BARRY LEVINE: British Invasion changes rock 'n' roll


From left are The Beatles: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. (Special photo)

From left are The Beatles: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. (Special photo)

As we prepare to lower the curtain on 2013, we are set to raise it once again on 2014, one of the most important and critical years in rock ‘n’ roll history.

It has been 50 years since the Beatles, four mop-heads from Liverpool, England, landed on American soil to lead the “British Invasion,” which forever has altered the tone of American music.

Bobby Vinton had the first No. 1 hit of 1964 with “There! I’ve Said It Again.” He was the only U.S. male singer to have two No. 1 hits during that year. His other top hit was “Mr. Lonely.”

Then came the Beatles and the Brits.

Of the 23 songs that reached No. 1 during 1964, nine were by British singers, six of which were by the Beatles, a calendar-year record.

The British Invasion affected more than rock ‘n’ roll. Not only did the Beatles produce hit after hit after hit during the year, the group also had the first of its five full-length movies, “A Hard Day’s Night.” The film cemented the Beatles as global superstars.

Two other British-themed films helped dominate the year.

“Mary Poppins” was released in August 1964. British actress Julie Andrews starred in the Disney film, which received 13 Oscar nominations, a record for the studio. The movie won five Oscars, including Andrews for best actress and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” for best original song.

“My Fair Lady,” one of the best musicals in movie history, was released later that year. The film adaptation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe’s long-running Broadway show captured five Oscars, including best film, best actor (Rex Harrison) and best director (George Cukor). The film had a $17 million budget and grossed more than $75 million, a staggering amount for that era.

The Beatles totally dominated the music scene in 1964 as a record 19 of their songs made the Top 40.

The British Invasion actually began in December 1963 when a Washington, D.C., radio personality introduced the Beatles’ first No. 1 hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” to the American public. The following day, Washington-area record stores were inundated with requests for the record.

There was only one problem.

Nobody had it.

Capitol Records finally released it on Dec. 26, 1963, three weeks ahead of schedule.

That was the beginning of Beatlemania.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” sold an estimated 15 million copies and is the biggest-selling British single of all-time.

Beatlemania hit its apex in February 1964 when the Beatles landed at JFK Airport in New York on Feb. 7 and an estimated 5,000 screaming fans waited to get a glimpse of the Fab Four.

After being holed up in the luxurious Plaza Hotel in New York with intense security for two days, the Beatles made the first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9.

An estimated 73 million people and 45 percent of American households watched the show. The weekly variety show garnered an incredible 60 share.

Besides “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles’ other No. 1 hits in 1964 were “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “I Feel Fine.”

The other Brits who had No. 1 hits in 1964 were Peter and Gordon with “A World Without Love,” the Animals with “The House of the Rising Sun” and Manfred Mann with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”

The Beatles also set a record on April 4, 1964, when, for the first time in the Billboard Top 100 history, the same group or singer had all five of the top ranked songs. The five hits were:

1. “Can’t Buy Me Love”

2. “Twist & Shout”

3. “She Loves You”

4. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

5. “Please Please Me”

On March 28, 1964, the Beatles set a record with 10 songs in the Top 100, eclipsing the benchmark of nine set by Elvis Presley on Dec. 19, 1956. On April 4, 1964, two more Beatles’ song reached the Top 100, giving them a record 12. That mark lasted one week as 14 Beatles songs were on the Top 100 chart on April 11, 1964.

The Beatles’ 14 chart hits were:

1. “Can’t Buy Me Love”

2. “Twist & Shout”

4. “She Loves You”

7. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

9. “Please Please Me”

14. “Do You Want to Know a Secret”

38. “I Saw Her Standing There”

48. “You Can’t Do That”

50. “All My Loving”

52. “From Me to You”

61. “Thank You Girl”

74. “There’s a Place”

78. “Roll Over Beethoven”

81. “Love Me Do”

The Beatles remarkable success continued until the quartet split in 1970.

The second Brit and first female from England to place a song in the Top 100 was Dusty Springfield, who previously was a member of the Springfields. Her song, “I Only Want to Be With You,” rose to No. 12 in February 1964.

Among the other British acts who rose to fame during that span were the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Freddie & the Dreamers, Petula Clark, Chad and Jeremy, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the Dave Clark Five.

While the Brits enjoyed enormous success, American singers faltered.

The one American group that had tremendous success during that period was the Supremes. The Motown trio had five consecutive No. 1 hits: “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me” in 1964 and “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again” in 1965.

The Brits’ success negatively impacted their American counterparts. As an example, Fats Domino charted more than 35 songs in the Top 40, but none after 1963. Presley had eight Top 40 hits in 1964, but none reached the Top 10. For the first time since he charted in 1956 with “Heartbreak Hotel,” Presley failed to have at least one Top 10 hit in a calendar year.

To one and all: A happy and healthy New Year!

Barry Levine writes about entertainment for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at dot0001@yahoo.com.