Timmy Mallett is one of those horribly British professional funsters who seem to find employment as DJs and TV hosts and then worm their way to the heart of the UK’s pop culture. Pop, and life, is for them a kind of cosmic struggle between the serious and the fun, and it’s their duty to take balancing action any time the former seems like winning. So when pop in 1990 showed signs of being vibrant, original, and relevant to its audience it fell to Timmy to enter the studio and produce a record of such thundering witlessness it could ruin a whole year at a stroke.
“Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny” is that single. The second Brian Hyland cover to top the chart in little over a year, its original is a chirpy bit of beach kitsch, annoying, utterly undeserving of revival, but not atrocious. Mallett improves on it in only one way – trading up the schoolmarmish “one two three four” vocals for something more giggly. In every other sense this is a horror show. The pin-up cheekiness of the song is swapped for Mallett’s mocking leer, as he takes an Aslanesque relish in knocking pubescent vanity down a peg. Hyland made the song a silly high school anecdote, but for Mallett that’s too subtle. The Mallettian kind of fun is like an ideological tyrant, one which turns allies into enemies and liquidates them. Joy, summer, music, sex, pop and finally playfulness itself – all remorselessly ground down into abstract unthinking FUN as this ghastly record trots on.
It had one practical effect: it immediately made unusable a whole category of overdone but not hateful samples, staples of chart dance records up to this point. “I LIKE it”, “Woo! Yea!”, “uh YEAH” – all put beyond use by this record. To this day, I flinch when I hear “Uno! Dos! Uno dos tres quatro!”. As it happened, the funster class was about to face a crisis of sorts, but they had a few more chances to horrify us first.