Rock n Roll and the British Invasion

After The War

During the 50s, American music soaked into British society through radio stations and film as a side-effect of the differing economic situations between the two countries following the second world war. Elvis Presley is the most famous example of this era. In the UK there was no counterpart for Elvis.

Money and Power

While the US music industry had plenty of motive and cash to initiate creative, new styles, British music was stuck in the doldrums with styles like folk music, dance bands and music hall. The British were content with soaking up American cultural phenomena rather than making their own home grown talent.

Traditional versus Modern

The folk and skiffle revival in Britain of the late 50s with performers like Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard
showed how American culture could be taken and copied but not yet properly imitated. Though ‘Telstar’ by The Tornados was the first British song to reach number one on the billboard charts in America it was the coming of the Beatles that truly began what became known as the British Invasion.

Mods and Rockers

By the early 60s, American teenagers were becoming tired of the same old profitable tunes being trotted out by the music companies, and in the UK social problems had given rise to new musical preferences and connected subculture like the great rivalry between the street gangs ‘The Mods’ and ‘The Rockers’.

Opposites

The two gangs, spurred by the music press and social decay, would have riots and constant street battles to prove whose form of music was better. Mods preferred ska music, R&B and soul; at the same time Rockers were all about rock and roll.

The Beatles

New British groups began experimenting with combining new American styles with their own traditional types of music. October 1963 saw the advent of a new band who were a product of this merging of styles, and a darling of the British media. American teenagers were introduced to Beatlemania. The US, still reeling from the murder of JFK, was looking for something cheery. The simple, happy tone of the Beatles and their fellow UK bands was an antidote and quickly gobbled up by American listeners.  Here is a look at Beatlemania.

The British Invasion

Many other bands saw success in the US market, all with their own take on the new styles. The Rolling Stones followed up with a heavier sound. The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five and The Springfields, as well as The Animals and other solo artists like Sandie Shaw rode this wave of sudden and engaging popularity on both sides of the pond.

Following the Beatles

By the mid-60s the invasion was in full force, with American media promising a reaction from American bands that simply never came. Music by UK bands such as the Zombies and the Hollies reinvigorated the fashion with heavier songs and a bluesier groove.

After the Invasion

The British Invasion marked a turning point in the relationship between the two cultures. It led to other British ideas becoming more openly accepted in the US. Film was certainly affected with James Bond first appearing in 1962 and culture as a whole in both countries started to trend towards Hippie subculture. It was the start of the Swinging Sixties.