We have all, at some time or another, fallen prey to the rock and roll merchandiser. Most times at most gigs we don’t buy the t-shirt, the concert programme, the scarf or the baseball hat. But everyone has at least one band or singer that means so much to them that, just that once, as a memento of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they will splash out over and above the cost of the ticket for something they can take home and keep.
String a whole load of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences together, week after week, month after month, year after year, and you’ve got a merchandising industry. We can certainly talk today of an industry, for a small but very sophisticated one now exists. Go back just a decade or two, however, and the story is very different. Our starting point frequently in this book has been the moment The Beatles signed to EMI, yet in the case of the merchandising business the starting point comes much later. Merchandising is one area where the Fab Four and their otherwise ground-breaking management machine failed.
Anyone who was around during the Beatlemania years will remember the rush to buy anything Beatles—moptop wigs, John Lennon caps and glasses, Beatle dolls—anything to give people the feeling that they had a piece of the Fab Four. There was so much Beatles merchandise around, in fact, that much of it is still available today and is catalogued in a book called Beatles for Sale: The Beatles Memorabilia Guide (published by Virgin). What will surprise many, however, is that John, Paul, George, Ringo, EMI Records and even their manager, the late Brian Epstein,