It’s 1964, and Rudi Gernreich has just unveiled the monokini, a somewhat awkward topless swimsuit that was a predictable sensation. Gernreich was a gay Austrian designer who was opposed to the sexualisation of the body and he wanted to normalise nudity – what better way, then, than to allow women to sunbathe with their breasts exposed? Naturally, the monokini was a controversial invention – the first American model to be photographed wearing one, Peggy Moffat, received death threats and the costume was condemned by religious figures and moralists. Nevertheless, some 3000 were sold in New York alone in 1964, and at least a few of these must have been worn outside the house. More than that though, it was a sensational idea that caught the imagination of both liberated women and horny men, and was a major news story across the world. Stories of topless sunbathers in St Tropez seemed like the vanguard of a new movement – as, indeed, they were – by the 1970s, topless sunbathing (albeit usually by simply wearing the lower half of a two piece bikini rather than the monokini, thus allowing cover-ups if required) was the norm on the continent.
If your average mid-Sixties red-blooded male was asked who should be the should be the ideal wearer of the monokini, he might well have said Mamie Van Doren, the rock ‘n’ roll platinum blonde bad girl version of Marilyn and Jayne, or June Wilkinson, the British born glamour model who had worked with the likes of Russ Meyer. Both Van Doren and Wilkinson, had reached the height of their fame in the second half of the 1950s, but aged 33 and 24 respectively, they were hardly over the hill, and both were legendary sex symbols not adverse to taking their clothes off. So they seemed the ideal pairing for a novelty single exploiting the new topless craze.
Bikini with No Top on the Top was released by Jubilee Records in the USA and tells the unlikely story of Mamie and June heading down to the beach together where they go unnoticed until they whip off their robes and reveal themselves to be – shock, horror! – topless. Fame and fortune quickly follows.
With a thumping beat provided by Billy Strange and the Senators, this is a magnificent novelty record – exactly the sort of beat girl groove that you would expect Mamie to come out with. It wasn’t a hit of course, but copies today will set you back more than an original monokini would.