The 60’s Blog
The British Invasion is a term which describes the sudden success of British bands in America in the mid 60’s. It is also known as “Beatlemania”, because The Beatles started the “invasion” in America and they are considered to be the most popular band at the time.
Important bands of the time were The Beatles, The Animals, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones.
Important albums of the time were The Beatles “The Beatles' Second Album” (1964), “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967, which was very successful; it was the basis of what would eventually become Progressive Rock) as well as “Abbey Road” (1969). Also The Animals “The Animals” (1964), “The Best of The Animals” (1966) and The Rolling Stones “Out of Our Heads” (1965) were very important. Gerry and The pacemakers “How Do You Like It?” (1963) was a successful British record.
Important singles were “House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals, 1964), “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones, 1965) and “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” (Manfred Mann, 1964). Also The Who’s “My Generation” (1965) and The Kinks “Lola” (1970) were very successful songs.
The London scene, where The Rolling Stones and The Who were from, was more R&B orientated than the Liverpool scene. The whole social content was different. People from London tend to be bohemian, whilst people from Liverpool, working class people, were not. These bands had a more distorted guitar sound combined with a more raw overall sound than Liverpool bands. The Rolling Stones are a very good example of this sound.
The Liverpool scene on the other side originated the “(Mersey-)Beat” scene. The music was more Pop orientated than the London scene. The songs sounded slicker, harmonies were common in use as well as catchy hooks and the emphasis of the 2nd and 4th of a 4/4 rhythm was common. These bands tend to have a cleaner sound than their London counterpart. Precursors of this scene are The Beatles.
Typical instruments were guitars, drum, bass and vocals. The Drum was used to keep the rhythm, guitars were either strummed or picked and bass was normally used to fill the deeper frequencies. The keyboard or Hammond organ played an important role in some bands. The use of exotic instruments like the Sitar was not uncommon at the end of the decade, with the rise of psychedelic and progressive music. At the end of the decade The Beatles were one of the first who used the Studio as a creative tool. They used techniques like reverse playing to alter their sound like on “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
The fashion was not extraordinary like in the following decades. The normal appearance was either a black or grey suit or Jeans and shirt. Also shorter hair was very common. The British groups who were more Pop orientated, like The Beatles and Manfred Mann, wore suits and bands like The Who or the Rolling Stones wore Shirt and Jeans.
The lyrics had a wide range. Popular lyrics were mostly about love and relationships like “I want to hold your hand” by The Beatles. Also typical all day lyrics were common. The other end of lyrics were critical songs like “House of the rising sun” by The Animals or songs like The Rolling Stones “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” and “My Generation” by The Who.
The British invasion had a big impact on the society. Skiffle, American Rock and Roll and R&B were popular before the emerging of British Pop and Rock music. Skiffle, an American folk style mostly popular in the 1920’s was a mixture of Jazz, Blues, Folk and Country. Skiffe music normally disclaims a drummer. It was booming in the 50’s in Britain with its most popular musician Lonnie Donega, but lost popularity, so did American Rock and Roll.
In the early 60’s Liverpool teenagers were still playing this music, but made changes to the line up. They used electric guitars and added a drum kit. This eventually led to the phenomenon known as “Merseybeat” (about 1962). The Beatles were very popular representatives of this music. They also were very successful in the early 60’s in Britain. Bands like Gerry & the Pacemakers, Brian Poole & the Tremeloes and the Hollies started to copy The Beatles.
The Beatles started to have a very successful career and when they left the U.K. 1964 to tour America thousands of people waved goodbye and thousands of people welcomed them. Also 2.6 Million copies of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had already been sold when they arrived in America.
Another very important factor for the success of British bands in America is the Ed Sullivan Show. This is because the Ed Sullivan Show was hosted every Sunday evening and was a family event. The show had all kinds of entertainers and it was very important for Elvis Presley and black artists (especially Motown) and The Beatles. The Beatles had a contract where they would open and end the Ed Sullivan Show for three weeks. The first show and first appearance of The Beatles was on the 9th of February, with approximately 74 million viewers (nearly 40% of the American population). After this a boom started and British bands “conquered” America.
The British Invasion had a lot of side effects. British artist had the chance to promote, sell and tour in America. Also high record sales and sold out concerts were typical and newspapers and television started to report about British bands. The invasion had another side: with all the success came the hype. When fans were watching a concert they were out of control. Especially young female teenagers, who were crying and in hysteria when they saw the bands perform. This hype increases the awareness of security as well. Bands had to be protected on stage and while they were travelling.
By 1967 a change happened. At this time a global unique Rock and Roll style had developed so that the British Invasion started to decline. Also The Beatles stopped touring because of several reasons. At this time something new was invented: The Monkees. They were a band who tried to be like the Beatles but they were casted and thought to be part of a television show. They eventually started touring and went on to be successful, separated from the television show.
The bands of the British Invasion had different influences, depending on the location where the band came from. The most popular influences on this genre are Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Folk, Country and Rock and Roll.
Rhythm and Blues musicians like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters influenced London musicians. The influence can be seen in bands like The Rolling Stone, The Yardbirds and The Who. For example the mixed rhythm and lead playing of Keith Richards can be traced back to the style of Muddy Waters; the influence can be seen in “I can get no Satisfaction”. Also Eric Clapton (Yardbirds) went on to be a very influential blues musician.
Also the “do it yourself” attitude of Skiffle music had a big influence, especially on the Liverpool area. Bands experienced that they could start to do music with basic skills and on their own with acoustic instruments. This was very important, because the DIY attitude would later be part of the Punk movement.
Chuck Berry for example was a big influence on the Beatles. This is shown in live performances of songs of him and recordings of songs like “Roll over Beethoven”. Chuck Berry and other Rock and Roll musicians influenced this genre insofar that the musicians used the backbeat and the Rock and Roll sound. Also the clean guitar sound of Rock and Roll music was adopted by the Merseybeat bands.
Also a similarity to Motown music can be seen. The use of similar harmonies was common in the Motown genre, which The Beatles later adopted (See “Help” by The Beatles).
The musicians of the British Invasion went on to influence generations. Especially the most popular bands and musicians like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were very influential.
The Britpop genre is known to be influenced by this genre. This can be seen in the use of clean to just slightly distorted guitars, the use of harmonies and the lyrical content. This is influence is seen in bands like Oasis and Blur. Oasis use also a lot of references to Beatles songs which is seen in songs like “Supersonic” and “Be here now”.
Also the use of the studio as a creative tool is very common today. Electronic music (in home studios and digital based studios) is influenced on the fact that music, recorded or digital generated, can be creatively altered using a studio and its devices.
The Beatles had a massive influence on following musicians of every genre. Beatles songs were often successfully covered like Soundgarden did with “Come together” and Joe Cocker did with “With a little help of my friends”.
“I want to hold your Hand” – The Beatles
“(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones
“House of the rising sun” – The Animals
“My Generation” – The Who
“The History of British Rock”
All Videos are taken from www.youtube.com
The pictures are taken from:
4: http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/im-waiting-for-hurricanes-should-i-google-gustav/ (The Beatles)