Friday, February 7, 2014

The British Were Coming! The British Were Coming!

by Pa Rock
Cultural Historian

America has suffered few invasions during its proud history, and most of those that it did endure were of British origin.  There was that famous ride of the silversmith, Paul Revere, back in 1775 when he rode through the countryside warning settlers that the Brits were headed their way - but that was more than a full year prior to us declaring our independence, so the Redcoats probably saw their trek into the colonies more as domestic housekeeping rather than an invasion.

The British were back fighting us during the War of 1812 when the evil buggers drove Dolly Madison from the White House and then burned it down.  A Mexican army under the command of General Pancho Villa crossed our southern border and attacked Columbus, New Mexico, in the early 20th century - before quickly scurrying back home.

But it was fifty years ago today when one of the most significant invasions in our national history began, and it was also British in origin.  On February 7, 1964, the British band, the Beatles, four skinny young men from Liverpool, England, wearing collarless jackets and mop-top haircuts, landed at the newly named John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City - and the British Invasion was on!

Two days after getting off the plane at JFK, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, sang a few songs, and redefined the country's youth culture.  Dozens and dozens of British singers and groups washed up on America's shores in the wake of the Beatles.

Besides the highly prolific Beatles, the invasion included groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Zombies, the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, the Hollies, the Kinks, the Troggs, Manfred Mann, the Tremeloes, and the Who.  There were duos like Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon - and individual artists including such greats as Donovan, Petula Clark, Lulu, and Dusty Springfield.  All of those, and many, many more!

The only one of those groups that I personally saw was Herman's Hermits who put on a great show at the Officer's Club at Ft. Eustis, Virginia, in the early 1970's as their fame was ebbing.  Of course, the Rolling Stones are still kicking, so I might get to see them one day when they are playing the casino circuit!

The Beatles opened America to great music and interesting times.  The songs of the invaders formed the soundtrack of my youth, and their melodic messages inspired massive social change.  It truly was an invasion - and it began fifty years ago today!

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