Posted by: distributorcap | January 25, 2009

The British Are Coming

After the Beatles I Want to Hold Your Hand hit #1 on the Billboard Charts in January 1964, American music was never the same. From that point until about 1970, the style, tone, and beat of American music was heavily influenced by artists who migrated their sounds from the other side of the Atlantic Pond. When anyone turned on their portable AM transistor radio, you could not get away from influx of British singers and bands – and their tremendous impact on music and culture in the United States.

Liverpool was the center of the British “beat boom.” This is where the Beatles, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer all started. The Beatles first hit the British charts in 1962. Out of London came the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon. Manchester had Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. The geography heavily influenced the style and sound of the groups.

The British Invasion is generally credited with starting on February 9, 1964 when the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan’s Sunday night program on CBS was the iconic musical show of the decade – everyone wanted to be on Ed Sullivan. The impact of that first broadcast was nothing short of cultural phenomenon – with images of screaming teenage girls still etched in people’s minds. Over 75 million people – which at the time was HALF of the American population – watched that broadcast. While known as a stiff and very conservative (and often imitated that way) – Ed Sullivan knew how to recognize talent and cultural waves – and this was his biggest winner. The Beatles also appeared on Sullivan the next two weeks. The final live Beatle appearance was on September 12, 1965.

From that point on, Ed Sullivan began booking British acts in droves.

The influx of British artists on Billboard charts actually began a few months before the Sullivan show. The Tornadoes and Acker Bilk were the first Brits to hit #1 in the US. Dusty Springfield released her first US single You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me in 1963. The Beatles first record in the US market was Please Please Me in February 1963 – it was not a hit. From Me to You and She Loves You were first circulated in the US in August 1963, but also did not receive much airplay. It took a massive marketing push by Capitol Records to make the Beatles into the biggest explosion in music since Elvis in 1956. On December 10, 1963, the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite aired a five minute piece on British Beatlemania. Music was never the same.

Within 2 weeks, the Beatles were American music. They became the first band in history to have the #1 through #5 songs on the Billboard charts. Millions of singles were sold within days. Radio stations (which were dominated by AM pop stations) were inundated with requests for the Beatles. The invasion was in full force.

The timing of the Beatles releases could not have been more tragic, but also not better. America had just been rocked by the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, and the war in Vietnam was beginning to become a political (and military) nightmare. The Beatles easily connected to the youth of America and became intertwined with cultural revolution that would define the rest of the 1960’s. While the first band to tour North America was the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles followed shortly and the youth of America – especially those teenage girls who bought records and record players – were hooked.

Following the Beatles were a litany of bands that defined the 1960’s. The Rolling Stones, The Beau Brummels, The Left Banke, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Animals, Chad and Jeremy, Cilla Black, the Hollies, Petula Clark, the Fortunes, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Who, Cream, the Kinks, Lulu, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann, the Moody Blues, the Zombies and the Bee Gees.

In one of the more blatant example of music censorship, when the Stones went on Ed Sullivan in 1967 to perform Lets Spend the Night Together, Sullivan said to Mick Jagger “either the song goes or you go.” The Stones compromised and changed the words to “let’s spend some time together.” Jagger can be seen rolling his eyes at the TV camera during the performance.

Cream with Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton was of the first groups known as a “supergroup.” Their sound was a combination of blues, hard rock and some psychedelic rock. Their first album Fresh Cream was released in 1966. But their biggest album was Disraeli Gears – which contained Sunshine of Your Love. Cream’s farewell tour was in 1968.

The Byrds were one of a handful of American bands that were able to meld and incorporate the sounds of the British Invasion to their music. Roger McGuinn was the leader of the Byrds. Their biggest hit was Turn Turn Turn.

British bands dominated the American music charts from 1964-1967. The sounds, while British – were quite different among all the various groups. The Stones and the Animals were more gritty and heavily influence byt R&B. Herman’s Hermits appealed to the bubble gum crowd. Petula Clark was more middle of the road and appealed to an older crowd. No American group or artist – with the exception of Motown and the Beach Boys – could compete with the Brits. The sounds of those groups reinvigorated and redefined rock music – and that influence is still felt today.

The first stage of the British Invasion came to an end for all intents and purposes in 1970, when Paul McCartney publicly announced the breakup of the Beatles in April 1970.

Representative Works

The Zombies – Time of the Season
Dave Clark Five – Glad All Over
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun
Chad and Jeremy – Summer Song
Manfred Mann – Do Wah Diddy
Lulu – To Sir With Love
The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
The Fortunes – You’ve Got Your Troubles
Herman’s Hermits – Into Something Good
Gerry and the Pacemakers – Ferry Across the Mersey
Petula Clark – Downtown
The Hollies – Bus Stop
Moody Blues – Go Now


  1. Damn you’re good.This post is outstanding and really covers a lot of musical history.Thanks DCap, ever bringing us wisdom, humor and so much more.Now I have many songs running through my head.

  2. I remember later hearing an interview with the Beatles saying how much they hated the screaming crowd thing….they were doing a musical performance & the screaming was really obnoxious– in fact it drove them to doing studio recordings. On the other hand, they laughed, they could screw up & get away with it because all the screaming drowned out the mistake!The thing about the Beatles was how much they changed over the years, and all the different creative avenues they pursued. Thanks for the walk down musical memory lane…

  3. Good times-good music-great post.Saw them on Ed and it was exciting.

  4. when i think of the moody blues, my mind goes immediately to nights in white satin, not go now. that said, there’s not one song in that list that i don’t love.

  5. Some people think I’m crazy but I would love to live through the 60’s. While much was bad the possibilities that existed in that decade for the country have never come again until now maybe. The music of the 60’s was alive with hope and promise reflecting the times. Unlike the indulgent 70’s and beyond.

  6. Earlier this evening I was harping about HD radio and why it hasn’t caught on, and remarked that I grew up on AM radio (how old does that make me?) and it was the best damn radio to this day that I’ve ever heard.None of that conservative talk radio shit. I’m talking hippie music.And I have that Lulu To Sir With Love around here on a 45 somewhere!

  7. Great representative list. I always thought “To Sir With Love” should have been covered by now. Actually, when I was in a band (early 80s), there was another all-girl band (as we were called then) that did an updated version of that song. I thought it was going to be their ticket to the big time, but, alas, it wasn’t so. Sad. And they had a great band name: Separate Checks.

  8. thank you for doing this…wow…I have been listening to Beatles- early ….all weekend- this was so a good finale to that..( you are in my Sunday Night Round Up….);-)

  9. I was much too young to catch this the first time around. I caught it second hand as a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s. Still good stuff. Thanks for breaking out another history lesson.

  10. I have to admit, I was pretty young while all this was happening but I know every song listed and have at least heard every band listed, that being said, I was never a big Beatles fan or a big fan of the Rolling Stones, still aren’t.But, a great deal of these bands, including Led Zeppelin, were heavily influenced by the early Blues singers and readily admit it.Eric Clapton has grown to be a Master Bluesman, for one example.I can appreciate this era more now that I am older but I still have a heavy leaning towards the Blues.Just my opinion, great post dude!

  11. Lulu! I saw her recently on a PBS pledge drive and she sang ‘To Sir with Love.’She looked great, and sounded perfect.Lulu is so cool. Dusty Springfield, too. Sadly, she’s no longer with us but she is the bomb as well.

  12. Dusty was a fantastic old diva lesbian who broke the hearts of many a young girl.Her first group with her brother was called The Springfields and their big hit was, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”Thanks D-Cap for the great memories. I was definitely there for all those songs. 😉

  13. The Zombies – Time of the Seasonafter all these years, still a strong favorite…

  14. FranIAm – you know how much I love history – and the history of pop cultureFran – I remember the Beatles saying that also – I don’t think (love them or hate them) any other cultural icon changed the world more than the BeatlesOne fly – I remember watching them on Ed Sullivan too – well I think I remember (I was 6). Nonnie – moody blues will get their own post as they are one of those bands that I feel don’t get the credit they deserve. I like the Moodys much more than the Stones – since I am not a Stones fan.Beach – as tough and as nuts as times were in the 60s – there was a different sense of hope than there is now. Music so reflected thatKona – I even like the movie To Sir With Love with LuluPINY – amazing that song has not been updated, even by no-talents like Jessica Simpson or Avril LavigneEnigma – thanks – I can always listen to the beatles – I don’t love everything they did (believe it or not I think Hey Jude is one of the worst songs)Spart – more history to comeBusted – I too am not a Stones fan (at all) although I do like some of their stuff. Eric Clapton is without a doubt one of the best – ever. Zeppelin and groups like that will get their own post on 70sChristopher – Dusty was great – one of the greatest artists (and most underrated) of the 60s. Kz – wasn’t she out even in the 60s and that is one of the reasons her career didn’t take off like some other artistsOkjimm – timeless music and they sure don’t make it today like they used to

  15. As I approach my 52nd birthday, I thought I was old enough I knew everything about that era! Now I learn that Dusty Springfield was from Britain? All these years…You amaze me D-Cap

  16. Oh thank you so much for the trip down memory lane. I was in my early teens (13) when the British Invasion started and I remember all these groups so well. We all played their albums endlessly and never a week went by that we were not in the music stores thumbing through the 45’s. A great remembrance!

  17. Ah, that rock and roll thing's a fad, DCap – It'll never replace good music – When will you kids learn?;>)Good music post as always…Interesting you chose Go Now by the Moodies – That was the only hit they had with Denny Laine, who later hit the pop stratosphere with Macca and Wings.I would add a very healthy dose of jazz to the creative ethos of Cream, as well – essentially, they are a improvising rhythm section backing a blues guitarist. Also, Jack Bruce was headhunted for and toured with Manfred Mann (Paul Jones era) until Eric convinced Ginger to let bygones be bygones for a while in their tempestuous relationship, one filled with musical one-upmanship, onstage fistfights and threatened stabbings.

  18. Oh man, “Sunshine of Your Love”–one of the greatest rock songs EVAH.Thanks for the memories, DCap!

  19. Love THis Post!!!!!I am old enough to know all this…and to have seen the Beatles on Eddie’s show in gorgeous black and white. ;pOur family never missed The Ed Sullivan show..and it’s probably the only time during the week we all shut the hell up and didn’t grouse and fight!

  20. I grew up listening to all of those LPs, inherited from both of my parents.

  21. …and years later, I caught Petula Clark in Sunset Boulevard in the West End. The night I saw it, they were filming a “This is Your Life” and we all stayed to watch.She sang Downtown for us at one point, and it was amazing – no music to accompany her. There was not a sound in the house, and then the room exploded.Regards,TengrainPS – I think most people when they think of the 60s really think of the first half of the 70s. So cool to have this list to investigate. Thanks, DCap.

  22. Our tastes are very different.Here are the five most important British bands of the sixties:The BeatlesThe StonesThe WhoThe KinksThe YardbirdsThe first four are most important because they had the best songwriters, Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Pete Townsend and Ray Davies. The Yardbirds are on the list because of all the guitarists that spend some time in the band, and that the final incarnation of The Yardbirds becomes Led Zeppelin.That three of the five don’t even get a nod on the representative works list… not so good.The Who – I Can’t ExplainThe Kinks – You Really Got MeThe Yardbirds – Heart Full of SoulThey can easily replace The Fortunes, the British answer to Jay & the Americans, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Chad & Jeremy.But that's just one expert's opinion.

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