Fact of the day: 7th February

On this day in 1964 The Beatles arrived in America. Two days later they would appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, thus marking the start of the British Invasion. This is the 50th anniversary of this date. Hard to believe it was such a long time ago!

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The British Invasion was a phenomenon that occurred in the mid-1960s when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom, as well as other aspects of British culture, became popular in the United States, and then throughout the world. Bands such as The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Who would get their start during this time and go on to make a lasting impact on the US music scene.

According to Michael Ross, “it is somewhat ironic that the biggest moment in the history of popular music was first experienced in the US as a television event.” The Ed Sullivan Show had for some time been a “comfortable hearth-and-slippers experience.” Not many of the 73 million viewers watching in February 1964 would fully understand what impact the band they were watching would have. On April 4, the Beatles held the top 5 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and to date no other act has simultaneously held even the top 3. The group’s massive chart success, which included at least two of their singles holding the top spot on the Hot 100 during each of the seven consecutive years starting with 1964, continued until they broke up in 1970.

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 popular music industry as a viable centre of musical creativity, and opening the door for subsequent British performers to achieve international success. In America the Invasion arguably spelled the end of instrumental surf music, pre-Motown vocal girl groups, the folk revival (which adapted by evolving into folk rock), and (for a time) the teen idols that had dominated the American charts in the late 1950s and 60s. Television shows that featured uniquely American styles of music, such as Sing Along with Mitch and Hootenanny, were quickly cancelled and replaced with shows such as Shindig! and Hullabaloo that were better positioned to play the new British hits, and segments of the new shows were taped in England.

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