Following are excerpts from “Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture” by Mark Voger ($43.95, TwoMorrows Publishing, ships Oct. 5).
A bath with Paul & Ringo
When Ben Cooper — purveyors of chintzy (but enchanting) Halloween costumes — did the Beatles, they did ’em right. The boys were represented in good likenesses on BC’s crackly, rigid, nostril-blocking, sweat-trapping masks. The “costumes,” glorified aprons in “rayon taffeta,” had the same striped vest for all four.
But Colgate only rolled the dice on two Beatles in its Soaky line of bubble-bath toys. (Soakys were plastic figures filled with bubble-bath solution; the heads popped off to reveal a twist cap.) The two Beatles depicted by Colgate will hardly be a surprise: the Cute One, and the One With the Big Nose. (Pity those who wanted to take a bath with John or George.)
Another non-surprise: British Invasion-inspired collectibles overwhelmingly favored the Fab Four. But not all.
Oh, you beautiful doll
Remco’s darling, wiry-haired Beatle dolls from 1964 were hot sellers, but their likenesses ran hot and cold. John and Ringo were spot-on, but George had Prince Charles teeth, and Paul resembled a Zanti Misfit. Remco also put out Dave Clark Five figures. Meanwhile, Hasbro released a Peter Noone doll, and Play Pal released Rolling Stones dolls of … um, we can’t say for sure.
The title of Milton Bradley’s “Flip Your Wig Game” focused on Beatle haircuts, but a photo of the boys before they perfected the hairstyle was used as the game’s main image. Like the band itself, MB’s game works best with four players. Participants play as John, Paul, George or Ringo, collecting cards with autographs, instruments and a “hit record” of whichever Beatle you represent. (Stratego, this ain’t.)
March of merch
Brian Epstein was said to have been, shall we say, overly liberal in approving licensing deals on behalf of his young charges. In America, where the dollar is king, manufacturers seemed willing to plaster the Beatles’ names and faces on just about anything. There were Aladdin’s Beatles lunchboxes (above) with artwork by the great Elmer Lehnhardt (1914-1985); “authentic” Beatle wigs from Lowell; Bronson’s Beatles shampoo (“for all the family”) and Beatles hair spray (“brushes out instantly”); Beatles combs (“for big heads”); and Merit’s Beatles magnetic toys. See also nylon stockings, lariat ties, tie pins, jigsaw puzzles, scotch tape, pens, and — note careful spelling — “Beetle” boots.
For their Beatle model kits, Revell featured nicely done box art signed by Putt (1964). Hawk Model Co., home of the Weird-Oh models, put out Brit-inspired kits with its “Frantics” line. The delightfully goofy box art for “Steel Pluckers” and “Totally Fab” was by Weird-Oh creator Bill Campbell (1965).