The British Invasion Tickets
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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, Australia and Canada. The classic British Invasion period was 1964 to 1967, but the term has also been applied to later waves of UK artists that had significant impact on the North American entertainment market.
British musical acts had only achieved fleeting success in what was then a relatively insular market, when the success of The Beatles brought a huge sweeping love for music. The first major breakthrough was the success of Dame Vera Lynn when she became the first British act to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1952. Other acts in the intervening years had some success, most notably George Shearing, Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark with The Tornados becoming the first British group to reach #1 with Telstar in 1962.
Like their transatlantic counterparts in the 1950s, British youth heard their future in the frantic beats and suggestive lyrics of American rock and roll, but initial attempts to replicate it failed, as enthusiasts lacked the indigenous basic ingredients of rock and roll, rhythm and blues and country music. Artists who went on to become notable in the following decade first cut their musical teeth in skiffle bands. They most often sang traditional American folk songs, frequently with more spirit than instrumental polish, although early British skiffle was often played by highly skilled Trad jazz musicians.
Liverpool became the first hotbed of the so-called beat boom. Because Liverpool was Britain's major Atlantic seaport, Liverpudlian merchant seamen often sailed to the U.S. and returned with the latest American rock-and-roll hits, often before they were made widely available in Britain. The Beatles first reached the British record charts in late 1962; the rest joined the hit parade in 1963. 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 chart successes in America.
By 1962, encouraged by the anyone-can-play populism of skiffle and self-schooled in the music of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, James Brown, and Muddy Waters, some British teens developed a real feel for the rock-and-roll and American blues idioms. Blending that with such local traditions as music hall, pop, and Celtic folk, they formulated original music they could claim, play, and sing with conviction. Young groups with electric guitars began performing and writing up-tempo melodic pop, fiery rock and roll, and Chicago-style electric blues. 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.
More than a decade following the first invasion, the largely British based punk movement of the late 1970s resulted in a fresh influx of raw. While punk had a lasting influence on the US popular music scene, it never broke through in the US at that time to the same extent as in the UK. However, the various cultural sources that punk and new wave took their inspirations from, especially cinema and television, would stand them and subsequent acts in good stead in the next decade.
This second invasion of the 1980s remains 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 1983 to 1985, 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.
After the mid 1980s, tastes in the US 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 US, 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.