Friday, August 06, 2010

The British Invasion 1964-66

Rock and roll is approximately 55 years old. One of my favorite periods in rock and roll is what Americans called "The British Invasion". This was basically the years 1964-66. It began when the Beatles came to America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964. I was 12 years old. The following month I began my teenage years. Following the Beatles were groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, the Kinks, and a host of lesser known bands and one hit wonders. Much of what these bands played was really music with American roots. Along with their own compositions and hit singles, they offered their interpretations of blues and Motown, not to mention the influence of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. As a teenage boy I was obsessed with these bands. Now, as a middle aged man who is not far from being a senior citizen, I still love the music from these bands and this era. Although my introduction to rock and roll was mainly through Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, this is the era that made me the rock and roll junkie that I am today. The music was innocent even if the bands weren't. By 1967 the music and most of my generation had lost their innocence. It's probably difficult for young people today to appreciate the hysteria and cultural changes brought about by the Beatles and the other bands from this time period. They totally dominated the music charts, every teenage boy wanted to be in a band, and every teenage girl was in love with a Beatle, a Rolling Stone, or one of the Dave Clark Five. Recently I was thinking about the idea of "passion". How many times have all of us been told we don't have passion for something, especially in our working lives. There are certainly areas of my life, including my work life, where I do not have passion. While thinking about the idea of passion it occurred to me that the one thing I have had a constant and never ending passion for is music. I was strongly reminded of this a few nights ago when I watched a movie called "Pirate Radio". This is a story that is also about a British invasion. During the time of the musical British invasion of America, rock and roll was generally not played on British radio. Rock and roll is like life. It finds a way. Enterprising music lovers began broadcasting rock and roll music from ships anchored off the British coast. Collectively they were referred to as "Pirate Radio". Eventually they were shut down by the British Government but they had a glorious run for a couple of years. Of course, we all know the rest of the story. Rock and roll exploded and took over the world. I have never made any money from my passion for music. However, because of the hours and days and years of joy that music has brought me, I have become something of an expert on the music of my generation. Sometimes I feel like part of my destiny is to preserve my generation's musical history through my music collection and my knowledge, while also sharing it and passing it along to appreciative members of the younger generation. There's a young guy in my office who is almost like my apprentice. There's even an office joke that he is also my lost "love child" but that's not really true. At least I haven't been presented with any DNA evidence to validate it. After all these years many of the great musicians of my generation have passed on to rock and roll heaven. Someday I will join them. Although I am not a musician, I am a professional fan. When that times comes be sure to bury me with my ipod fully charged. I have all my playlists in order.


Mary Payne said...

'The Boat That Rocked' (renamed 'Pirate Radio' for the US market) very much divides opinion. Those of us who love the offshore stations were very disappointed with it, as were most of the former DJs who served on those stations.

The film was supposed to be a fictional comedy, set on a fictional ship and not based on any one particular station. Basing the plot loosely around the offshore radio story has only served to confuse people who are unfamiliar with the facts. The real story - yet to be told - is much more interesting.

It's also unfortunate that the film-makers didn't stick to the music of 1966/7 for their soundtrack, seeing as that is the period when it is supposedly set. Some of the tracks are well outside of the Sixties.

However, I've read a surprising number of reviews by people on both sides of the pond who loved the film!

If you want to hear the music that was played on the pirates and is rarely heard anywhere else these days go to

Mary Payne, Radio London webmaster

Michael Brown said...

Mary, thank you for enlightening me. I will certainly check out the site you recommend. If their are any books of note that accurately tell the story of the "pirates", I would love to read them. I think my first introduction to this was the Who album "The Who Sell Out.
-Michael Brown