5 Top Tracks of the British Invasion

Published on 11 May 2020

Let's travel back in time, shall we? Rock 'n' Roll is king in the US, cars are infinitely cooler and the British radio is dominated by acts none other than Cliff Richard. It's okay Cliff, you'll always thrive on the calendars of the elderly, but right now, it's time to move over. Something is brewing over in the UK... With bands all over the country trying desperately to create their own take on the American music which was gradually becoming more pop-centred it was time for a change. Enter the British Invasion. No longer were we to play second fiddle to the crooners from the States, this was our sound done our way and it would change the world forever... Read on to check out a few of our favourite tracks from this iconic era!

The Beatles - Please, Please Me - 1963

First up, yep you guessed it, we have John, Paul, George and Ringo. What better to kick us off than the birth of Beatlemania? The band's second single propelled them into superstardom at an unprecedented rate, taking them from a bunch of likely Liverpool lads to the most famous band in the world. This track sums up their early sound perfectly with punchy, clean guitar tones, killer harmonies and the shiny pop writing that set them apart from the contemporaries. Their first album, which also featured tracks such as Love Me Do and Twist and Shout became an instant classic with this track as the lead single. As the band's popularity grew and fandom began to reach insane levels, the band conquered America, with one journalist being quoted in saying 'In 1776 England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back.'. Amazing what a few spiffy suits and haircuts can do ain't it?

The Animals - House of the Rising Sun - 1964

Beatlemania may be in full swing at the point but that doesn't mean there isn't room for other bands to cut through. Enter the Animals and one of the most recognisable British Invasion tracks of all time. Originally a folk standard, later recorded by Bob Dylan for his first album, the band starting performing this ballad to close their shows with something a little different from other acts at the time. Opening with the gorgeous clean guitar tone of guitarist Hilton Valentine and the now unmistakable A minor arpeggio, the band actually laid down this piece of music history in a single take. Paving the way for the psychedelic sixties, you'll notice the thick, swirling majesty of a Vox Continental organ in the mix, which would go on to be a favourite of Ray Manzarek of the Doors. Pairing that up with singer Eric Burdon's haunting, snarled vocals, which were pretty out there for the time, and you have a track which holds up as well today almost 60 years after it's release.

Rolling Stones - I Can't Get No Satisfaction - 1965

Now it's time to take things up a notch... All you have to do is read the name of the track to instantly have Keef's immortal 3 notes grooving around in your head. Satisfaction was probably the Stones' biggest hit, setting them apart from the new wave of British music as serious contenders. Using the now iconic and treasured Gibson Maestro Fuzz to achieve the dirty, aggressive tone in his head, Richards supposedly wrote the riff in his sleep. He says that after initially penning the early lyrics to the song, he woke up only to write "I Can't Get No Satisfaction' on a piece of paper and fall asleep again. Singer Mick Jagger even claimed the track originally sounded like a folk song, which is a far cry from the head nodding, raw ball of energy it ended up turning into. The track lasted a run of 4 weeks at the top of the American singles charts, declaring the Stones as a household name alongside the Beatles. However, it was sonly played on pirate radio in the UK because of its suggestive lyrics... Wonder what they'd have made of Limp Bizkit?

The Yardbirds - For Your Love - 1965

If you ever feel like going down a British Invasion rabbit hole, take a look at the members of the Yardbirds. Seriously, is there anyone who wasn't in some variation of this band!? We've opted for this 1965 classic which saw Eric Clapton himself take the lead on guitar shortly before he was replaced with Jeff Beck - yep seriously. Apparently, this track influenced Clapton's decision to leave as it was more of a commercial pop sound than the bluesy feel of their early releases. Originally written by iconic British songwriter Graham Gouldman, the band put a distinctive choppy, stop/start spin on it and it became an essential part of any British Invasion rundown which saw the band take the number 1 spot in the UK. Organ player Brian Auger apparently stated after the recording session for the track - 'Who, in their right mind, is going to buy a pop single with harpsichord on it?'. Well Brian, strap yourself in... There are big changes coming! 

The Who - My Generation - 1965

'Hope I die before I get old... ' A far cry from the radio-friendly harmonies of Please Please Me, the Who sprang onto the scene with the lead track from their first album. Packed with furious drums, screeching, stuttering vocals, windmill guitar and none other than a bass solo, this track set the Who on their track to become one of the biggest and most influential bands in the world. The mods had well and truly arrived. This high octane record may well have been the heaviest to ever chart in the UK at the time with lyrics that spoke perfectly for the youth culture the song had its roots in. Writer Pete Townsend claimed that the record was inspired by an incident where the hearse he owned was moved from outside his flat near Buckingham Palace on the order of the Queen Mother who didn't like the sight of it. This left Townsend feeling alienated from his surroundings and unsure of his place in society. Whether this was the case or not, My Generation and the album to follow were the perfect storm, opening the final floodgates for a new wave of British music with an attitude. If parents thought that the Beatles first album was edgy, they better prepare themselves...

Final Thoughts

All of us can be guilty of moaning about the state of music and the singles dominating the charts but if this list proves anything, it's how much can change in only a number of years. Just look at the difference between the cheery, concise polished pop sound of the Beatles early work compared to the untamable madness of My Generation! The British Invasion essentially came about because band's wanted to play the music their rock 'n' roll heroes did and weren't afraid to put their own spin on it. So what's to be the next musical revolution? We can only wait and see...  But instead of complaining that Justin Beiber nabbed himself another number one, why don't you pick up that guitar and write something... You never know what could happen, it only took Keef 3 notes!

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