A musical movement of the mid-1960s, the British Invasion was composed of British rock-and-roll and beat groups whose popularity spread rapidly to the rest of the English-speaking world, especially the United States which, from the beginnings of rock-and-roll music in the late 1950s, had nearly a monopoly on the genre.
Though generally not credited with starting the “Invasion”, Dusty Springfield was one of the first British artist to have significant success in the U.S., with her hit single “I Only Want to Be with You”, released in November 1963. She appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in early 1964 singing the popular hit. Throughout the rest of the decade she continued to have several U.S. hits.
The Beatles’ triumphant arrival in New York on February 7, 1964, is widely credited with truly throwing open America’s doors to a wealth of British musical talent, and officially beginning what would soon come to be called the second British Invasion. British rock broke through to mainstream popularity in the United States in January 1964 with the success of the Beatles.”I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the band’s first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, starting the British Invasion of the American music charts. 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 on guitars and drums and producing their own material as singer-songwriters.
Other British bands soon tried to replicate the beats and suggestive lyrics of American rock and roll, but many failed. Many of the bands lacked the original sound of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and county music. Scottish-born Lonnie Donegan was mainly a drummer less, acoustic guitar and banjo ensembles, similar to jug bands, who most often sang traditional American folk songs.
By 1966, some British teens developed a real feel for the rock-and-roll and American blues idioms. Blending that with such local traditions as music hall, pop, and Celtic folk, they formulated original music they could claim, play, and sing with conviction. Young groups with electric guitars began performing and writing up-tempo melodic pop, fiery rock and roll, and Chicago-style electric blues.
The rebellious tone and image of American rock and roll and blues musicians also deeply echoed with British youth in the late 1950s, influencing all the British Invasion artists. Within a year or two of the initial British onslaught, a new wave of American musicians had already laid the groundwork for the creative renaissance in popular music during the latter half of the 1960s.