649. ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, by Bombalurina

As with our last chart-topper, ‘Turtle Power’, I am fully convinced that I will hate this next #1 single…

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, by Bombalurina (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 19th August – 9th September 1990

But wait. As with the Turtles, I might have misjudged… This starts off like a proper, early-nineties dance track. There’s a looped female vocal – Go on girl-go-go-go on girl – and a fairly shameless cribbing of ‘Theme From S-Express’ in the Spanish countdown. This is not the song I vaguely remember from school discos of yore…

Oh wait. No. It is. In comes Timmy Mallett, with a cover of Brian Hyland’s #8 hit from 1960, all about a racy swimwear item, and suddenly it is novelty trash of the calibre of ‘Agadoo’ and ‘The Chicken Song’. As with the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Mallett was another part of my childhood, although less so, because he was on ITV and my mum kept things strictly BBC whenever she could. (Years later, a former backing singer claimed that the vocals on the record were in fact his, and that Mallett couldn’t hit a single good note…)

Except, even at its cheesiest, it still sounds like someone with a working knowledge of dance music was present in the studio as this was being recorded. It never tips over into truly unlistenable territory, with lots of knowing touches and pastiches. (Imagine my surprise to find that one of said people in the studio was Andrew Lloyd-Webber (!), who produced the record in a bet with his wife. Bombalurina is a character from ‘Cats’…) The video too does a decent, if knowing, impression of a real dance track, with buff dancers cutting shapes on a fake beach. It’s nowhere near as creepy as a video featuring Timmy Mallett and a woman in a bikini could have been…

This is the second cover of a Brian Hyland original to make #1 in just over a year. He’s a fairly unlikely figure to have had a rediscovery, but there you go. And I’m not going to go as far as to claim that this is better than Jason Donovan’s ‘Sealed With a Kiss’, but I have enjoyed it more. Which is ultimately all that matters, I suppose.

This record is more than just a summer novelty, for me at least, as I believe it to have been at number one when I started school. I can’t be sure, and it would be much more fitting for it to have been ‘Turtle Power’, but dates-wise I assume it’s this. The big question is, though: do I hate it as much as I was expecting to…? Well, the last few paragraphs have probably given it away, but no. I don’t. It’s cheese, to be filed alongside the likes of ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’, and Renee and Renato’s ‘Save Your Love’. Pure drivel; but far too silly, and catchy, and most importantly tongue-in-cheek, to deny.


10 thoughts on “649. ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, by Bombalurina

  1. You warned me I probably wouldn’t like it…and you were right. Why cover a novelty song? Well what am I saying…it was number one so they knew what they were doing.
    When you first mentioned it…it was around the time they were reworking the original songs…so I thought it would be the original…but this is basically a cover.

  2. It kept Tom’s Diner by DNA & Suzanne Vega from number one, a less famous member of the Jo Dolce and Robson and Jerome ‘how did this happen’ club

    • Good point! I try not to look at the rest of the chart for each entry as knowing what the number two was could well taint the number one for me… In my post on Shaddup You Face, I did find it funny that such crap kept a fairly pretentious, overblown song like Vienna off the top. But Tom’s Diner is a cool tune.

      • We’ll have to respectfully disagree on that one. It’s generational (again). I was in my early teens in 1981, too young to have ‘got’ punk so the New Romantic scene was my formative years introduction to music driven youth culture and Vienna was one of it’s seminal tracks. It’s like a Gen Zer who was born in 2001 saying Wonderwall or Common People ‘deserved it’ to a millennial. Be a boring world if we all had the same opinions though

      • True true. I’m quite happy that Wonderwall never made it to #1, partly because better Oasis songs did. Common People though… that’s the real travesty!

      • 100% agree. You’ll have the Steve Miller, Dee Lite debacle coming up soon. These things just keep happening. Maybe I should start a blog on the most ‘robbed’ number 2 hits

  3. Timmy Mallet and his OTT chirpiness grated and this took a treasured early childhood charming novelty and ruined it. Utter cheese and Andrew inflicted it on US to fulfil a bet he could get a number one record. Pah! Still hate it 😂

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