Beat music

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Beat music or beat (from English to beat , ' to beat ') is a term used mainly from 1960 to the early 1970s for guitar-based pop rock by beat bands . American rock 'n' roll and British skiffle served as musical models , mostly played by bands with two to three electric guitars , an electric bass , a saxophone and a drum kit . The best-known group who helped develop and popularize this style were the Beatles .

Musical characteristics

Beat music has five distinctive features:

  • the mostly two or three-part group singing
  • the use of two electric guitars ( lead and rhythm guitar )
  • the use of an electric bass (bass guitar)
  • a two- to three-part song form
  • the non- swinging 4/4 time


First in England, mainly in London and Liverpool, school bands came together and had their first appearances in small clubs and pubs. Derived from the River Mersey , which flows into the Irish Sea in Liverpool, the style of music is also known as Merseybeat . In contrast to the rock 'n' roll of the 1950s , they did not play in fine costumes, but in their street or work clothes. Since, in contrast to rock 'n' roll, the first beat was emphasized and struck in 4/4 time , a different rhythm sequence was created , the music became more uniform and homogeneous. It reached the youth and the first beat concerts took place. The British radio station BBC became aware of the new kind of music. Some bands were invited and the first live broadcasts of the new music genre took place. Beat music was broadcast to all broadcasting areas around the world via the BBC and the BFBS soldier channel. Radio Luxemburg then took up Beat as one of the first non-British radio stations in Europe .

Federal Republic of Germany

For many adults the term beat had a negative connotation ; he stood for rebellion , long hair and loud volume.

In the Federal Republic of Germany the television station Radio Bremen (at that time still in black and white) began to invite British music groups; In 1965 he started the Beat Club . Outstanding among its moderators was Uschi Nerke , who presented the music from 1965 to 1972 - and was  one of the best-known moderators of the time alongside the British Chris Howland , also known as "Mister Pumpernickel" . The first beat groups formed in the big cities , for example The Lords in Berlin and The Rattles as well as Cisco and his Dynamites in Hamburg. Beat bands also emerged in rural areas, for example The Petards from Schrecksbach . The singer Drafi Deutscher was also close to the beat. In churches, youth services with a beat music character were occasionally held as a beat mass .


In October 1961 , CPSU General Secretary Khrushchev initiated a second wave of de-Stalinization in the Eastern Bloc . The GDR regime stabilized after the wall was built.

The SED leadership gave up certain forms of harassment towards young people, especially with regard to imports of Western dance forms. A Politburo decision in 1963 stated: “It does not occur to anyone to tell young people that they should only express their feelings and moods while dancing to the waltz or tango rhythm. Which tact the youngsters choose is up to them: the main thing is that they remain tactful! ”The then FDJ chairman Horst Schumann was a public activist for the fashion dance“ Twist ”, which had been frowned upon until then , in order to improve the“ musty ”image of the FDJ . In May 1964, half a million young people from the GDR took part in the German Youth Meeting, as well as 25,000 participants from the Federal Republic and West Berlin. A youth program of the Berliner Rundfunk went on air around the clock, was very well received and was given a permanent slot as DT64 .

In the GDR, too, numerous beat groups formed, such as the Sputniks , the Butlers or the Franke Echo Quintet . On October 14, 1964, Khrushchev was overthrown . A relaxed phase in the GDR quickly ended: the GDR government banned beat music. These bans led to the Leipzig Beatdemo on October 31, 1965.

The SED regime went on the offensive: It let the media, all of which were state-controlled and censored , agitate against " hooliganism ", " bums ", "long-haired", "neglected" and "loitering" . The FDJ leadership supported actions in which students were cut off the hair of their classmates. Erich Honecker railed against the beat music on DT64 and against the "cynical verses" of the songwriter Wolf Biermann , against whom a performance ban was imposed.

Other countries

From the Netherlands , ships set out to sea that broadcast beats with advertising outside the territorial waters , the so-called pirate broadcasters , such as Radio Veronica , Radio Caroline and Radio Nordzee . They had a wide audience in the Benelux countries and also in West Germany as far as the Ruhr area. The Dutch broadcaster Hilversum 3 was founded to compete with the pirate broadcasters.

Well-known British beat bands were u. a. The Beatles , The Rolling Stones , The Who , The Animals , Manfred Mann , The Hollies , Small Faces , Herman's Hermits , The Kinks , The Shadows and Gerry and the Pacemakers , the American beat groups included The Monkees and The Beach Boys . The Easybeats came from Australia .

In France , rock 'n' rollers such as Richard Anthony , Johnny Hallyday and Claude Piron alias Danny Boy et ses Pénitents , successfully turned to beat music and heralded the " période yéyé ". With a few exceptions, such as Johnny Hallyday, who recorded a record in German with the Rattles in 1966 , the success of the Franco beat was mainly limited to the French market.

In Switzerland , the Sauterelles were internationally successful, also known as the "Swiss Beatles".

The sudden success of British beat groups in the USA in the mid-1960s is also referred to as the British Invasion (English "British Invasion").

At the end of the 1960s, beat music was increasingly transformed into rock music , elements from orchestras were added, and electronics were introduced. The hair grew longer , protests against abuses in the world like the Vietnam War grew stronger.

In the wake of a retro wave at the beginning of the 21st century, elements of the beat were also picked up in rock and pop music by bands such as The Libertines , The White Stripes , The Hives and others.


  • Heinz Dietz, Mathias Buck: The German Beatbands . 2nd edition, self-published, Frankfurt am Main, Butzbach 2002.
  • Ulli Günther: Views of a Lord. For the 40th anniversary of the stage . Culture book, Berlin 2002.
  • Hans-Jürgen Klitsch: Shakin 'All Over. The beat music of the Federal Republic of Germany 1963–1967 . 2nd Edition. High Castle, Erkrath 2001.
  • Volker Ladenthin : Musical archeology: Beat in Germany . In: Volker Ladenthin (Ed.): Music ~ Education ~ School . Special issue by PÄD Forum 27, no . 2, 2008, pp. 93–99.
  • Samuel Mumenthaler : BeatPopProtest. The sound of the Swiss sixties . Edition Plus Sàrl, Lausanne 2001.
  • Michael Rauhut: Beat in the gray area. GDR rock 1964–1972 . Base print, Berlin 1993.
  • JMM : Rolling stones around an orchestra . In: Die Zeit , No. 39/1965.
  • Something happened in Liverpool . In: Die Zeit , No. 52/1965.
  • The Unbarbershopped Quartet . In: Time , February 21, 1964.
  • Matthias Blazek: 50 years ago the Beat started in the Celle area - 50 years of Beatlemania in Celle , bpr-Projekt GbR, Celle 2013, ISBN 978-3-00-041877-8 .
  • Rainer Keller: Forgotten Beat Bands from the 1960s. An international lexicon . Lappersdorf 2014, ISBN 978-3-931954-32-1

Web links

Wiktionary: Beat music  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from Ulrich Mählert: Brief history of the GDR. 4th revised edition, Munich 2004, p. 105.
  2. Mählert, as above, pp. 106-108.