British Invasion

British Invasion

The British Invasion was the term applied by the news media — and subsequently by consumers — to the influx of rock and roll, beat and pop performers from the United Kingdom who became popular in the United States and Canada. The classic British Invasion period was 1964 to 1967 (roughly bracketed by The Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan and the emergence of Jimi Hendrix as a U.S.-born superstar who had his first success in the UK), but the term has also been applied to later "waves" of UK artists that had significant impact on the North American entertainment market.


Background and pre-invasion

Not all acts prominent in Britain by the early 1960s necessarily managed to develop a profile in the U.S. Cliff Richard, who remains popular in Britain and active today, has only rarely had chart successes in America.

The rebellious tone and image of American rock and roll and blues musicians also deeply resonated with British youth in the late 1950s, influencing all the British Invasion artists.

Though generally not credited with starting the "Invasion," Dusty Springfield was one of the first British artists to have significant success in the U.S., with her hit single "I Only Want To Be With You," released in November 1963. She appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in early 1964 singing the popular hit, and continued to have several U.S. hits through the rest of the decade. A number of songs by British artists reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Beatles and the British Invasion

The term "British Invasion" was coined in 1964 to describe the wave of British rock-and-roll and beat artists (primarily groups) whose popularity spread rapidly to the rest of the English-speaking world, especially the United States and Canada. Rock 'n' roll had evolved as an American musical form in the early 1950s and prior to 1963 very few British artists had had success in that musical genre in the U.S.

The Beatles' influence on American culture

The beats and catchy rhythms were hard not to like among Americans when Beatlemania first hit the nation - so much that it is often said that The Beatles as icons were so popular because they personified the generation's youth, and that their music and records "had begun to mark the passage of time in their listeners' lives." [ [Gould, Jonathan. "Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America". (New York, Harmony Books, 2007), 345] ] . With John F Kennedy's death, the Vietnam War and other political crises, it was only right for the Beatles to serve as "pivotal figures in the creation myth of the counterculture." It is also important to point out (as some cultural critics already have) that the Beatles helped fill a vacuum that had existed since the assassination of JFK, and the resulting mass hystaria over the band's arrival may reflect a feeling of joy and relief in the U.S. among youth culture that had been mourning for 2 years. [Morrison, Craig. American Popular Music. British Invasion, p.32-34,. New York: Facts on File, 2006] [ [Gould, Jonathan. "Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America". (New York, Harmony Books, 2007), 344-345] ] The Beatles' "British oddities" as far as appearance and first impressions, with their shaggy hair and funny accents, were apparent when a reporter asked, "Does all that hair help you sing?" Their music meshed codependently with the culture and fashion of the musical group. Not only did the Fab Four influence fashion, haircuts and manners of the 1960s, they easily connected to the young "rebels" of the generation and influenced what defined a "cultural rebel" and collective noncomformity when it came to protests and activism.

Rock bands in and from Britain

The success of British acts of the time led to a major cultural realignment with acts such as The Byrds, The Beau Brummels, The Left Banke, 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 [ [ Todd Rundgren Bio,, retreieved 2007-11-05] .

Other British invasion personalities

The Anglomania at the time 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.

In 1964 films featuring James Bond portrayed by Sean Connery became popular in America as did Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins. That year the Beatles' first film "A Hard Day's Night" further painted England as the center of the (rock) universe. American media took the bait and made Carnaby Street, London's trendy fashion center in the mid-1960s, a household name. British television shows such as "The Avengers" that deliberately emphasized British identity were also popular.

econd British Invasion

More than a decade following the first invasion, the punk movement of the late 1970s resulted in an influx of British bands such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, Squeeze and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. While punk had a lasting influence on the U.S. popular music scene, it never broke through in the U.S. at that time to the same extent as in the UK.

For a time in 1980 and 1981, it seemed that apart from a few exceptions such as The Police, Dire Straits, Gary Numan, and The Psychedelic Furs, British acts and musical movements such as New Wave, New Romantics and Synthpop were being bypassed in favor 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 and acted as short films far more than their American counterparts at the time. (Which were usually just video taped concert performances.) and brought various distinctly British acts to the attention of American audiences, such as Duran Duran, Culture Club, ABC, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Human League, Adam Ant, A Flock of Seagulls, The Fixx, Naked Eyes, Thompson Twins, Eurythmics, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Wham and later Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, New Order, Wang Chung, Dead Or Alive 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 18 of the singles in the top 40 were by British artists and over 50 percent of the Billboard Hot 100 was accounted for by overseas artists. [ [ OUP, retrieved 2007-11-05] ]

Around the same time American acts such as Michael Jackson, Blondie, Madonna, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and The Pointer Sisters found success on the charts in the UK as well.

ubsequent years

This second invasion of the 1980s remains (to date) the most recent major upsurge of British talent on the American charts. 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 1982 to 1986, success by British acts gradually dwindled to such 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 can be explained by MTV's need for a pool of videos to fill its programming, since at that time the most distinctive and most available videos were by British acts.

After the mid 1980s, tastes in the U.S. and UK diverged, the schism occurring most markedly in the late '80s and early '90s. In the UK, Dance music became hugely popular, but this movement was by and large ignored in the U.S., partly as a hangover from the Disco sucks campaign of the early '80s 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 only mitigated by the unexpected success of Morrissey's "Your Arsenal" (1992), which yielded him a moderate cult success in the States. And during the 80's the U.S. had certain genres such as hip hop which during the this time was very small in popularity in the UK.

In addition, the rise in the U.S. of glam metal in the late '80s, and grunge and most notably hip-hop in the '90s, 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, being perceived as too parochial and backward-looking, though some acts, notably Oasis, Radiohead, and Blur, achieved some success in the American market.

By the late '90s 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 it is not yet a third invasion, this decade has been the most successful period for British acts since the early 1990s. The most successful of these artists are probably Coldplay Fact|date=June 2008, who broke through in 2000 with their debut album "Parachutes". Subsequently other acts have followed in their footsteps.

In early 2006, 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. Corinne Bailey Rae achieved acclaim for her self titled album which debuted at #17 in the U.S. Snow Patrol also broke through, reaching the US Top 10 with the single "Chasing Cars", and Amy Winehouse reached the U.S. top 10 with her single "Rehab" as well as her album Back To Black which debut at number 7 in the album charts before peaking at number 2 and later being certified 2 times Platinum.

And Joss Stone whose second album Mind Body & Soul reached number 11 in the U.S billboard Charts, and her third album Introducing Joss Stone debuted at number two on the "Billboard" 200 album charts selling 118,000 copies in its first week, becoming the first British solo female artist to have an album debut at number two. [cite web |url= |title=Joss Beats Winehouse |accessdate=2007-03-29 |work=MTV UK |date=29 March 2007]

Natasha Bedingfield also enjoyed success in the United States in 2005 and 2006 with singles like "These Words", which reached #17 in the U.S. charts, and "Unwritten", which peaked inside the U.S. top 10 at #5 and became the second most played song on U.S. radio in 2006. Her debut album also reached #26. In January 2008 Bedingfield released her second US album Pocketful of Sunshine which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Top 200, the lead single from her second album Love Like This reached #11 in the same week. In May 2008 Bedingfield scored her second top 10 in the U.S. with Pocketful of Sunshine which reached #5. Her brother Daniel Bedingfield also reached the U.S. Billboard Top 20 twice in 2003, with "Gotta Get Thru This" and "If You're Not the One".

Britain's most recent American successes are English Alternative rock band Radiohead who reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200 in January 2008 with their album "In Rainbows", proving still to be the biggest British act in America. It was their second #1 album stateside after their 2000 album Kid A.

Also X Factor winner Leona Lewis, whose debut single Bleeding Love and album Spirit reached #1 on the Billboard Hot & Pop 100 chart and Billboard 200 album chart respectively. []

Duffy is seen as the latest in a recent wave of British singers consisting of mostly females (including Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse) with a unique take on writing and performing songs from time past. [ [ The newest British invader, just Duffy MediaLife Magazine 5 May,2008] ]

In June 2008 Coldplay reached Number one in the US singles charts with their single Viva la Vida. The band also reached Number one in the album charts with the album Viva la Vida or Death and all his friends. Though not a British invasion, by the end of June 2008 there were three British acts in the US top 10 singles charts at the same time - Leona Lewis, Natasha Bedingfield and Coldplay.

Early British Invasion artists

British artists which reached number-one on the Hot 100, 1964-1966
*The Animals
*The Beatles
*Cilla Black
*The Dave Clark Five
*Petula Clark
*Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
*Freddie and the Dreamers
*Gerry & the Pacemakers
*Herman's Hermits
*The Kinks
*Manfred Mann
*The New Vaudeville Band
*Peter and Gordon
*The Rolling Stones
*The Troggs
*The Who
*The Yardbirds
*The Zombies

econd British Invasion artists

*Adam Ant
*Rick Astley
*Big Country
*The Clash
*Culture Club
*The Cure
*Def Leppard
*Depeche Mode
*Dire Straits
*Thomas Dolby
*Duran Duran
*Fine Young Cannibals
*Billy Idol
*Iron Maiden
*New Order
*Pet Shop Boys
*The Police
*The Pretenders
*Sex Pistols
*Simple Minds
*Tears for Fears


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