One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore!

We are coming to the end of summer here on WMMCM (though for the rest of y’all, summer hasn’t even started yet, but that’s how we roll [as the kids probably no longer say]). And today we bring you this this little novelty song (video shrunk because of potentially NSFW images, if bikinis are not S at your W).

Teen idol Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” tells the tale of a girl who heads to the beach and changes into her daring swimsuit — pretty much any bikini was daring in 1960, much less an itsy bitsy one — then loses her nerve. First she cowers in the changing room, then she makes it onto the beach wrapped in a blanket, and finally she makes a dash into the water. But all is not well:

Now she’s afraid to come out of the water
And I wonder what she’s gonna do
She’s afraid to come out of the water
And the poor little girl’s turning blue

The song features a helpful chick who encourages Brian at the end of each verse with, “One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore” (like you could stop him). She also twice chimes in with “Stick around, we’ll tell you more,” but alas, she lies: After the backup singers provide a brief recap for those who’ve lost track of developments (“From the locker to the blanket/From the blanket to the shore/From the shore to the water”), Brian announces, “Guess there isn’t any more.”

And indeed, shivering in the water is where we and Brian leave Bikini Girl, apparently to perish of hypothermia unless helped out of her misery by some kind soul with a bathrobe (or a shark). It’s anti-climactic, decidedly.

Despite that, and the teenybopper Greek chorus, and a lead vocal that is kind of smarmy for a 16-year-old, “Itsy Bitsy Etc.” hit number one in August of 1960. Novelty records don’t often lead to careers, but Hyland ultimately did OK, having almost as big a hit with the considerably more resilient “Sealed With a Kiss” in 1962. British Invasion notwithstanding, he popped up on the charts from time to time throughout the ’60s.

It’s a heck of an earworm, isn’t it? I bet your mental record player started spinning this as soon as you saw the headline. But at least it’s a cheerful earworm (aside from the hypothermia thing) — could be worse on a Thursday morning, heading into summer for real.

About Bridey

Bridey has been a music nut since falling in love with Elton John's "Caribou" album in grade school (why that one? I was nine). She's a magazine editor by trade who writes regularly about radio, music, and related industries.
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One Response to One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore!

  1. Michele says:

    Very summery, memorable, and I love the cowbells playing in and out for emphasis. In the shark vs. hypothermia debate, if it’s California hypothermia wins hands down. Now I have to figure out how to get this song out of my head…♫

    Thanks for this one Bridey