British Invasion (Beatles to Blues 2)

First post here:

As to what the “British Invasion” was, I can do no better than to here quote Wikipedia: “{It} was a phenomenon that occurred in the mid-1960s when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom as well as other aspects of British culture, became popular in the United States and significant to the rising “counterculture” on both sides of the Atlantic.”

And while there were some twenty-five or so acts, in this and the next post I am going to highlight only a few. (Groups like the Beatles, Stones, etc. whom I think were overall more impactful as bands will get their own posts). I wanted to provide some flavor of what this so-called Invasion sounded like at the time to (mostly) young teenage ears.

As a recent TV documentary reminded me, the Dave Clark Five had a ton of hits and the teen press of the day spent its time pitting the Five against the Fab Four. (“Who do you love more? Who would you rather kiss?”) Which, frankly, the guys in neither band gave a fuck about and used to have a good laugh over.

I may do a separate post on them later but for now, I will relate this one anecdote: Dave Clark, the band’s namesake and drummer, later wrote a sci-fi musical called “Time” which played for two years in London and which starred Laurence Olivier in a pre-filmed role.

They later made an album of it which starred, for one, Queen’s Freddie Mercury! Clark and Mercury were such good friends that Clark was at Freddie’s bedside when he died. You cannot make this shit up.

Anyway, while the Dave Clark Five were most known for their upbeat rock and roll, you should also check out their beautiful love song, “Because.” Till then, here’s the raucous “Glad All Over.”

Marianne Faithful was a young singer who had the fortune – or misfortune depending on how you look at  it – to fall in with the Rolling Stones. Today she still sings in the roughest, most lived-in voice you’ve ever heard. (Check out her song “Broken English” some time. As to “lived-in,” again, see Stones, Rolling.)

But in 1964 she was a fresh-faced, angel-voiced singer. The Rolling Stones manager stuck Jagger and Richards in a room (a kitchen!) and told them to start writing original material. Oddly, given that they were largely influenced by blues and Chuck Berry, this melancholy ballad, “As Tears Go By,” is the one of the first songs they ever wrote.

Them were straight out of Ireland (specifically, Belfast) which has a rich tradition of rhythm and blues bands. (Check out the movie, “The Commitments” for a fictionalized treatment of a soul band in Dublin.) They were a good band that performed not only blues but also originals, mostly written by their lead singer, Van Morrison.

Among others, he wrote the song “Gloria,” which went on to become a standard covered by everybody and his cousin. But nowhere more notably than by Patti Smith who modified the lyrics – just slightly – to say, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins / But not mine.”  And of course, Van the man has a healthy solo career that continues to this day. (I like the little kid trying to clap along in this video).

In the minds of a lot of people, if the British Invasion wasn’t just The Beatles, then surely it was also just pop like Herman’s Hermits. But actually, hidden underneath the ‘popular’ bands were the nasty, dirty blues-oriented bands. (Typically they were London-based rather than Liverpool and Northern England-based). And no band in 1965 was more powerful and ultimately influential than the Yardbirds.

“Train Kept A’Rollin’ was an old blues that they revved up in 1965 and which later became a big hit for Aerosmith. And of course the Yardbirds spawned three of our greatest guitarists – Beck, Clapton, Page. But more on the Yardbirds – and those three blokes –  in later posts. (Jeff Beck on this one).

And so the initial British Invasion had (at least) two strains – the “poppier” bands (Beatles, Gerry and Pacemakers, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits) and the bluesier ones (Yardbirds, Them). I would argue that as the ’60’s went on and became the ’70’s, the blues-based strain became increasingly more dominant thanks to acts like Cream, Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown and early Jethro Tull.

I had mentioned in a previous post I was going to go to an “every 3rd day” posting schedule. But I made that decision in somewhat of a vacuum. Several people who I know on a personal level (and a few who emailed me) said that they had no problem keeping up with a 2-3 day schedule. So good, I’ll go back to that.

Next up – British Invasion Part 2