Thursday, October 6, 2022

Review: 'Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture'

That The Beatles changed the world is as widely known as the fact that there's this fiery thingy in the sky called "the sun." The most obvious offshoot of the international success of four British lads was all the English groups that went global in their wake: not just critical dah-lings like the Stones, Who, Kinks, and Animals, but also cuddlier fave raves like Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon, and Petula Clark. But the influence went deeper, farther, and weirder than that, as shaggy, buck-toothed, often incongruously posh British characters began invading American sitcoms, comics, dopey beach movies, cartoons, bath products, and pretty much everything else an ad-man could imagine. The British Invasion was a siege fought and won in the record shops, but its aftershocks rattled everything everywhere. 

And thank Ringo for that, because the British Invasion was clearly a whole lot of fun. Mark Voger's new book Britmania: The British Invasion of the Sixties in Pop Culture makes that abundantly clear. While some older generation sticks-in-the-mud may have grumbled about all those unkempt youths yawping "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" over their Rickenbackers (I'll tell you where you can stuff your earmuffs, James Bond!), but anyone with a fresh and welcoming spirit allowed themselves to scream like a ninny in their Beatle wigs. Even The Thing put one on and grunted the praises of the Liverpool lads on the pages of The Fantastic Four!

That's the spirit Voger captures as he not only relays the history of the Fabs and their brethren for the billionth time but also shares memories of movies, series, publications, and products that helped define the British Invasion, from The Beatles to The Avengers to Hammer Horror. And while we probably don't need another history of how John, Paul, George, and Ringo came together and altered society, Voger at least comes at his one from a fresh angle, using the recollections of players like early manager Alan Williams, early drummer Pete Best, early collaborator Tony Sheridan, and Ringo himself from the author's very own archive of personally conducted interviews to enliven the story.

Indeed, Voger's interviews are what make his version of an oft-told tale unique and worth another read. He pulls chunks from his chats with the likes of Ray and Dave Davies, Bill Wyman, Pet Clarke, Peter Noone, John Entwistle, Roger Daltrey, Eric Burdon, Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor, and many others throughout Britmania. His personal memories about his own youthful fandom that frame the book are what make it relatable and endearing.

Of course, this is a Mark Voger book, and anyone who has read his previous titles Monster Mash, Groovy, and Holly Jolly knows that style is as important to him as substance, and Britmania over delivers on that account. Its full of fab full color images of comics pages, artist portraits, album covers, adverts, and all the board games, candies, buttons, lunchboxes, jigsaw puzzles, Halloween costumes, and toys (not just those famously collectible dolls of The Beatles, but also much rarer ones of Peter Noone and Dave Clark!) intended to cash-in on what was supposed to be a fleeting fad and not a major cultural shift we'd still be gabbing about six decades later. Gear!

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.