Early in 1964, Life magazine put it like this: "In 1776 England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back."
It was a sweet surrender, as millions of kids (and not a few adults) succumbed to the sound of guitar-wielding, mop-topped redcoats playing rock & roll that was fresh, exotically foreign and full of the vitality of a new age in the making.
This was the British Invasion, and the Beatles were its undisputed leaders. In 1963, the Fab Four released their first U.S. single, "Please Please Me." That same year, the term Beatlemania was coined to describe the phenomenal outburst of enthusiasm in England. But 1964 was the year of the Beatles' American conquest, and it began with the January 25th appearance of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on Billboard's Top Forty chart and the February 7th arrival of the band in the States for a two-week promotional blitz.
Overnight, Beatlemania swept the nation. Before you could say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" we had a new game, and part of the fun was that there were no discernible rules. Reporters found themselves trading quips with the surprisingly quick-witted Liverpudlians. Young girls abandoned themselves to hysteria. And schoolboys started dreaming of long hair and electric guitars.
The British Invasion was a phenomenon that occurred in the mid-1960s when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom, as well as other aspects of British culture, became popular in the United States, and significant to the rising "counterculture" on both sides of the Atlantic. Pop and rock groups such as the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits and the Who were at the forefront of the invasion.
The rebellious tone and image of US rock and roll and blues musicians became popular with British youth in the late 1950s. While early commercial attempts to replicate American rock and roll mostly failed, the trad jazz–inspired skiffle craze, with its 'do it yourself' attitude, was the starting point of several British Billboard singles.
Young British groups started to combine various British and American styles, in different parts of the U.K., such as a movement in Liverpool during 1962 in what became known as Merseybeat, hence the "beat boom". That same year featured the first three acts with British roots to reach the Hot 100's summit.
Some observers have noted that US teenagers were growing tired of singles-oriented pop acts like Fabian. The Mods and Rockers, two youth "gangs" in mid 1960s England, also had an impact in British Invasion music. Bands with a Mod aesthetic became the most popular, but bands able to balance both (e.g. the Beatles) were also successful.
Beyond the Beatles
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 Springfields, 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." On the Hot 100, Dusty's solo career lasted almost as long, albeit with little more than one quarter of the hits, as the Beatles' group career before their breakup.
Rock swept Britain. By 1964 Greater London could claim the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, the Kinks, the Pretty Things, Dusty Springfield, the Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and Manfred Mann. Manchester had the Hollies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Freddie and the Dreamers, and Herman’s Hermits. Newcastle had the Animals. And Birmingham had the Spencer Davis Group (featuring Steve Winwood) and the Moody Blues. Bands sprang up from Belfast (Them, with Van Morrison) to St. Albans (the Zombies), with more inventive artists arriving to keep the syles moving forward, including the Small Faces, the Move, the Creation, the Troggs, Donovan, the Walker Brothers, and John’s Children. While the beat boom provided Britons relief from the postimperial humiliation of hand-me-down rock, the Beatles and their ilk brought the United States more than credible simulations. They arrived as foreign ambassadors, with distinctive accents (in conversation only; most of the groups sang in “American”), slang, fashions, and personalities. The Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), further painted England as the centre of the (rock) universe. American media took the bait and made Carnaby Street, London’s trendy fashion centre in the 1960s, a household name.
From 1964 to 1966 the United Kingdom sent a stream of hits across the Atlantic. Behind the conquering Beatles, Peter and Gordon (“A World Without Love”), the Animals (“House of the Rising Sun”), Manfred Mann (“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”), Petula Clark (“Downtown”), Freddie and the Dreamers (“I’m Telling You Now”), Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders (“Game of Love”), Herman’s Hermits (“Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”), the Rolling Stones (“[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction” and others), the Troggs (“Wild Thing”), and Donovan (“Sunshine Superman”) all topped Billboard’s singles chart. These charming invaders had borrowed (often literally) American rock music and returned it—restyled and refreshed—to a generation largely ignorant of its historical and racial origins. In April 1966 Time magazine effectively raised the white flag with a cover story on “London: The Swinging City.” Peace quickly followed; by the pivotal year 1967 a proliferation of English and American bands were equal partners in one international rock culture.
Second British Invasion
The term Second British Invasion refers to music acts from the United Kingdom that became popular in the United States from the summer of 1982 into the autumn of 1986, primarily due to the cable music channel MTV. While acts with a wide variety of styles were part of the invasion, it was mainly synthpop and new wave influenced acts that predominated. During the late 1980s, hair metal and dance music replaced Second Invasion acts atop the U.S. charts.
On July 3, 1982, The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" started a three-week reign on top of the Hot 100. The song got considerable boost from MTV airplay and has been described by the Village Voice as "pretty unmistakably the moment the Second British Invasion, spurred by MTV, kicked off". The September 1982 arrival of MTV in the media capitals of New York City and Los Angeles led to widespread positive publicity for the new "video era". By the fall, "I Ran (So Far Away)" by A Flock of Seagulls, the first successful song that owed almost everything to video, had entered the Billboard Top Ten. Duran Duran's glossy videos would come to symbolise the power of MTV. In 1983, Billy Idol became an MTV staple with "White Wedding" and "Eyes Without a Face" and had commercial success with his second album Rebel Yell. Pop rock songs that topped the charts included Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart", John Waite's "Missing You", and Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" (with its iconic video).