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Opinion

World celebrates 50 years since British Invasion

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February 13, 2014

The world of music, particularly rock and roll, is surely celebrating this year. This year marks the 50th anniversary since the start of the British Invasion, kicking off when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. The British Invasion took place when several bands from the United Kingdom, as well as aspects of British culture, appeared and became popular in the United States. Not only did The Beatles made an impact, but other bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks made a mark as well. Even today, their music lives on and is well-known by several generations.

Similar to the United States, British rock and roll became popular in the 1950s, carrying with it the same rebellious attitude. In Liverpool during 1962, where The Beatles formed, many bands worked to combine both British and American styles. The phenomenon was known as “Merseybeat,” and it produced such hits as “Love Me Do,” The Beatles’ first record. Influences in music making also came from two British “gangs,” the Mods and the Rockers. These two groups had a significant impact on the British Invasion, with the Mods becoming the frontrunner. Any band that was able to conform to the Mod style or combine both, such as The Beatles, was quite successful.

Of course, The Beatles were the frontrunners of the British Invasion. There was a Beatles craze in the United States even before they arrived. This was noted in the Oct. 29, 1963, issue of The Washington Post. However, this was only the beginning of their career, and they went on to write music together for nearly a decade. Six days later, the band played a concert for the Queen at England’s Royal Variety Theater and this helped further boost their popularity and media attention. Major television stations and newspapers responded to this craze, dubbing it “Beatlemania.”

The Beatles’ popularity also brought light to the dark time following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite wanted to report on the Beatlemania excitement after viewers only heard bad news. A week later, after an enthusiastic phone call from a Beatles fan, a Maryland radio station played “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The radio station sent the song to other stations around the country as Beatlemania marched on, mostly among teenagers. As a result, the record was released late in the year, three weeks ahead of schedule. Just one month later “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reached number one on Cash Box Magazine and Billboard charts.

The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, drawing in 73 million viewers, nearly half the country. The Beatles had over 20 number one hits, and every year that they were together, at least two of their singles held the top spot on the chart. Perhaps their most amazing number was dominating the top five spots on the charts, a feat that no other band has accomplished.

Other bands and singers also dominated the charts. Dusty Springfield likewise reached the top 100 with her hit “I Only Want to be With You.” Bands, such as the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five, had one or more number one hits during 1967. Other well-known bands such as The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Van Morrison and The Kinks had similar success on the charts, and their top hits are still heard on the radio today. The United Kingdom nearly swept the top 10 on the charts during the 1960s.

The film industry also saw a growing popularity of British stars. Films such as Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, James Bond and A Hard Day’s Night became wildly popular following their big screen debut. These films introduced stars such as Sean Connery, Julie Andrews, who won a record number of Academy Awards, and Audrey Hepburn, who won eight Academy Awards. It also gave way to The Beatles’ acting debut. Music and movies alike influenced peoples’ lifestyles, therefore helping to initiate the hippie movement.

The British Invasion of the 1960s had a profound impact on our country and it continues to do so today. Many bands, songs and movies made popular by British stars are still very much alive, even with our generation. They have influenced future music and showed what can happen when you mix two different styles and cultures.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.