2007   MARCH 27   #086

The Swingers - Bay-Hay Bee Doll

A The Swingers - Bay-Hay Bee Doll (3:11)
B The Swingers - Bay-Hay Bee Doll (instrumental) (3:16)

Who do they call the Discotheque Queen?

Who moves around like a threshing machine?

Why, none other than the swingin’ Carnaby Street-wannabe who—despite what they call her—is apparently saddled with “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” for a name. That’s who.

And if you’ve never heard of her, it’s because you’ve managed to avoid this insidious earwig . . . until now. This 45 is precisely the kind of song the term “earwig” was coined for—once it burrows into your skull, nothing short of a few hours in the deprivation chamber will scour it from your mind.

“Bay-Hay Bee Doll” was a two-sided (JCP 100, vocal on the A side, instrumental on the flip) promotional 45, issued by JC Penney in 1966. That’s right, a year before The Monkees appeared decked out in Penney’s apparel on the cover of their second album, The Swingers were hawking another Penney’s product.

My recollection was that the 45 was simply a freebie handed out in stores, to illustrate how swingin’ and mod the Penney’s shopping experience (and youth fashions) could be, and not linked to a specific product. I have since read, though, that it was packaged with a Carnaby Street-wannabe doll for which the 45 is titled. And that certainly makes the most sense.

The whole notion of Penneys giving away anything, especially a “youth-oriented” record is pretty far-fetched. I mean, c’mon, look at the kids’ clothes from that era (look at that Monkees album cover, or take a flip through our family photo album, for some particularly hideous examples) to get a feel for the contempt the retail giant must’ve had for young people of the day. This record represents that contempt, made audible.

The label itself does confirm that the record was free; there is no way the phrase “COMPLIMENTARY RECORD” there could be construed to mean it makes anyone look or sound good. To Warren Parker, who is credited with the “words and music,” the most complimentary thing I can say about this record is that I’ve owned it since it was new. My older sister disliked it so thoroughly, she forced it on me as a punishment.

It’s bouncy in the wooziest way, leaving you feeling sort of like you’ve been trying to maintain your balance on a shifting, heaving ship’s deck after too much grog. The lyrics bring together the anachronistic, ill-matched “threshing machine” and “discotheque queen,” delivered in an adenoidal falsetto that makes the lead vocal on the Castaways’ “Liar Liar” sound relaxed by comparison. When he’s not putting the “false” in falsetto, the lead singer could pass for one of those Bronx-y, lecherous, normal-speed Chipmunks’ voices.

Flip it over for the instrumental rendition — “Yakety-Yak” sax; Harmonicats-reject harp-tootling; bleating TV variety show horn charts; perky, dippy chimes — this one’s got it all! Perfect for karaoke, lease-breaking parties, or torture sessions!

An online search recently turned up a few copies for sale, with asking prices ranging from a buck and a-half to around $40. Hear it here for free, and save your money. For some time in the deprivation chamber.

- Contributed by: James A. Gardner

Images: Cover, Record

Media: 7" Single
Label: JC Penney promo 45
Catalog: JCP 100
Date: 1966