February 7 – British Invasion!

Posted on February 7, 2019

Rock and roll began in the United States in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It was rebellious and danceable and infectious and, oh, so popular.

Rock music combined what many thought of as African-American rhythm-and-blues sounds with other musical forms and with new technologies such as microphones and electric guitars and amplifiers and even the 45 rpm record. 
This hybrid type of music became popular with both black and white American teens and soon influenced dance and fashion and attitudes. Youth culture became more important and more exciting. 

Of course all this great music - from Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley to Little Richard and Buddy Holly - and all these changes in youth culture quickly spread around the world, including to Great Britain.

For a while, British musical groups that tried to put out their own original rock and roll music failed to find many fans or sell many records. American musicians on tour in the U.K. always overshadowed the British groups that opened for them. But in the early 1960s, that began to change as young Brits combined British and American styles and created "Mersey Beat" or "beat boom" music. 

By 1963, one particular British band had become so popular that, not only did song after song become Number 1 hits in Britain, not only were they booked for U.K. tours, but a sort of frenzy had fallen over their British fans. Many young Brits didn't just like or even love this band and their music, they adored them!

I bet you know the band that had inspired all that adulation - the Beatles! 

With that much interest in the U.K., of course, articles about the Beatles began to appear elsewhere in the world, including the U.S. American record companies didn't catch on right away and dragged their feet about releasing Beatles songs and albums, but finally, late in 1963, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" became a hit in the U.S. when a disc jockey got hold of the British single and began to play it. Other radio stations had to play taped copies of the song, and when the single was finally released on December 26, 1963, it quickly shot up to Number 1. At that point, of course, several U.S. record companies that had been sitting on recordings, not bothering to produce them, quickly released Beatles singles and albums.

And so Beatle music became super popular with Americans. On this date in 1964, just a month and a half after the release of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the Beatles arrived for the first time in the U.S., in New York, and it soon became clear that Beatlemania had also crossed the ocean!

As the Beatles left London, about 4,000 screaming, waving fans had gathered at the airport. I wonder if they thought any fans would be at the JFK Airport in the U.S. - or if they were surprised to see thousands of fans there as well? (About 3,000 fans, to be non-exact.) Were they surprised that these fans, too, were screaming? Were they surprised that there was so much commotion that newspapers called it a "near riot"? 

Or were they already used to that much ruckus every time they appeared?

Later other fresh-sounding, talented British bands also became popular in the U.S., and the cultural phenomenon of so much British music and so many British fashion styles becoming huge hits in America became known as the "British Invasion." But of course it should be remembered that the original invasion of American rock-and-roll music had swept over and conquered Britain a decade before!

Here are some of the other groups, besides for the Beatles, considered to be a part of the British Invasion:

the Animals

the Dave Clark Five

Herman's Hermits

the Kinks

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