Music Industry in the 1960s

Cultures of different nations are interwoven and so are different styles of music. People who have a good understanding of music often notice similar tune or beat in different songs. Each style of music has its own specific features, especially when it is popular music. However, when the new ideas are injected into some musical style, it can become popular again. It happened in the early nineteen-sixties, when hundreds of new bands appeared in the UK. The 1960s was a period when British bands dominated the music industry; it was called British Invasion. Speaking about British Invasion, most people associate it with the Beatles. However, not only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were popular in 1960s; a lot of other bands from the UK reached the top of American charts. Actually, there were several reasons why there appeared so many bands, whose music gained worldwide popularity.

Obviously, Great Britain experienced the same invasion of American rock and roll and blues performers. Thus, British Invasion may have been an adverse reaction to the domination of American bands in the 1950s. As a rule, it is considered that certain American music inspired the British to develop their own style. Great Britain was a fertile land for American culture as the British and Americans speak the same language. Initially, British soldiers learned about American culture from the US soldiers during the Second World War. Thus, rock and roll, skiffle, and rhythm and blues were spread around the UK. According to Petersen, “Before the first wave British Invasion of the sixties, there was a skiffle craze in the UK launched in the mid-fifties by Lonnie Donegan”. In fact, John Lennon and Paul McCartney played skiffle in the Quarrymen before it became the Beatles. There are many other examples, such as former guitarist of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page who played skiffle in his childhood. He claims that “you could get to know one chord and just strum it all day”. Skiffle does not require great musical skills and it is easy to play. Thus, it was the main reason why it became popular among British youth. However, British rock and roll and skiffle bands were not very popular among American audience because they had already gone through this period.

Although skiffle was the most popular genre in Great Britain, there were bands who were inspired by American blues and its derivatives such as rhythm and blues. These bands usually had harder sounding and more serious lyrics than rock and roll and beat groups. Many British bands also performed songs of prominent American blues singers such as Jimmy Reed, Howling Woolf, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker. Undoubtedly, American blues and rhythm ‘n’ blues songs were an inspiration for British Invasion bands concerning their instrumentation and shape. It formed the second school of British Invasion bands.

However, it is more interesting why the British performers became popular in the USA, where the public was sophisticated and fastidious about music. The first thing is a new shape of the bands. For instance, in the 1950s single performers were also song writers, and their bands, which were usually nameless, only provided musical accompaniment. Meanwhile, British bands had a distinctly new image. These were bands where every group member was a personality; drummers or bass guitarists were not left in shade, they could sing and write songs, which became world hits.

Moreover, the way was already cleared for British Invasion bands, as the majority of the former heroes of American stage were either unpopular or unable to be popular. For instance, Little Richard retired from pop music career in 1957, Elvis Presley was drafted into the army for two years, and Chuck Berry was convicted of a crime. Such eminent musicians as Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper passed away in 1959. The lack of competition on the American music scene did British bands a good turn. Another factor that stimulated the growth of musical culture in the UK was the cancelation of the National Service in Great Britain on 31 December 1960. Young people had nothing to do but to follow the mainstream and their musical eagerness was not restricted by army discipline. Naturally, not all of them reached success but those who had succeeded became part of such a massive phenomenon in popular music industry as British Invasion.

Bands inspired by rock and roll and skiffle developed a completely new style of music. Their experiments with rock and roll, rhythm and blues, skiffle and Merseybeat grew into the beat music. It was an absolutely new phenomenon in the early sixties. At first, beat groups provided a completely new format of a band, where three guitarists and a drummer were required for lead, rhythm and bass. They also had progressive sounding with a strong beat and collective singing, which was unusual for that time. Many rock and roll hits of the 1950s were covered by British groups and became popular again. The music played by these groups was a kind of rock and roll revival, which then developed into the school of British Invasion bands.

Obviously, the most outstanding representatives of this school are the Beatles. This band was a pioneer of British Invasion, which is often characterized by a term Beatlemania. Their success inspired other UK bands. When the Beatles shifted from skiffle to rock and roll, they invented the new style of music under the influence of Merseybeat. It is especially evident in their early recordings such as “Little Child”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, etc. These songs are characterized by typical rock and roll tempo and sounding. The song “I Wanna Be Your Man” represents their return to skiffle roots. Many bands tried to copy the style of the Beatles, though only a few managed to succeed. Among other beat bands one should mention The Searchers, which was considered the second popular beat band after the Beatles. Their rock and roll background is appreciable in the songs “Needles and Pins”, “Twist and Shout”. Another noticeable band of beat music school is the Dave Clark Five, and their songs “Glad All Over” and “Do You Love Me” feature traditional rock and roll tune and rhythm sections.

British bands inspired by blues and rhythm and blues made its sound harder, thus blues rock appeared in the UK. In their interpretation, old blues songs got a new life. British bands featured many bluesmen, although the most popular was Chuck Berry, whose songs were performed by the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Animals, and many others. The Rolling Stones was the most influential band, which kept returning to blues roots during its whole career. It is clear after listening to their songs such as “Little Red Rooster”,” Jumping Jack Flash” and “Love In Vain”. Another prominent band, the Animals, were popular mostly for their song “The House of the Rising Sun”. Actually, it is a traditional folk song but the Animals turned it into a classical blues rock hit. Additionally, one should mention the Yardbirds, who were initially a directly blues-influenced band. Some of their songs, such as “Smokestack Lightning”, “Boom Boom”, “I’m a Man” are rhythm and blues covers of American blues singers Howling Wolf, Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley respectively.

There was a musical vacuum in the United States in the sixties, and British bands came to fill it. They would not have been so popular if they had played the same skiffle, blues, rock and roll or jazz that Americans were tired of. There was something new in British bands that allowed them to impress the American hard-to-please audience and show them something that they had never seen before.

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