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The British Invasion is used to describe rock and roll, beat and pop performers from the United Kingdommarker who became popular in the United Statesmarker from 1964 to 1966. The Second British Invasion refers to MTV and New Wave acts of the 1980s. In the latter half of the 2000s the term would be used to describe the critical and popular success of mostly female acts at first and then British acts in general.

Original British Invasion

The rebellious tone and image of American rock and roll and blues musicians became popular with British youth in the late 1950s. Early attempts to replicate American Rock and Roll failed. The skiffle craze with its "Do-it-yourself" attitude was imitated by several British acts that would later be part of the "invasion". Young British groups started to combine various British and American styles. This coalesced in Liverpoolmarker during 1962 in what became known as the “beat boom” for its Merseybeat sound.

On December 10, 1963 the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite ran a story about the Beatlemania phenomenon in the United Kingdommarker. After seeing the report, 15 year old Marsha Albert of Silver Spring, Marylandmarker wrote a letter the following day to disc jockey Carroll James at radio station WWDC asking "why can't we have music like that here in America?". On December 17 James had Albert introduce "I Want to Hold Your Hand" live on the air, the first airing of a Beatles song in the United States. WWDC's phones lit up and Washington, D.C.marker area record stores were flooded with requests for a record they did not have in stock. On December 26 Capitol Recordsmarker released the record three weeks ahead of schedule. The release of the record during a time when teenagers were on vacation helped spread Beatlemania in America. On January 18, 1964, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" reached number one on the Cash Box chart, the following week it did the same on Billboard. On February 7 The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite ran a story about The Beatles' United States arrival that afternoon in which the correspondent said "The British Invasion this time goes by the code name Beatlemania". Two days later (Sunday, February 9) they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Seventy five percent of Americans watching television that night viewed their appearance. On April 4 the Beatles held the top 5 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the only time to date that any act has accomplished this. The group's massive chart success continued until they broke up in 1970.

During the next two years, Chad & Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, and Donovan would have one or more number one singles. Other acts that were part of the invasion included The Kinks and The Dave Clark Five. British Invasion acts also dominated the music charts at home in the United Kingdom.

British Invasion artists played either blues based rock music, or a guitar driven hybrid of rock and pop music. A second wave of the invasion occurred, featuring acts such as The Who and The Zombies, that were influenced by the invasion's pop side and American rock music.

The Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night and fashions from Carnaby Streetmarker led American media to proclaim England as the center of the music and fashion world.

The emergence of relatively homogeneous worldwide rock music styles about 1967 marked the end of the "invasion". A majority of the acts associated with the invasion did not survive its end, but many would become icons of rock music.


The British Invasion had a profound impact on the shape of popular music. It helped internationalize the production of rock and roll, establishing the British record industry as a viable centre of musical creativity, and opening the door for subsequent British (and Irish) performers to achieve international success. In America the invasion arguably spelled the end of such scenes as instrumental surf music, vocal girl groups and (for a time) the teen idols that had dominated the American charts in the late 1950s and 60s. It dented the careers of established R&B acts like Fats Domino and Chubby Checker and temporarily derailed the chart success of surviving rock and roll acts, including Elvis Presley. It prompted many existing garage rock bands to adopt a sound with a British Invasion inflection, and inspired many other groups to form, creating a scene from which many major American acts of the next decade would emerge. The British Invasion also played a major part in the rise of a distinct genre of rock music, and cemented the primacy of the rock group, based around guitars and drums and producing their own material as singer-songwriters.

That the sound of British beat bands was not radically different from American groups like The Beach Boys, and damaged the careers of African American and female artists, have been the subject of criticism of the invasion in the United States. Willy DeVille said the invaders played a watered down version of American music and pushed aside talented American artists such as Ben E. King and Smokey Robinson, adding that Americans, by favoring "anything that fucking glittered", fell for a "big money complicated political con game".

Second British Invasion

In the early 1980s music from the United Kingdom was informed by the after effects of the "Punk/New Wave" revolution. Music videos, having been a staple of British music television programs for half a decade, had evolved into image conscious short films. At the same time, pop and rock music in the United States was undergoing a creative slump due to several factors, including audience fragmentation and the effects of the anti-disco backlash. Videos did not exist for most hits by American acts, and those that did were usually taped concert performances. When the cable music channel MTV launched on August 1, 1981, it had little choice but to play a large number of music videos from British New Wave acts. Also in 1981, Los Angeles radio station KROQ began the Rock of the '80's format which would make it the most popular station in that city.

At first MTV was only available in small towns and suburbs. To the surprise of the music industry when MTV became available in a local market, record sales by acts played solely on the channel increased immediately and listeners phoned radio stations requesting to hear them. The September 1982 arrival of MTV in the media capitals of New York City and Los Angeles led to widespread positive publicity for the new "video era". By the fall, "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls, the first successful song that owed almost everything to video, had entered the Billboard Top Ten. Duran Duran's glossy videos would come to symbolize the power of MTV.

Early in 1983 radio consultant Lee Abrams advised his clients at 70 album-oriented rock stations to double the amount of new music they played. During that year 30% of the record sales were from British acts. On July 18, 18 of the top 40, and 6 of the top 10 singles, were by British artists.Overall record sales would rise by 10% from 1982. Newsweek magazine ran an issue which featured Annie Lennox and Boy George on the cover of one of its issues with the caption Britain Rocks America - Again, while Rolling Stone Magazine would release an England Swings issue. In April 1984, 40 of the top 100 singles, and in a May 1985 survey 8 of the top 10 singles, were by acts of British origin.

New Music became an umbrella term used by the music industry to describe young mostly British, androgynous, technologically oriented artists. Many of the Second Invasion artists started their careers in the punk era and desired to bring change to wider audience. This resulted in music that while having no specific sound was characterized by a risk taking spirit within the context of pop music. Veteran music journalist Simon Reynolds theorized that, just as in the first British Invasion, the use of black American influences by British acts such as Wham, Eurythmics, Culture Club and Paul Young helped to spur their success.

All of this activity and the unusual high turnover of artists in the charts caused a sense of upheaval in the United States. Commentators in the mainstream media credited MTV and the British acts with bringing color and energy to back to pop music, while rock journalists were generally hostile to the phenomenon because they felt it represented image over content. Great Britain initially embraced what was called "New Pop". But by 1983 as the economy soured, the song Rip it up by Orange Juice and "Kill ugly pop stars" graffiti were were expressions of both a backlash against the Second Invasion groups and nostalgia for punk.

Subsequent years

British musical success in the United States was at its nadir in the early 2000s. Less than 2% of the top 100 United States albums in both 2000 and 2001 were from the United Kingdom. In April 2002, for the first time since October 1963, there were no British acts on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. This would be reversed in the latter half of the decade when the percentage of albums sold in the U.S. by British acts increased every year from 2005 through 2008. It would increase from 8.5% to 10% of the market between 2007 and 2008.

In July 2005 Natasha Bedingfield made her first of what would be many chart appearances. The following year Joss Stone's third album Introducing Joss Stone debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 becoming the first British solo female artist to have an album début that high on the chart. In 2006 and early 2007 British acts James Blunt, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Lady Soverign, KT Tunstall, Snow Patrol and Corinne Bailey Rae also had U.S. chart success. By March 2007 these successes had led to speculation that either another British Invasion was underway or a return to normalcy was occurring.

In 2008 Leona Lewis's debut single "Bleeding Love" would become the first number one single on U.S charts by a British female artist since 1986. Her album also reached number 1. Natasha Bedingfield and KT Tunstall's success continued in 2008. The year would also be successful for Duffy, Adele, Estelle, and M.I.A.. The success of these British women led to the reporting of a British female invasion. It was noted that as during the original invasion earthier and African-American styles from previous eras were being mined. Led by Coldplay, British acts received a total of 16 Grammy Awards. and 5 awards from the US Broadcast Music Incorporated.

Mick Jagger in early 2009 thought the success of British acts were having was caused by the diversity of their styles. A spokesmen for HMV Group, an entertainment retail chain, said that the catalyst for the success the British Acts were having was caused by Amy Winehouse and possibly American Idol host Simon Cowell.


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