A Barbie Girl in a Barbie World – easy-listening dreams for the young girls of the 1960s.
It’s 1961 and young girls everywhere are beside themselves with excitement as Barbie – the aspirational doll that represented unattainable beauty, consumerism and everything else viewed with loathing and suspicion sixty years later – has released a record. And not just any record. Barbie Sings! was a three-disc collection of seven-inch vinyl records, featuring six easy-listening songs from Barbie and Ken.
At a time when rock ‘n’ roll had been thoroughly neutered, the Beatles were still a year away from breaking big and the American Dream of the 1950s was still in full flow, Barbie represented the Good Life – the latest fashions, the best in living and an equally plastic boyfriend to share it all with. Who wouldn’t want to buy into that? Barbie Sings! explores this world of innocent adolescent fantasy with songs like My First Date, Instant Love and Nobody Taught Me, in which Barbie talks to the young listener about dreaming about first dates, first formals, pretty clothes and all the other things that most of them could only dream of at that point. It’s spectacularly twee and saccharine, but not without a certain charm.
Barbie is played by Charlotte Austin, daughter of singer Gene Austin and sounding exactly like the sort of older sister that young girls dreamed of. Ken is played by Bill Cunningham, who the record sleeve helpfully tells the listener is “5′ 11′, goes for surfing, tennis and Italian food. He really is a doll”. Yes, they knew just who would be buying this and what they dreamt about.
The music is by Eliot Daniel and Ken Darby. Daniel wrote the score for I Love Lucy and the pair come up with a suitably lush score for these songs, which are produced to a better standard than you might expect from a novelty record aimed at little girls. The record was released by Mattel and sold in toy shops rather than record stores, with the three discs packaged in a booklet, each disc in its own sleeve.
There have been other Barbie records over the years – an almost endless number, in fact – but this is the only one that has any lasting value. Enjoy!
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Some days I despair at my inability to resist the siren call of kitschy trash.
I didn’t have to press play….but now “I’ve Got a Yen for Ken” is in my head for the rest of the day, and who knows how long after that. Maybe it will never leave.
You’re a very bad man Mr. Flint.
Yes, I’ve been told this more than once. Sorry.
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