The British Invasion was a phenomenon that occurred in the mid-1960s when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom,1 as well as other aspects of British culture, became popular in the United States. Music groups The Beatles, The Kinks,2 The Rolling Stones, and The Who3 were at the forefront of the invasion.4
The rebellious tone and image of US rock and roll and blues musicians became popular with British youth in the late 1950s. While early commercial attempts to replicate American rock and roll mostly failed, the trad jazz–inspired skiffle craze,5 with its 'do it yourself' attitude, was the starting point of several British Billboard singles.67
Young British groups started to combine various British and American styles, coalescing in Liverpool during 1962 in what became known as Merseybeat, hence the "beat boom".891011 That same year featured the first three acts with British roots to reach the Hot 100's summit.12 Also that same year, the James Bond film series began13 (see the Barry Miles reference, below) on the same date that The Beatles released their first record, "Love Me Do".14
Some observers have noted that US teenagers were growing tired of singles-oriented pop acts like Fabian Forte.14 The Mods and Rockers, two youth "gangs" in 1950s England, also had an impact in British Invasion music. Bands that had a Mod aesthetic would end up becoming the most popular, but bands that were able to balance both (e.g., The Beatles) were also successful.15
On October 29, 1963 The Washington Post published the first story in the USA about the frenzy surrounding the rock group The Beatles in England.16 The Beatles November 4 Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen mother sparked music industry and media interest in the group.16 During November a number of major American print outlets and two network television evening programs published and broadcast stories on the phenomenon that became known as Beatlemania.1617
On December 10 CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite looking for something positive to report in the wake of the assassination of US President John Kennedy ran a Beatlemania story that had been shelved the night of the assassination.1618 After seeing the report, 15-year-old Marsha Albert of Silver Spring, Maryland, wrote a letter the following day to disc jockey Carroll James at radio station WWDC asking "why can't we have music like that here in America?"18 On December 17 James had Miss Albert introduce "I Want to Hold Your Hand" live on the air.18 WWDC's phones lit up, and Washington, D.C., area record stores were flooded with requests for a record they did not have in stock.18 James sent the record to other disc jockeys around the country sparking similar reaction.16 On December 26 Capitol Records released the record three weeks ahead of schedule.18 The release of the record during a time when teenagers were on vacation helped spread Beatlemania in the US.18 On December 29 the Baltimore Sun, reflecting the dismissive view of most adults, editorialized "America had better take thought as to how it will deal with the invasion. Indeed a restrained 'Beatles go home' might be just the thing."16 That comment proved prophetic. In the next year alone, The Beatles would have 31 different listings on the Hot 100.
On January 3, 1964 the talk show Tonight Starring Jack Paar ran Beatles concert footage licensed from the BBC "as a joke" that was watched by 30 million viewers. While this appearance has largely been forgotten, Beatles producer George Martin has said it "aroused the kids' curiosity".16 For the January 25, 1964 edition of Cash Box magazine (on sale January 18) "I Want to Hold Your Hand" reached number one on the chart;18 it did the same on Billboard's February 1 chart.19 On February 7, the CBS Evening News ran a story about the Beatles' United States arrival that afternoon in which the correspondent said "The British Invasion this time goes by the code name Beatlemania".20 Two days later (Sunday, February 9) they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Nielsen Ratings estimated that 45 percent of US television viewers that night saw their appearance.11
According to Michael Ross, "it is somewhat ironic that the biggest moment in the history of popular music was first experienced in the US as a television event." The Ed Sullivan Show had for some time been a "comfortable hearth-and-slippers experience." Not many of the 73 million viewers watching in February 1964 would fully understand what impact the band they were watching would have.21 On April 4, the Beatles held the top 5 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and to date no other act has simultaneously held even the top 3.1122 The group's massive chart success, which included at least two of their singles holding the top spot on the Hot 100 during each of the seven consecutive years starting with 1964, continued until they broke up in 1970.11
One week after The Beatles entered the Hot 100 for the first time, Dusty Springfield, having launched a solo career after her participation in The Springfields, became the next British act to reach the Hot 100, with "I Only Want to Be With You", which fell just short of the top 10. She soon followed up with several other hits, becoming what Allmusic described as "the finest white soul singer of her era."23 On the Hot 100, Dusty's solo career lasted almost as long, albeit with little more than one quarter of the hits, as The Beatles' group career before their breakup.
During the next two years or so, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders,24 Herman's Hermits,25 The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five,26 The Troggs, and Donovan, and Lulu in 1967, would have one or more number one singles in the US.8 Other Invasion acts included The Searchers,27 Billy J. Kramer,28 The Bachelors,29 Chad & Jeremy,30 Gerry and the Pacemakers,31 The Honeycombs,32 Them11 (and later its lead singer, Van Morrison), Tom Jones,33 The Yardbirds,34 and numerous others.
On May 8, 1965, the British Commonwealth came closer than it ever had or would to a clean sweep of a weekly Hot 100's Top 10, lacking only a hit at number two instead of "Count Me In" by the US group Gary Lewis & The Playboys.35 That same year, half of the twenty-six Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers (counting The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" carrying over from 1964) belonged to British acts. The British trend would continue into 1966 and beyond.36 British Invasion acts also dominated the music charts at home in the United Kingdom.37
British Invasion artists played in styles now categorized either as blues-based rock music or as guitar-driven rock/pop.37 A second wave of the invasion occurred featuring acts such as The Who, The Zombies,38 and The Hollies, which were influenced by the invasion's pop side and US rock music.37
The musical style of British Invasion artists, such as the Beatles, was influenced by earlier US rock 'n' roll, a genre which had lost some popularity and appeal by the time of the Invasion. Other white British performers, particularly The Rolling Stones and The Animals, appealed more to an 'outsider' demographic, essentially reviving and popularizing, for young people at least, a musical genre rooted in the rhythm and blues culture,39 which had been largely ignored or rejected when performed by black US artists in the 1950s.40 Such acts were perceived by the US public as much more 'edgy' and even dangerous. This image marked them as separate from beat artists such as the Beatles, who had become a more acceptable, parent-friendly pop group. The Rolling Stones would become the biggest band other than The Beatles to come out of the British Invasion,41 topping the Hot 100 eight times.42
"Freakbeat" is a term given to British Invasion acts, particularly British Blues and Garage Rock acts, that remained obscure to US listeners. Though popular charting bands in the UK, the Pretty Things, Soft Machine and Status Quo are all acts that are associated with Freakbeat.43
MSNBC has claimed that British Acts came to the United States to save on taxes and that the American Federation of Musicians became "convinced that British bands were getting a disproportionate share of musician's income".21
The emergence of a relatively homogeneous worldwide "rock" music style about 1967 marked the end of the "invasion".8
Outside of music other aspects of British arts became popular in the US during this period and led US media to proclaim the United Kingdom as the center of music and fashion.
The Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night marked the group's entrance into film.8 Mary Poppins, released on August 27, 1964 and starring English actress Julie Andrews as the titular character, became the most Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated Disney film in history, and My Fair Lady, released on December 25, 1964, starring British actress Audrey Hepburn as Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, won eight Academy Awards.44
Besides the Bond series which commenced with Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962, films with a British sensibility such as the "Angry Young Men" genre, What's New Pussycat? and Alfie styled London Theatre. A new wave of actors such as Peter O'Toole and Michael Caine intrigued the US audiences.14 Four of the decade's Academy Award winners for best picture were British productions, with the epic Lawrence of Arabia, starring O'Toole as British army officer T. E. Lawrence, winning seven Oscars in 1963.45
Fashion and image marked the Beatles out from their earlier US rock and roll counterparts. Their distinctive, uniform style "challenged the clothing style of conventional US males", just as their music challenged the earlier conventions of the rock and roll genre.40 "Mod" fashions, such as the mini skirt from "Swinging London" designers such as Mary Quant and worn by early supermodels Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and other models, were popular worldwide.46474849495051
Even while longstanding styles remained popular, US teens and young adults started to dress "hipper". The evolution of the styles of the British Invasion bands also showed in US culture, as some bands went from more clean cut to being more hippie.21
The British Invasion had a profound impact on the shape of popular music. It helped internationalize the production of rock and roll, establishing the British popular music industry as a viable centre of musical creativity,52 and opening the door for subsequent British performers to achieve international success.37 In America the Invasion arguably spelled the end of instrumental surf music,53 pre-Motown vocal girl groups, the folk revival (which adapted by evolving into folk rock), and (for a time) the teen idols that had dominated the American charts in the late 1950s and 60s.54 Television shows that featured uniquely American styles of music, such as Sing Along with Mitch and Hootenanny, were quickly canceled and replaced with shows such as Shindig! and Hullabaloo that were better positioned to play the new British hits, and segments of the new shows were taped in England.5556
It dented the careers of established R&B acts like Chubby Checker and temporarily derailed the chart success of certain surviving rock and roll acts, including Fats Domino and Elvis Presley.57 It prompted many existing garage rock bands to adopt a sound with a British Invasion inflection and inspired many other groups to form, creating a scene from which many major American acts of the next decade would emerge.58 The British Invasion also played a major part in the rise of a distinct genre of rock music and cemented the primacy of the rock group, based around guitars and drums and producing their own material as singer-songwriters.59
Though many of the acts associated with the invasion did not survive its end, many others would become icons of rock music.37 The claim that British beat bands were not radically different from US groups like The Beach Boys and damaged the careers of African-American and female artists60 has been the subject of controversy about the Invasion, even though the Motown sound actually increased in popularity during that time.
Other US groups also demonstrated a similar sound to the British Invasion artists and in turn highlighted how the British 'sound' was not in itself a wholly new or original one.61 Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, for example, acknowledged the debt that American artists owed to British musicians, such as the Searchers, but that "they were using folk music licks that I was using anyway. So it's not that big a rip-off."62 The US Sunshine pop group The Buckinghams and the Beatles influenced US Tex-Mex act the Sir Douglas Quintet adopted British sounding names,6364 and San Francisco's The Beau Brummels took their name from the same-named English dandy.65 Roger Miller had a 1965 hit record with a song entitled "England Swings".66 Englishman Geoff Stephens (or John Carter) reciprocated the gesture ala Rudy Vallée a year later in The New Vaudeville Band's "Winchester Cathedral".6768 Even as recently as 2003, "Shanghai Knights" made the latter two tunes memorable once again, in London scenes.6970
In Australia, the success of The Seekers and The Easybeats (the latter a band formed mostly of British emigrants) closely paralleled that of the British Invasion. The Seekers had two Hot 100 top 5 hits during the British Invasion, the #4 hit "I'll Never Find Another You" in May 1965 and the #2 hit "Georgy Girl" in February 1967. The Easybeats drew heavily on the British Invasion sound and had one hit in the United States during the British Invasion era, the #16 hit "Friday on My Mind" in May 1967.7172
The British Invasion's influence on rock music in the United States waned from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. Early 1970s exceptions were Badfinger, The Raspberries, and Sweet, who played a heavily British Invasion influenced style deemed power pop. In 1978 two rock magazines wrote cover stories about power pop and championed the genre as a savior to both the new wave and the direct simplicity of the way rock used to be. New wave power pop not only brought back the sounds but the fashions be it the mod style of The Jam or the skinny ties of the burgeoning Los Angeles scene. Several of these groups were commercially successful, most notably The Knack whose My Sharona was the number 1 U.S. single of 1979. A backlash against The Knack and power pop ensued but the genre over the years has continued to have a cult following with occasional periods of modest success.73
- List of British Invasion artists
- Second British Invasion, 1980s
- Swinging London
- List of Billboard Hot 100 number-ones by British artists
- British soul
- Music of the United Kingdom (1960s)
Other cultural waves:
- Korean wave, South Korean entertainers in Asia and other parts of the world, 2000s
- Ira A. Robbins. "British Invasion (music) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
- Allmusic bio The Kinks
- Allmusic bio The Who
- Perone, James E. Mods,Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion. Westport, CT: Praeger,2009. Print.
- M. Brocken, The British folk revival, 1944-2002 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), pp. 69-80.
- "Lonnie Donegan > Charts and Awards > Billboard singles". Allmusic. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
- Lonnie Donegan Allmusic bio
- Ira A. Robbins. "Encyclopædia Britannica Article". Britannica.com. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
- Morrison, Craig. American Popular Music. British Invasion (New York: Facts on File, 2006, pp. 32-4.
- J. Gould, Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (New York, Harmony Books, 2007), pp. 344-5.
- When the Beatles hit America CNN February 10, 2004.
- Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Sixties (26 May 1962, 7 July 1962, 22 December 1962 - 5 January 1963). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-074-1.
- Robert Love Managing editor for Rolling Stone. "Cruisin' - The British Invasion; The Sixties - Electric Guitars, Bass, Vocals, & Drums". Retrieved 2013-08-31.
- Brian Cogan (December 12, 2011). Abbe A. Debolt and James S. Baugess, ed. Encyclopedia of the Sixties: A Decade of Culture and Counterculture. Greenwood Press. pp. 80–81. ISBN 9780313329449. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
- Perone, James (2009). Mods, Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.
- How the Beatles Went Viral: Blunders, Technology & Luck Broke the Fab Four in America
- "The Beatles in America: We Loved Them, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah". Newseum. February 5, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Tweet The Beatles! How Walter Cronkite Sent The Beatles Viral ANDRE IVERSEN FOR THE WIN! by Martin Lewis based on information from "THE BEATLES ARE COMING! The Birth of Beatlemania in America" by Bruce Spitzer" July 18, 2009.
- "1 February 1964 Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit documentary
- 1964: Brits invade US - no one can escape! Michael E Ross for MSNBC 2 September 2004
- "UK acts disappear from US charts BBC April 23, 2002". BBC News. April 23, 2002. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
- Allmusic Dusty Springfield bio
- Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders Allmusic bio
- Herman's Hermits Allmusic bio
- Billboard Dave Clarke Five Chart Page
- The Searchers Allmusic bio
- Billy J. Kramer Allmusic bio
- The Bachelors Allmusic bio
- Chad & Jeremy Allmusic bio
- Gerry and the Pacemakers Allmusic bio
- The Honeycombs Allmusic bio
- Tom Jones Allmusic bio
- The Yardbirds Allmusic bio
- "8 May 1965 Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- Perone, James E. "Mods,Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion" Westport,CT. Praeger, 2009. Print.
- British Invasion at AllMusic
- "The Zombies Biography". All music.
- Cooper, Laura E and B. Lee "The Pendulum of Cultural Imperialism: Popular Music Interchanges Between the United States and Britain", Journal of Popular Culture, Jan. 1993
- Cooper, L and B, Journal of Popular Culture, 93
- Petersen, Jennifer B. "British Bands Invade the United States" 2009. Article.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. pp. 602, 603. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Allmusic Freakbeat essay
- "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Patrick, Kate (May 21, 2005). "New Model Army". Scotsman.com News.
- Fowler, David (2008) Youth Culture in Modern Britain, C.1920-c.1970: From Ivory Tower to Global Movement - A New History p. 134. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
- Burgess, Anya (May 10, 2004). "Small is still beautiful". Daily Post.
- "The Girl Behind The World's Most Beautiful Face". Family Weekly. February 8, 1967.
- Cloud, Barbara (June 11, 1967). "Most Photographed Model Reticent About Her Role". The Pittsburg Press.
- Jean Shrimpton, the Famed Face of the '60s, Sits Before Her Svengali's Camera One More Time 07 (21). May 30, 1977.
- J. M. Curtis, Rock eras: interpretations of music and society, 1954-1984 (Popular Press, 1987), p. 134.
- "Surf Music". Nostalgia Central. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- K. Keightley, "Reconsidering rock" in, S. Frith, W. Straw and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge companion to pop and rock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 117.
- ”Two Paths of Folk Music,” Hootenanny, Vol.1 No. 3, May 1964
- James E. Perone (2009). Mods, Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion". p. 76. ABC-CLIO,
- F. W. Hoffmann, Encyclopedia of recorded sound, Volume 1 (CRC Press, 2nd edn., 2004), p. 132.
- allmusic Genre Garage Rock
- R. Shuker, Popular music: the key concepts (Routledge, 2nd edn., 2005), p. 35.
- K. Keightley, "Reconsidering rock" S. Frith, W. Straw and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge companion to pop and rock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 117-8.
- K. Keightley, "Reconsidering rock" in S. Frith, W. Straw and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-521-55660-0, p. 116.
- Holmes, Tim "US and Them: American Rock's Reconquista" Popular Music and Society, Vol.30, July 07
- Allmusic Bio The Buckinghams
- The Sir Douglas Quintet Allmusic bio
- "Trivial Pursuit: The Test of Dandy Knowledge". Dandyism.net. Retrieved 2013-08-31.
- Ken Hoffman (July 4, 2012). "England still swings". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- James E. Perone (2007). "1". The Words and Music of David Bowie. Westport, Connecticut, and London: Praeger (Singer-Songwriter Collection). p. 6. ISBN 978-0-275-99245-3. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- "Winchester Cathedral by New Vaudeville Band". The Kirkham Report. August 16, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- Joe Leydon (January 26, 2003). "Shanghai Knights - Film Reviews - New U.S. Release". Variety. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- Jeff Farance. "Shanhai Knights - Movie reviews, trailers, clips and movie stills". Celebrity Wonder. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- Allmusic bio The Seekers
- Easybeats allmusic bio
- Theo Cateforis. Are We Not New Wave? Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. pp. 123 to 150. ISBN 9780472034703.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!: The U.S.A. is invaded by a wave of long-haired English rockers." (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.
- Miles, Barry The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era Sterling Publishing 2009 ISBN 978-1-4027-6976-4
- Harry, Bill The British Invasion: How the Beatles and Other UK Bands Conquered America Chrome Dreams 2004 ISBN 978-1-84240-247-4