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Pinball Machine

Bootles pinball machine

In the mid-1960s, those four moptop lads from Liverpool seemed to be everywhere, including a pinball machine. We're talking, of course, about The Bootles.

OK, so The Bootles were only on a pinball machine, while the Liverpool lads were everywhere else. John, Paul, Ringo and George—officially known as The Beatles—first arrived on U.S. soil in early 1964 for two concerts and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was love at first sight for tens of millions of Americans who caught their first glimpse of the Fab Four on television.

The rock band returned to the States in August for an extended tour that solidified their popularity. In Kansas City, the owner of the Athletics baseball team promised to bring the group to town at any expense. Charlie Finley put up $150,000, the highest fee for a musical concert up to that time. Although money couldn't buy Finley love, it did get The Beatles to Municipal Stadium on September 17, 1964.

Meanwhile, Beatlemania led to the production of vast quantities of Beatles merchandise, eagerly snatched up by legions of fans (most of them teenage girls). Among the more unusual, and expensive, Beatles products was this pinball machine.

The Williams Electronic Company of Chicago brought this "Beat Time" game to arcades everywhere in 1966. At first glance, the band on the machine's back-glass appears to be The Beatles. Closer examination shows it to actually read, "The Bootles." There are different theories on how this came to pass. At some point, the Williams company did produce machines reading "The Beatles," and the manufacturer did try to get permission to use the band's name, but it's unclear if this occurred before or after "The Bootles" machines were produced. At any rate, rights to the real band's name proved too expensive for Williams, who manufactured 2,800 machines using a knock-off.

These pinball machines accommodated either one or two players. The images on the back-glass depict a band and its fan base of swooning teenage girls. The playing surface pokes fun at other '60s band names, such as The Vultures (that is, The Ventures), The Neatbloods (The Youngbloods), and one that perhaps anticipated the long career of The Rolling Stones—The Groaning Bones.

This "Beat Time" machine was donated to the Kansas Museum of History by Martin Stein, who may or may not have played the game eight days a week.

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Entry: Pinball Machine

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2010

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.