barbados" in two hours on a guitar and piano.
Calvert and West didn't have a record deal when they wrote this song, but they were able to record it at Morgan Studios, where they worked, after sessions for clients were over. They used backing tracks and instruments that were lying around the studio, but when Gull Records signed them, they re-recorded the song using top studio musicians, including guitarist Chris Spedding, The Tornados' drummer Clem Cattini, and Blue Mink's Roger Coulam on keyboards.
Jeff Calvert and Max West provided the vocals, with West's alter ego Tobias Wilcock providing the voice of the captain of the song's ubiquitous Coconut Airways.
"Barbados" went to #1 in the UK in August 1975, giving the small Gull Records label a surprise hit and an influx of cash. At the time, Gull had a promising rock band on their label called Jethro Tull, whose first album, released a year earlier, went nowhere. Gull knew they needed a different producer, so they assigned the task to Typically Tropical (Jeffrey Calvert and Max West). The band wasn't thrilled with the decision, but it worked out very well for them: Calvert and West knew their way around a studio and didn't try to alter their sound. Judas Priest had co-producer role, giving them creative control and valuable studio experience that came in handy - they co-produced every subsequent album they recorded as well.
The resulting album was Sad Wings Of Destiny, which fared a lot better than their first and got them moving in the right direction. It also got the attention of a bigger label - Columbia - which signed the band and issued their next album, Sin After Sin.
The girlfriend in this song is Mary Jane, a not-so-subtle reference to marijuana. This was three years before Rick James sparked up his song "Mary Jane
Typically Tropical released more singles, but never issued another album, focusing instead on studio work for other artists.
The planned follow up was a Christmas novelty song, "The Ghost Song," which they had previously recorded for Mickie Most's RAK label, but had been released too late for the Christmas market. However, plans to revitalize "The Ghost Song" came to nothing and Typically Tropical remain one-hit wonders to this day.
In September 1999 the song returned to #1 after the multinational group The Vengaboys re-worked it with new words and title: "We're Going To Ibiza!