British invasion

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British Invasion was the name commonly used in the media in North America for the high hit parade presence and intensive airplay of British music productions in pop music , especially by beat bands from 1964 onwards.


The term is a journalistic allusion to the military invasion of British troops in Maryland during the British-American War from June 18, 1812. British music productions initially played only a very minor role in the US music charts ; of the 121 number-one hits from 1955 to 1962, only two were of British origin, namely Acker Bilks Stranger on the Shore and Telstar from the Tornadoes (both 1962). Eddie Calvert's version of O mein Papa (September 1953) was the first million seller in the United States by a British solo instrumentalist. Lonnie Donegan's Rock Island Line sold over a million copies worldwide in 1958 and rose to number 8 on the US charts. However, these were individual cases that did not result in an increased hit parade presence.


By 1963, the British brought music industry mainly rather pale Elvis Presley - imitations like Tommy Steele , Cliff Richard , Marty Wilde and Billy Fury produced. Only the Skiffle -music with Lonnie Donegan at the top set the stage for a separate, later as beat music ( "beat music") designated music style . Above all, the Beatles opened the way for other British performers to hit the US charts. Initially, they often built on original American music titles in order to later be successful with cleverly produced own compositions. The cover versions of the Beatles and other tracks of the rock 'n' roll , the rhythm and blues and Motown -Sounds were in North America meant as a tribute and not motivated than commercial. British beat groups were extremely successful in North America on this basis and partly superimposed American musical styles. Their sound was not radically different from that of the Beach Boys, for example . In the media there was talk of “British Invasion” or “British Beat”, because not only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones , but also secondary beat groups like The Dave Clark Five , The Animals , The Hollies , The Searchers , Manfred Mann , Gerry & the Pacemakers , The Swinging Blue Jeans , The Kinks and Herman's Hermits stormed the US hit parade. At the same time, rock 'n' roll in the USA lost its importance with the Payola affair and the death of rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly , Big Bopper , Ritchie Valens and Eddie Cochran . It was not until 1966 that an American group, the Monkees, was lifted from the retort, which enabled a counterbalance to the Beatles. From 1966 onwards, increasing American rock music displaced beat music and beat bands; US rock bands have dominated since then.


On December 10, 1963, Walter Cronkite presented in the CBS Evening News a report on the Beatles phenomenon with ecstatic excesses in Britain. When Capitol Records began delivering Beatles singles to radio stations on December 26, 1963 , I Want to Hold Your Hand entered the US charts at number 45 on January 18, 1964 and formally launched the phenomenon of the British Invasion . On February 1, 1964, the single reached number one, which it held for seven weeks. The CBS Evening News reported again on February 7, 1964 about the arrival of the Beatles in the United States that day, with Cronkite comparing: "This time the British Invasion is code-named Beatlemania ". On February 8, 1964, Dusty Springfield entered the US charts with I Only Want to Be with You and barely missed the top 10 with 12th place.


The British Invasion reached its first climax when, on March 31, 1964, the Beatles finished in the top five places in the US pop hit parade:

  1. Twist and Shout
  2. Can't Buy Me Love
  3. She loves you
  4. I want to hold your hand
  5. Please Please Me

This phenomenon has not been repeated since then and shows the exceptional situation. As on February 9, 1964, the Beatles in the Ed Sullivan -Show - with an audience share of 73 million viewers - occurred and I Want to Hold Your Hand for a week, the US hit parade led the heyday of Beatlemania began. The British Invasion reached its all-time high on April 11, 1964, when a total of 17 British-made titles came from the Billboard Hot 100 . Between January 4, 1964 and December 25, 1965, eleven of the 48 top 1 songs came from British production. British music productions flooded the US charts by June 1965, after which their share of hits decreased.

Second wave

A second wave of the British Invasion can be recognized in terms of music history from 1967, when the Bee Gees , The Move , Traffic , Cream or Pink Floyd conquered the American charts and changed their image significantly. It started with the Bee Gees and their transatlantic hit New York Mining Disaster 1941 (May 1967). Cream toured the United States in March 1967 and scored particularly well with the albums Disraeli Gears (December 1967) and Wheels of Fire (July 1968). Procol Harum's unusual single A Whiter Shade of Pale (July 1967) or Traffics album John Barleycorn Must Die (July 1970) had an easy time conquering the US charts. The second wave ended in 1973.

Third wave

When, on July 3, 1982, the Human League topped the US charts with their hit Don't You Want Me , a third wave of the British Invasion began. The New York weekly Village Voice commented that the song quite unmistakably ushered in the second British Invasion (meaning the third), spurred on by MTV . Newsweek headlined "Britain Rocks America - Again" on January 23, 1984, and featured two British pop idols Annie Lennox and Boy George as covers . British music productions such as those for Duran Duran , Spandau Ballet , Kajagoogoo , Simple Minds or Tears for Fears spread in the US charts. In April 1984, 40 of the top 100 singles and on May 25, 1985 Hot 100 even eight of the top 10 singles were British. The third wave of the British Invasion lasted until the autumn of 1986 and clearly exceeded the two previous waves in intensity.


  • Greg Shaw (Ed.): The British are coming. From the childhood days of English rock music. From the American by Walle Bengs. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1983.
  • Lester Bangs: The British Invasion. In: Jim Miller (Ed.): The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Rolling Stone Press / Random House, New York 1976, pp. 164-171
  • Craig Morrison: American Popular Music. Rock and roll. Preface by Kevin J. Holm-Hudson. Checkmark Books, New York 2006, pp. 32-34

Individual evidence

  1. ^ William Matthew Marine: The British Invasion of Maryland 1812-1815. 2009, p. 28
  2. Barry Miles: The British Invasion. 2009, p. 15
  3. Simon Frith, Will Straw, John Street: The Cambridge Companion to Pop And Rock. 2001, p. 118
  4. ^ Roy Shuker: Popular Music: The Key Concepts. 2005, p. 32
  5. ^ Wieland Ziegenrücker, Peter Wicke: Sachlexikon Popularmusik. 1987, p. 41
  6. ^ "The British Invasion this time goes by the code name Beatlemania"
  7. Bill Harry: The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia. 1992, p. 154
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn: Billboard Hot 100 Charts, The Sixties. 1990, April 11, 1964
  9. ^ Arnold Shaw: Dictionary of American Pop / Rock. 1982, p. 57
  10. ^ Frank Hoffman: Survey of American Popular Music. The British Invasion
  11. The Village Voice of July 29, 2011, The Dawning of the MTV Era ( Memento of the original of October 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /