Wedding of a friends parents and the second a 70th Birthday of a family friend. It used to be 18th and 21st birthday parties, what’s happened? However partying with the older generations has its upside, there is always plenty of outstanding music. The hosts had chosen the music well, from what they call ‘their era’, sounds from the 60s. Born in 1966 I often wonder if I was born in the wrong decade, as my first memories of music in our house was after the Beatles had split. It still fascinates me though that era and the impact it had on future generations. Born into a mod family it was no wonder I would follow that same path myself and have always loved all things 60’s. I was given a book as a gift for Xmas and I’ve just got around to looking through it this week and what a corker of a read about the British Invasion of America in the 60s.
Written by Barry Miles, the author of the New York Times bestseller Hippie, he writes and celebrates the British music, films, and fashion that rocked the USA from 1964 to 1969. Miles writes ‘Rock n Roll’ died in 1958 and was resurrected in 1963 in Britain and returned to the states in a different form. A magical time when groups like the Beatles were topping the charts stateside, Time out Swinging London on its front cover, Oscars went to a string of British actors, directors and movies and Marty Quant mini dresses were the talk of the world. It had the same youthful energy and teen spirit only this time it has a British Accent, More than a revolution, this was a outright British invasion of America, headed by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and the people ‘dug it’!
I want to take a little British Invasion journey and look back to what it must have been like in those ground breaking days when our home grown talents took America by storm and changed the face of music forever.
THE BEATLES – I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND
The Beatles’ first visit to the United States came at a time of great popularity in Britain. The band’s UK commercial breakthrough, in late 1962, had been followed by a year of successful concerts and tours. The start of the Beatles’ popularity in the United States, in early 1964, was marked by intense demand for the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand”—which sold one-and-a-half million copies in under three weeks—and the band’s arrival the following month. The visit, advertised across the United States on five million posters, was a defining moment in the Beatles’ history, and the starting-point of the British Invasion. We have to start where it all began with probably one of the most iconic televised performance ever The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show 5th February 1964 and so started the British Invasion.
In late 1963, Ed Sullivan and his entourage happened also to be passing through Heathrow and witnessed how The Beatles’ fans greeted the group on their return from Stockholm. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea—he wanted exposure for his clients, the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show. The Beatles appeared on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964 to great anticipation and fanfare as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had swiftly risen to No. 1 in the charts. Their first appearance on February 9 is considered a milestone in American pop culture and the beginning of the British Invasion in music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for US television. My brother in law commented on Saturday night that his Dad said ‘Beatles, load of shite. However he said couple weeks later he was singing along to them on the wireless.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU
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 Springfield’s, 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.” To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis, Tennessee to record Dusty in Memphis, an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the US magazine Rolling Stone. The album was also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
As a fan of US pop music, she brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience by hosting the first national TV performance of many top-selling Motown artists beginning in 1965. Although she was never considered a Northern Soul artist in her own right, her efforts contributed a great deal to the formation of the genre as a result. Dusty in my opinion is an artist who has not only made a difference with her music but also broke boundaries for women and race. A huge anti-apartheid activist and a good women who never compromised her own beliefs for a career boosts.
THE ANIMALS – HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN
Our own local home grown talent was next to achieving massive success stateside. The Animals were known for their gritty, bluesy sound and deep-voiced frontman Eric Burdon, as exemplified by their signature song and transatlantic No.1 hit single, “The House of the Rising Sun”.
It has often been said they were dubbed “animals” because of their wild stage act, and the name stuck. In a 2013 interview, Eric Burdon denied this, stating it came from a gang of friends they used to hang out with, one of whom was “Animal” Hogg and the name was intended as a kind of tribute to him. The Animals’ success in their hometown and a connection with Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky motivated them to move to London in 1964 in the immediate wake of Beatlemania and the beat boom take-over of the popular music scene, just in time to play an important role in the so-called British Invasion of the US music charts. The Animals performed fiery versions of the staple rhythm and blues repertoire, covering songs by Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, and others. Signed to EMI’s Columbia label, a rocking version of the standard “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” (retitled “Baby Let Me Take You Home”) was their first single.
It was followed in June 1964 by the transatlantic number 1 hit “House of the Rising Sun”. Burdon’s howling vocals and the dramatic arrangement, featuring Alan Price’s haunting organ riffs, created arguably the first folk rock hit.
In November 1964, the group was poised to make their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and begin a short residency performing regularly in theatres across New York City. The group arrived in New York City direct from John F. Kennedy International Airport in a motorcade formed of Sunbeam Alpine Series IV convertibles, with each car featuring a band member riding with a fashion model in the back seat and the rooftop down. And thus their own British Invasion started. The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
My Mam told me when I was a teenager that this record was banned from being played by the BBC because of its references to a brothel. She said that was, never a hindrance to The Animals its ban rocketed sales. I am related to Chas Chandler, I have no idea how and it’s probably a 15th cousin or something but I thought I would mention it!!
THE YARDBIRDS – FOR YOUR LOVE
The Yardbirds, used their blues background as a launching pad for a series of experiments in futurist rock. They were the first British Invasion group to be recognized for the instrumental prowess of their guitarist who were, in order of succession, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. They stretched the boundaries of pop, adding a harpsichord in “For Your Love” and a droning, sitar-style lead in “Heart Full of Soul.” But most Yardbirds fans climbed aboard for the “raveups” — extended instrumental breaks that served as showcases for Clapton, Beck and Page. The group is notable for having started the careers of three of rock’s most famous guitarists:, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, all of whom are in the top five of Rolling Stone’s 100 Top Guitarists list (Clapton at No. 2, Page at No. 3 and Beck at No. 5). A blues-based band that broadened its range into pop and rock, the Yardbirds had a hand in many electric guitar innovations of the mid-1960s, such as feedback, “fuzztone” distortion and improved amplification. Pat Pemberton, writing for Spinner, holds that the Yardbirds were “the most impressive guitar band in rock music”. After the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, their lead guitarist Jimmy Page founded what became Led Zeppelin. The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. They were included in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”.
Whereas the Yardbirds were known for instrumental virtuosity, a couple of other rising London bands — the Kinks and the Who — established themselves through the force of their songwriting. Ray Davies of the Kinks was arguably the most versatile composer to emerge from the Invasion. He was equally capable of driving hard rock (“You Really Got Me”) and wry social commentary (“A Well Respected Man”). The Kinks, with Ray’s brother, Dave Davies, on frenzied lead guitar, were a familiar sight to viewers of Shindig! and Hullabaloo, two TV variety shows that spread the gospel of British rock in the States.
THE KINKS – YOU REALLY GOT ME
“You Really Got Me” was released in August 1964 and boosted by a performance on the television show Ready Steady Go, it quickly reached number one in the United Kingdom. Hastily imported by the American label Reprise Records, it also made the Top 10 in the United States. The loud, distorted guitar riff—achieved by a slice Dave Davies made in the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier (referred to by the band as the “little green amp”)—gave the song its signature, gritty guitar sound. Extremely influential on the American garage rock scene, “You Really Got Me” has been described as “a blueprint song in the hard rock and heavy metal arsenal”. Soon after its release, the group recorded most of the tracks for their debut LP, simply titled Kinks. Consisting largely of covers and revamped traditional songs, it was released on 2 October 1964, reaching number four on the UK chart. The group’s fourth single, “All Day and All of the Night”, another original hard rock tune, was released three weeks later, reaching number two in the United Kingdom, and number seven in the United States. An intensive performing schedule saw them headline other package tours throughout the year with acts such as The Yardbirds and Mickey Finn. Tensions began to emerge within the band, expressed in incidents such as the on-stage fight between Avory and Dave Davies at The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff, Wales on 19 May. After finishing the first song, “You Really Got Me”, Davies insulted Avory and kicked over his drum set. Avory responded by hitting Davies with his hi-hat stand, rendering him unconscious, before fleeing from the scene, fearing that he had killed his bandmate. Davies was taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he received 16 stitches to his head. To placate the police, Avory later claimed that it was part of a new act in which the band members would hurl their instruments at each other. Following a mid-year tour of the United States, the American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in concerts there for the next four years, effectively cutting off The Kinks from the main market for rock music at the height of the British Invasion. Although neither The Kinks nor the union gave a specific reason for the ban, at the time it was widely attributed to their rowdy on-stage behaviour.
This has to be one of the most recognisable guitar intros of all time. The Kinks are one of my favourite bands from the 60’s and Waterloo Sunset is in my top 10 songs of all time.
THE ROLLINGS STONES – I CANT GET NO SATISFACTION
The Stones got a delayed start in the U.S. They didn’t enter the fray in a major way until 1965. After warming up the Top Ten with “Time Is on My Side” and “The Last Time,” they delivered a knockout punch with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Its central riff and basic lyrical thrust were created by guitarist Keith Richards one restless night in a Florida motel room. Recorded in Los Angeles, with Richards’ fuzz-cranked guitar blasting like the Stax-Volt horn section, “Satisfaction” remains one of the bedrock songs of the age. From here the Stones turned up the heat with numbers like “Get Off of My Cloud,” “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Paint It Black.” The music of the Rolling Stones was an ice-and-fire contrast to the Beatles. Simmering, blunt edged and angry, it set off the Liverpudlians’ sunnier pop visions in a way that perfectly caught the spirit of the times. The Rolling Stones remain the most tangible link to the British Invasion era. They put the raunch back in rock & roll. Unlike the Beatles, the Stones came on unsmiling and without manners, the kind of group parents had every right to feel uneasy about. Whereas Brian Epstein transformed his charge
From Teddy boys to teddy bears, manager Andrew Loog Oldham encouraged the Stones’ delinquent tendencies.
The British invasion wasn’t just about the music, there were a whole host of actors, actresses and models who also found fame and fortune stateside. Being British had never been so in demand and cool and will remain a pivotal piece of cultural history.
If you get the chance check this book out it really is great to dip in and out of.
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