On Feb. 9, 1964, variety show host Ed Sullivan introduced a new act from the U.K. The audience exploded when a group called The Beatles strummed out “All My Loving.”
And just like that on a regular Sunday night, America changed forever by what beamed from Studio 50 in New York City into living rooms nationwide. A record-setting 73 million people watched and welcomed what we now call The British Invasion.
Experts from Texas Tech can discuss the musical and cultural impact that the mop-top pop group had on the United States.
Christopher Smith, director, Vernacular Music Center, School of Music, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2270 ext. 249, or firstname.lastname@example.org; Roger Landes, instructor of The History of Rock ’n’ Roll, School of Music, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2270, or email@example.com. Rob Weiner, associate library and pop culture expert, Texas Tech University Library, (806) 834-5126 office, (806) 780-8775 mobile, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Beatles completed the transformation that was started by Elvis Presley.• Beatlemania showed Americans what American pop music could be and spawned many imitators that formed after The Beatles’ appearance on Sullivan. • The Beatles changed American fashion and hairstyles and had a major impact on musical instrument retailing. • The “combo shop” type of music store full of electric guitars, bass guitars, amplifiers and drums, began at this time because of the popularity of The Beatles.• The musical style of The Beatles and their imitators, their approach to songwriting, their vocal harmonies, even down to their instrumentation is still very much with us. The fact that we have rock bands at all is a testament to the influence of “British Invasion” groups.• Bands like Herman’s Hermits, Peter and Gordon, and the Dave Clark Five began having singles on the charts and presented a unique view of British rock that was clean but sexy.• The Yardbirds have three of the greatest guitarists (not all at once) in the history of popular music (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck).
• While two U.S. news networks had given a small amount of coverage to the 'Beatlemania' craze in Britain (NBC on Nov.18 and CBS on Nov. 22, rebroadcast on Dec. 10), the actual beginning of the ‘British Invasion’ can be dated to Dec. 26, 1963, with the release of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’ This was pushed ahead by three weeks because DJs in Washington, D.C., had started playing the song on the air and area record stores were getting a ton of requests for the record, which they did not yet have. The fact that the record was released during the Christmas season is thought to have been a factor; since students were not in school they presumably had more time for Beatlemania. By the end of January the single was at the top of the charts. So the appearance on Ed Sullivan was the culmination of the build-up rather than the event that sparked the ‘British Invasion.’” – Roger Landes
• “The Beatles phenomenon is really unique in that The Beatles more or less synopsized American pop music and synthesized it into a really potent and commercial form.” – Roger Landes
• “I think The Beatles do represent the first, explosive awareness in American pop culture of what was going on musically in England, especially London. The original U.S. rock ’n’ roll boom in the ’50s – Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis – had devolved, and the stage was set for a next pop wave.” – Christopher Smith
• “The Beatles were unique – not only in hindsight, but even appreciably at the time. They wrote, sang and played their own music. They were a self-contained musical ensemble. They were four distinctively different personalities. They were very funny (and ‘cheeky’ – charmingly disrespectful). And finally, their songs had remarkable musical hooks.” – Christopher Smith
• “The Rolling Stones hit the US running and have never looked back. Their brand of blues infused rock ’n’ roll still enthralls audiences today, and Mick Jagger sings better as a 70-year-old than he did when he was 18. At the time, the Stones were considered the bad boys of rock while the Beatles were the cutesy ones.” – Rob Weiner
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