Jan 11

BOMBALURINA – “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

Popular123 comments • 11,818 views

#649, 25th August 1990

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.



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  1. 91
    wichita lineman on 14 Jan 2011 #

    Yesterday, Giles Brandreth interviewed Larence (Felt/Denim/Go Kart Mozart) for the One Show. Today, he’s on Desert Island Discs. And now a mention on Popular? Cosmic, in a bad way.

    NOW! watch: Mallett was sandwiched between Felly and Boo, Disc 2 running like this:

    Pet Shop Boys : “So Hard”
    Bass-O-Matic : “Fascinating Rhythm”
    Soul II Soul feat. Kym Mazelle : “Missing You”
    DNA feat. Suzanne Vega : “Tom’s Diner”
    Sting : “Englishman in New York”
    The Cure : “Close to Me”
    Neneh Cherry : “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
    Blue Pearl : “Little Brother”
    Kylie Minogue : “Step Back in Time”
    Kim Appleby : “Don’t Worry”
    Technotronic : “Megamix”
    Bombalurina : “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”
    Betty Boo : “Where Are You Baby?”
    The Adventures Of Stevie V : “Dirty Cash (Money Talks)”
    MC Hammer : “Have You Seen Her?”
    Jimmy Somerville : “To Love Somebody”

  2. 92
    pink champale on 14 Jan 2011 #

    wait a minute, lawrence from felt was on the one show? Being interview by giles brandreth? is there an explanation for this seemingly unlikely turn of events? next week, richard stilgoe grills miki berenyi.

  3. 93
    lockedintheattic on 14 Jan 2011 #

    That now a pretty interesting mix of the amazing and the absolutely dire and not much in between. I note that remarkably three people voted for this one in the relevant poptimists now poll, making it officially better than Tina Turner

  4. 94
    Russ L on 14 Jan 2011 #

    #92 – Don’t be puzzled by it, I’ve found that you just need to wait twenty years and it’ll turn out to never have happened in the first place.

    He’s a tricksy one, that Brandreth.

  5. 95
    wichita lineman on 14 Jan 2011 #

    It was NOW! 18 btw

    Lawrence/Brandreth face-off hasn’t run yet

  6. 96
    Andrew F on 14 Jan 2011 #

    86 – It is from a Lyn Collins record (It Takes Two, indeed), but I was have always (IE since learning it last year) heard that it’s actually JB’s voice being looped in that sample.

    Ah well, one more horrifying ‘fact’ dies quickly – I can’t begrudge Pump Up The Volume for this, or indeed anything.

  7. 97
    fivelongdays on 15 Jan 2011 #

    @35 – I have a feeling it’s a track which, while being only released a couple of years after this, didn’t top the charts until fairly recently.

    *hides from bunny*

    Suffice to say, I’ll be arguing against his stance on that one.

  8. 98
    Tom on 15 Jan 2011 #

    #97 No no don’t worry! I don’t especially like that track but forced exposure to it made me realise I didn’t hate it any more either. You’ll still find plenty to argue with, I’m sure.

    The track I am thinking of is never likely to be re-released.

  9. 99
    Mark M on 15 Jan 2011 #

    Re 19: Having finally watched the video again, I reckon that although notionally the girls have matching haircuts, it’s working on one of them – the one who looks like Emily Lloyd – whereas the other one’s hair is horribly over-bleached, over-permed and slightly too long. Can’t figure out which is Mrs Barlow, though.

  10. 100
    Erithian on 15 Jan 2011 #

    #91 – sandwiched between Felly and Betty Boo? – there are worse things that could happen.

    And fancy this thread hitting a century!

  11. 101
    Russ L on 15 Jan 2011 #

    AHA~! I’m not under the illusion that anyone will care about this, but I’m so overcome with feelings of triumph that I feel the need to comment anyway.

    The Brandreth-not-being-on-WAC was niggling away at me (if you think that’s sad then try living with it, as a wise man once said) and so I dug out the two spin-off paperbacks I’ve owned since being a young’in – “WAC snacks” and “WAC jokes”. Lord help me if “WAC Jokes” doesn’t have an alarmingly young Brandreth on the cover (alongside Tommy Boyd and two people I don’t remember named Arabella Warner and James Baker). He wields two feather dusters, and wears a hat with two plastic yellow flowers sticking out of the top. He smiles the smile of a “Deliverance” hillbilly, and the contrast between that and the panic-filled grins on the faces of the other three gives me some idea of what was really going on.

    No picture, but still: http://www.shelfari.com/search/books?Keywords=0-552-54279-2

    I feel like I’ve… I don’t know, maybe I’ve won. Have at you, Wikipedia.

  12. 102
    Ian on 15 Jan 2011 #

    If I’m right regarding the track I think Tom’s talking about, it’s a novelty song that’s coming up fairly soon, one that I actually quite like but I’ve gathered the impression is highly unpopular among this crowd…

    ETA: Just to narrow that down a bit, the song I’m thinking of was only number one for 1 week.

  13. 103
    LondonLee on 16 Jan 2011 #

    #86: To be more specific the Lynn Collins record is called “Think”.

    #91: MC Hammer : “Have You Seen Her?”

    No, surely not that “Have You Seen Her?” Say it ain’t so.

  14. 104
    abaffledrepublic on 16 Jan 2011 #

    wichita lineman at#44: another summer 1990 non-hit that should have been, was Daydreaming by Massive Attack.

  15. 105
    swanstep on 17 Jan 2011 #

    @abaffledrepublic. daydreaming – wow, good one, but it was released at the end of the year so not on for the summer as such.

    In part as a result of popular’s recent 1990 focus I’ve been on a My Bloody Valentine bender, tracking down all the EPs I never got around to hearing, etc.. Pretty damned good aren’t they? Questions for MBV mavens: 1. Did they ever play ‘Drive it all over me’ live back in the day? I’m guessing that they did and that MBV just don’t play it at all these days because in their maturity, as it were, they think it’s too much of a poppy/derivative outlier in their catalogue. But does anyone know if there’s an actual official story about this? (and, at any rate, what a song to never come back to! Some people almost have too much talent.)
    2. That *is* Bilinda on the cover of the You made me realise EP, right? I’m pretty sure it is but I’ve never seen it confirmed. Does anyone know whether that shot apes any specific film image? I saw Chabrol’s (excellent) Les Bonnes Femmes (1960) for the first time last year and some of its imagery reminded me of the YMMR cover (and I’ve put the two things together in this vid if anyone’s interested). Anyone know whether MBV ever expressed any especial fondness for Chabrol or for the nouvelle vague more generally?

  16. 106
    enitharmon on 17 Jan 2011 #

    Billy Smart @ 55

    St Winifred’s School Choir were at least a group of ordinary schoolchildren, and the exposure must have been an enjoyable and memorable experience for them.

    Although I know of at least one of them who won’t entertain a mention of it on pain of disembowelment and defenestration.

    Has anybody mentioned the fact that Bombalurina is the second nunber one act (after Mungo Jerry) to derive its name from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats? That’s the only interesting thing I have to say about this record

  17. 107
    Mark G on 18 Jan 2011 #

    And possibly the only one not mentioned in ALW’s “Cats” musical.

    (I think)

  18. 108
    Mutley on 18 Jan 2011 #

    #106 and 107: Perhaps no other number ones, but T.S. Eliot gets his name into Dylan’s Desolation Row, Grinderman’s No Pussy Blues, Van Morrison’s Summertime in England, and no doubt quite a few others.

  19. 109
    richard thompson on 2 Feb 2011 #

    This seems to go with Butlins in Minehead as I worked there that summer only I was 20 something and it even sounded good at the time, didn’t realise it was Timmy Mallet until I saw TOTP on August 23 that year, it hasn’t stood the test of time.

  20. 110
    DanielW on 3 Feb 2011 #

    #21 – If you thought the Bacharach and David EP was bad, you should see the blurb from their label’s record exec on the back cover – It’s vomit-inducing kiss-arsery of the highest order, so bad it has to be seen to be believed. Still it’s better than Bombalurina though, no matter how po-faced and up it’s own arse it is.

    #91 – Highlights: “Fascinating Rhythm” and the almost completely overlooked “Little Brother”

    Lowlights: “Itsy Bitsy” of course, “Missing You” I didn’t care how cool Soul II Soul were at the time, I found this record dull and tedious, and “Have You Seen Her?” which is almost as bad as Itsy Bitsy

  21. 111
    wichita lineman on 23 Apr 2011 #

    Re the follow up: I know American cars are big, but this was before the days of stretch limos… How little were those seven little girls sitting on the back seat?

  22. 112
    malmo58 on 13 Jan 2012 #

    When I heard this mentioned on the chart rundown, having never heard of either the group or the disc, I thought the group name was ‘Bum Ballerina’ – and wrote it down that way in the notebook that I then recorded the Top 20 in every week.

    Every time I saw Mr Mallett perform this ‘live’ on TV or heard him do it ‘live’ on the Radio 1 Roadshow, it was patently obvious that he was miming to the record. (I soon had to stop criticising him for doing that on the Roadshow when my heroines Voice of the Beehive did exactly the same later that week.)

    I began to believe that maybe someone else was the real vocalist and Timmy just a frontman! In a year I came round to the more charitable theory that Timmy’s singing voice was rectified in the studio.

    Still a uno from me though…

  23. 113
    punctum on 12 Apr 2012 #

    Now here’s a thing. I’ve just finished Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio, James Young’s memoir of his time on the road with Nico in the eighties. Despite occasional purple prose and a suspiciously meticulous memory for dialogue (particularly that of “Dr Demetrius”), t’s a brisk read and should put anybody with a brain off going into the music business for life. The overwhelming feeling, apart from waste, is one of the sheer tedium of being a drug addict; nothing happens, and then nothing happens again. And how it destroys relationships, trust and, ultimately, lives.

    Early on in the book, though, she is due to play a local gig in Manchester and has to go on Piccadilly Radio to promote it. Apart from the incredulity of the spectacle of “Femme Fatale” being played at 8:45 in the morning – this would NOT happen now – the feeling is one of pity as the uncomprehending, eternally cheery DJ attempts to interview a woman who does not want to be asked about Berlin and the Velvet Underground for the millionth time. The spot ends uneasily, but Young describes the DJ as “young, about 25, fair hair, pastel-coloured spectacles.”

    Would this DJ by any chance have been Mr Mallett?

  24. 114
    Erithian on 12 Apr 2012 #

    Mallett born 1955, on Piccadilly until c.1983; Chris Evans born 1966, on Piccadilly c.1984-90. The latter seems slightly more likely although I wasn’t listening to the station then so don’t know when either of them would have had the breakfast show at the time (though judging by Mallett’s Wiki entry he only had an evening show there and got his TV break in the early 80s.)

  25. 115
    punctum on 12 Apr 2012 #

    This was early ’82 so no way could it have been Chris Evans unless he started very young.

  26. 116
    Mark G on 13 Apr 2012 #

    Chris was TMallet’s assistant around then, so it could have been. But TMallet’s the more likely, yes.

    Chris was also Frank Sidebottom’s driver for a while, I have a pic from around that time, and his glasses were black..

  27. 117
    Auntie Beryl on 14 Jan 2013 #

    In 1990, Timmy Mallett got married, and hit Margaret Thatcher on the head with a sponge.

    Only one of these events comes as a surprise.

    Was it mentioned above that TV brainhunk Brian Cox also played a part in the Piccadilly Radio show? Jingle maker apparently. Well, Wiki says so.

  28. 118
    isigfethera on 22 Sep 2014 #

    First comment to say (long after the post I know)- I tried to look this up on YouTube on my iPhone, and this is what I found instead. Left me pretty confused… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_fYWitgvUc

    Also, hi!

  29. 119
    Alan on 24 Sep 2014 #

    ha ha at that youtube :-D @118

  30. 120
    Duro on 3 Aug 2018 #

    Just revisiting this, and found I still don’t like it.

    One memory came to mind though. About 20 years ago Sky Sports interviewed Mallett prior to an Oxford United home game. I assume he’d had time to prepare for his opening gag, which was: “A lot of people don’t know that Dean Windass is secretly Scottish. His real name is Dean Haggis McWindass!”

    I don’t know why my brain retained this quintessential slice of professional funstery, but I felt the need to share it here.

  31. 121
    Mark G on 8 Aug 2018 #

    #68 I wonder if Rolf ‘s “Court of King caractacus” is still a staple of Haven holiday kiddie disco’s.

  32. 122
    Nigel Blenkinsop on 23 Apr 2021 #

    Lightweight, yet frothy summer fun. 5/10.

  33. 123
    Gareth Parker on 10 May 2021 #

    I agree with Will (#76), don’t hate this as much as many others, but still only a 3/10 for me.

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