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British Invasion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964, marked the dramatic start of the British Invasion.
The appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964, marked the dramatic start of the British Invasion.

The British Invasion was an influx of rock and roll performers from the United Kingdom who became popular in the United States, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. The classic British Invasion was in 1964-1966, but the term may also be applied to later "waves" of UK artists to significantly impact entertainment markets outside of Britain.[citation needed]

The British Invasion

The British Invasion began in 1964, and peaked in 1965. Prior to then British musical acts had only achieved fleeting success in what was then a relatively insular market. The first major breakthrough was the success of Dame Vera Lynn when she became the first British act to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1952. Other acts in the intervening years had some success, most notably George Shearing, Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark and The Tornados, who were the first British group to reach #1 in the US, though with a fertile market in Rock and Roll it was natural that audiences would prefer their own country's works rather than a pale imitation.

This all changed in 1964 with the success of The Beatles, especially after their record breaking debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. In their wake came the The Dave Clark 5[1] as the number two member of the invasion, and then numerous acts went on to have success in the United States including The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Animals, Them, The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck, The Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood, and Dusty Springfield who were already popular in the United Kingdom. A very early version of The Moody Blues were already recording by the mid-60's. In addition some acts such as Herman's Hermits and Chad and Jeremy far exceeded the success they had in their home country. Such was the Anglomania at the time that it provided a boost for other cultural exports such as films, art and television. Noted Disc Jockey John Peel recalls in his memoirs how he was able to break into American radio purely on the basis of his Merseyside accent.

The success of British acts of the time led to a major cultural realignment with acts such as The Byrds and numerous Anglophone garage bands subsequently changing their sound and style. The influence continued on subsequent Anglophile groups such as Big Star, Sparks and Todd Rundgren amongst others.

Some commentators have noted that the success of British acts in 1964 and 1965 led to a major sidelining of Black soul and R&B acts who were just starting to break through, prior to the British invasion.

After 1966 British acts continued to have substantial success in America, especially album oriented acts such as Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, though American acts would largely re-establish their dominance of the charts.

The Second British Invasion

More than a decade following the first invasion, the largely English based punk movement of the late 70's, resulted in a fresh influx of raw, iconoclastic British bands and artists, such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. While punk had a lasting influence on the US popular music scene, it never broke through in the US at the time to the same extent as in the UK. However the various cultural sources that punk and new wave took their inspirations from, especially cinema and television, would stand them and subsequent acts in good stead in the next decade.

For a time in 1980 and 1981 it seemed that apart from a few exceptions such as The Police and The Clash, British acts and musical movements such as New Wave, New Romantics and Synthpop were being bypassed in favour of homegrown soft rock and Heavy Metal.

This changed in 1981 with the formation and influence of MTV. Needing videos to broadcast, the channel used a disproportionately large number by British acts, whose videos were generally more image conscious and entertaining than their American counterparts at the time. This brought various distinctly British acts to the attention of American audiences such as Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, The Fixx, Naked Eyes, Thompson Twins, Eurythmics, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and later Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, New Order and others. Once again, British acts came to dominate American charts, this time to an even greater degree than in the first British Invasion. The high point of this second invasion was in July 1983 when over 50% of the Billboard Hot 100 was accounted for by overseas artists.

Subsequent Years

This second invasion of the 1980s remains (to date) the only other one. The continued splintering of the music market into different genres makes a follow up, mass-appeal movement such as the British Invasion currently unlikely.

Following the highwater years of 1983 to 1985, success by British acts gradually dwindled to such a a degree that at one point in May 2002 there were no British artists on the US singles chart, the first time this had occurred since 1963.

The reasons for this are many and varied. One can argue that the success of the acts in the second British invasion was partly down to the needs of MTV who needed a pool of videos to fill their programming, at that time the most distinctive and most available were by British acts.

Since then tastes in the US and UK had diverged, the schism occurring most markedly in the late 80's and early 90s'. In the UK Dance music became hugely popular, a movement which was by and large ignored in the US, partly as a hangover from the Disco sucks campaign of the early 80's but also due to other social and cultural factors. There was a brief mini-invasion in 1991 with the success of Soul II Soul, Jesus Jones and EMF, but this was a blip in a downward trend.

In addition the rise of hair metal in the late 80's, grunge and most notably hip-hop in the 90's meant that British acts would struggle in the U.S. The Britpop movement of the mid-1990s, which could be seen as a stylistic continuation of the original British Invasion of the 1960s, mixed with music of the 70s and 80s, failed to catch America's imagination, coming across as too parochial and backward looking. Though some acts, notably Oasis, Elastica and Blur achieved some success in the American market.

By the late 90's British acts were struggling to break through in America with the most successful acts being long established artists such as Sting, Elton John and Eric Clapton. The most notable breakthroughs at that time were the Spice Girls, Seal and Charlotte Church.

Since the start of the millennium, new artists from Britain have started to establish themselves in America, while not yet a third invasion, it is the most successful period for British acts since the early 1990s. The most successful of these are probably Coldplay, who broke through in 2000 with their debut album Parachutes. Subsequently other acts have followed in their footsteps.

In 2005, James Blunt reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single You're Beautiful, the first British artist to do so since Elton John with Candle In The Wind in 1997.

In 2006, acts such as KT Tunstall, Muse and Keane have achieved success in the US. Newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae achieved acclaim for her self titled album which debuted at #17 in the U.S. The latest act to break through was Snow Patrol who reached the US Top 10 with the single Chasing Cars.

First British Invasion artists

  • The Action
  • The Animals
  • The Beatles
  • The Bee Gees
  • Cat Stevens
  • Belfast Gypsies
  • Dave Berry
  • The Birds
  • Chad and Jeremy
  • Cilla Black
  • Cliff Bennett
  • Cream
  • The Creation
  • Crispian St. Peters
  • The Dave Clark Five
  • Donovan
  • The Downliners Sect
  • Dusty Springfield
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • Georgie Fame
  • Gerry & the Pacemakers
  • Graham Bond
  • Herman's Hermits
  • The Hollies
  • The Honeycombs
  • The Kinks
  • Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas
  • Long John Baldry
  • Lulu
  • Manfred Mann
  • Marianne Faithfull
  • The Mindbenders
  • The Moody Blues
  • The Move
  • The Nashville Teens
  • Peter & Gordon
  • Petula Clark
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Pretty Things
  • Procol Harum
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Sandie Shaw
  • The Searchers
  • The Shadows
  • The Small Faces
  • The Spencer Davis Group
  • The Swinging Blue Jeans
  • Them
  • The Tornados
  • Traffic
  • Tom Jones
  • The Tremeloes
  • The Troggs
  • Unit 4 + 2
  • The Walker Brothers
  • The Who
  • The Yardbirds
  • The Zombies

See also

  • List of songs by British artists which reached number one on the Hot 100
  • UK topics
  • Korean wave
  • Uruguayan Invasion

External links and References

  1. ^ Allmusic Bio on Dave Clark 5
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