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After the publication of their first single, ‘Love me Do,’ in 1962, The Beatles started conquering the leadership of the British and European musical scene. The big jump toward what would become legend, happened in 1963, with the release of the album ‘Please Please Me.’ The record reached number one of the top British charts, and the Beatlemania started to overflow.
However, The Beatles revolution was not destined to be confined to Europe. On February 7, 1964, The Beatles arrived in New York City, carrying with them a revolution in American popular music. The Beatles’ success opened the doors to a flow of British bands that later acquired predominance in the American radios, clubs, and in the hearts of American music lovers. Since 1964, the typical American blues sounds, and the roots of rock were reinvented by the British musicians, who freshened up those ‘50s typical styles, merging them with their own innovation.
The Beatles were not the only, or the first, musicians who were experimenting and developing a new way of doing rock ‘n’ roll, later called ‘beat,’ in Great Britain. They were, though, the core of an entire movement which had started within the young population of the United Kingdom.
At the time, the U.S. was experiencing a decline in youths’ interest in rock ‘n’ roll after the peak reached by the genre in the ‘50s, and the following raise of a more commercial pop sound. Those who felt they did not belong to the new shape that this popular sound was experiencing in the U.S. were in strong need of something to attach to; a new generation of rock ‘n’ roll yet to come. That is exactly what The Beatles gave them: a new, fresh, sound based on the roots of American rock ‘n’ roll, with the taste and innovation of a younger spirit. Moreover, the U.S. was grieving the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy; the catchy songs of The Beatles seemed to be the perfect remedy to alleviate the feeling of depression.
In 1963, The Beatles’ management had already attempted to place some of the band’s singles into the U.S. charts, with little success. In ’64, the mixture of those depressive feelings generated by the loss of Kennedy, and the lack of affiliation to the current sound on part of the youngsters, played then a central part in The Beatles’ musical revolution in the U.S.. The youth of that time were also in constant need of a figure to use as rebellion toward the powers in charge and their parents’ generation; The Beatles, with their particular style of looks, served the purpose perfectly.
At some point in January 1964, with radios playing their part, The Beatles became an omnipresent figure for people. Labels that the previous year had distributed the band’s singles with little success, threw those back into the market again, leading The Beatles to cover all the first five positions in the American charts at a certain point that Spring.
As is true for every music movement, American labels started signing every act coming from the U.K. that they thought was part of the British sound revolution. Some British bands who got the acclamation of labels and audience were actually not of a higher quality than some of the American bands that had been rejected by the youngsters a couple of years before. They were part of a unique movement in the mind of people; on the wake of the spreading of the Beatlemania in the U.S., British bands which even played a different style of music conquered the American scene. Some of those bands did not even have any real success in their Homeland.
The talented, strongly experimental, Beatles were leading the constant flow of innovative kids who were playing their way into Americans’ hearts. By the beginning of the summer of 1964, the American music industry was so dominated by British acts that many American artists disappeared. Even musicians such as ‘The King’ Elvis Presley, and the Beach Boys saw their success decline in that period, even though they survived through the invasion. Many of the American artists decided to incorporate some features of the British sound into their own flow of innovation, which spread later on, overcoming the British invasion, toward the end of the ‘60s.
The Beatles are often said to have saved rock ‘n’ roll, and in a certain sense, they surely did. Their biggest power, through the guidance of the British invasion, was indeed to brush away the commercial pop, poorly talented, music that was conquering the American charts up to ’64. They set the industry’s mind back on rock ‘n’ roll, and on its development, setting the basis for the many innovations to the genre yet to come.
Image Courtesy of Paul McCartney