How British Bands Rocked And Conquered America


On February 7th, 1964, the world of music changed. The Beatles came to America and kicked off the British invasion. The 60s were a time of upheaval in America; the civil rights movement had exploded; the Vietnam war was live on TV in in people’s living rooms and America put men on the moon. The Beatles along, with other British bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Who were instrumental in changing the shape of American culture and music in the 60s. They came to the States with clear intentions; to rock and conquer America.

After the end of World War II, America had a baby boom. By the 60s, these boomers were teenagers. With the assassination of JFK, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war, teens needed something. That something was music. The generational gap between parents and teenagers was increasing and this new wave of music made the gap even greater.

In December 1963, The Beatles released their first U.S. single ‘Please Please Me’. That year also saw the birth of the term ‘Beatlemania’, it was running wild all over England and was about to run wild in America.

The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964. It is estimated that 70 million people tuned in for the performance. America hadn’t been this enthralled with any artist since Elvis Presley.

What also helped The Beatles conquer America was smart moves from the people who ran the band. Considerable amounts of money was put into The Beatles from a promotional context. This was all orchestrated by press agents, record companies and managers. Their music and image also helped them in becoming the biggest band in the world.

The Rolling Stones first came to America in the summer of 1964. They toured the country and promoted their first album ‘The Rolling Stones’. The band were seen as more rebellious and cavalier than The Beatles. What also helped the Stones conquer America was the fact that their music was rooted in the blues. This resonated with the black community and the hippies.

Much had been reported about the Stones in the American media and they too, were welcomed to fanfare once they landed in the States. The band made an appearance on Dean Martin’s show ‘Hollywood Palace’. The introduction that Dino made still annoys guitarist Keith Richards. “Dean Martin introduced us as something like, ‘These long-haired wonders from England, the Rolling Stones. … They’re backstage picking fleas off one another.’ A lot of sarcasm and eye rolling.”

Controversy always seemed to follow the Stones. None more so than what happened on December 6th, 1969. The Rolling Stones played a free concert at  the Altamont Speedway. Over 300,000 were in attendance. This concert was supposed to be ‘Woodstock West’ and The Stones were the headliners. Throughout the concert, violence began in the crowd and culminated during the Stones’ performance. A fan named Meredith Hunter approached the Rolling Stones on stage and was shot dead by The Hells Angels, who had been enlisted as security for the festival. Three other people lost their lives that day plus many more were injured.

The Who were another band that took America by storm in the 60s. The band were marred with fighting within the group and Keith Moon’s antics which allegedly included killing fish and exploding toilets. When appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival, The Who smashed their guitars after their performance, it left fans stunned. The Who’s energetic performances and their style of music won fans over across the country.

They played Woodstock in 1969 and mesmerised the audience, like they had done on so many occasions. The Rock and Roll played The Who was different to The Beatles and The Stones. It showed that America was developing an appetite for something more heavier.

While The Beatles appealed to everyone, The Stones and The Who gained a huge following amongst teenagers and young adults. There was a clear distinction between the bands in terms of music and fashion, but one thing was clear; all three rocked and conquered America.


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