At 8 o’clock on February 9th 1964, 73 million people gathered in front of their TV sets to see what all the excitement was about. That evening, 60% of the televisions turned on were tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show.
"Now yesterday and today our theater's been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that the city never has the excitement, stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool, who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight, you're gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles. Let's bring them on."
Sullivan's last words were drowned out by the screaming young girls in attendance at CBS Studio 50. For several weeks, American radio stations had been saturating the airwaves with Beatles music. Many saw, The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show", as a defining moment comparable to "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" or “Man's first steps on the moon”. The moment undeniably marked the beginning of one of the greatest and most celebrated, cultural phenomenon in the history of mankind, The British Invasion.
“It was a sweet surrender, as millions of kids (and not a few adults) succumbed to the sound of guitar-wielding, mop-topped redcoats playing rock & roll that was fresh, exotically foreign and full of the vitality of a new age in the making.”
Marching behind the Beatles, in formations were David Clarke 5, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers, the Animals, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Hollies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Peter and Gordon ,Freddie and the Dreamers, and the list continues. I have personally listened to almost all of them (the perks of A/C library with free WiFi), but not all . Let’s first talk about my favourite, and possibly yours as well, the Beatles.
"In  England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back."
1964, Life magazine
During the 6½ years between the appearance of the single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on the Billboard Hot 100 and the “Let It Be” LP, the Beatles had the Number One single in the US for a total of 59 weeks and topped the LP charts for 116 weeks. In other words, they had the top-selling single one out of every six weeks, and the top-selling album one out of every three weeks. Their music was rooted in Skiffle, Merseybeat and Rock n roll, with R&B and American folk influences ( This was followed by most of the Liverpudlian bands that came after them (the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Searchers, etc.), and many consider it as the reason for their celebrated success, the reason that their music stroke a chord with the American audience). The Beatles later experimented with pop ballads, Indian music, psychedelia and hard rock. Nonetheless, they commanded a huge fanbase and were at the forefront of the Counterculture of the 1960s.
Ferry Cross the Mersey ---
Liverpool exported a lot of its talent across the Atlantic. Gerry and the Pacemakers were not a convincing rock band , but with their “Ferry cross the Mersey” and “I like it” (one of my personal favourite) , they had a solid hold on ballads. Others in the lot of exported talents were the Searchers (hits include “Needles and pins” and “Love potion no. 9” ) and the Swinging Blue jeans (“Hippy Hippy Shake”), they were the other two Liverpool bands after Beatles that reached US top 100.
The Sixties belonged to Britain ---
David Clarke 5 who hailed from London once gave a neck to neck competition to the Beatles with seventeen Top Forty hits between 1964 and 1967 . However they didn’t progress in terms of lyrical and poetic standards , the way Beatles did. Yet they remain one of the greatest single bands. Another talented group of youngsters was the Animals. Gruff and earthy, Eric Burdon of the Animals sang about hard times in a powerful growl that made him sound decades wiser than his age. With organist Alan Price supplying jazzy counterpoint, the Animals vaulted to Number One in September 1964 with "House of the Rising Sun," a four-minute-plus ode to a New Orleans brothel. (Do listen to it, I promise, you won’t regret.). The Yardbirds, who inherited the Stones' regular spot at London's Crawdaddy Club, exploited their blues background for a series of experiments in futurist rock. They were the first British Invasion group to be recognized for the instrumental prowess of their guitarists — who were, in order of succession, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. (Shocked, right? I was shocked too). The band is known for starting the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton(“Layla” and “Tears in Heaven”), Jimmy Page (Lead guitarist and founder of Led Zeppelin) and Jeff Beck ( independent guitarist, appeared in albums with Mick Jagger, Jon Bon Jovi, Roger Waters etc. ), all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
And then finally came the Rolling Stones to put the raunch back in rock n roll.
“Unlike the Beatles, the Stones came on unsmiling and without manners — the kind of group parents had every right to feel uneasy about. “
The Stones got a delayed start in the U.S. They didn't enter the fray in a major way until 1965. After warming up the Top Ten with "Time Is on My Side" and "The Last Time," they delivered a hard-hitting track with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. "Satisfaction" remains one of the bedrock songs of the age. From here the Stones turned up the heat with numbers like "Get Off of My Cloud," "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Paint It Black" (my personal favourite). The music of the Rolling Stones was an ice-and-fire contrast to the Beatles.
While the Invasion was generally a band-oriented phenomenon, the female artists stood alone and did quite well for themselves. Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull and Lulu are four of the more recognizable names to dent the charts. Solo males were scarcer in combo-happy Britain. One worth mentioning is Donovan, the Dylanesque folk singer turned psychedelic minstrel, whose "Sunshine Superman" soared to Number One in 1966. (The reason that I mention him is my late fascination with psychedelic rock and my roomie who supplies it, believe me it’s dope. ;)).
While the U.S. did witness the Second Invasion, with the advent of Pink Floyd and other progressive British rock bands, during late 1970s and 1980s, this time the reason for their popularity was attributed to the cable music channel MTV.
"We're more popular than Jesus"
- John Lennon
For further readings :
A playlist of the songs in the same order as they appear in the article :
--Penned by @Aranya Samaiyar