British Pop Invasion by Alan J Whiticker
America was the market that held power over the music industry during the post-war years, with artists such as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly as household names. American baby boomers had money to spend on entertainment, and breaking into this market made a huge difference to the fortunes of entertainers. This book explores the histories of British bands of the sixties who went on find fame and fortune, or at least released a hit record or two.
A whole chapter each is devoted to the important bands of this era – the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Hollies and The Who. This is the music of our generation, the performers who sang the soundtracks to our lives. Many others are also discussed in detail – including Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker and Led Zeppelin – but too many to mention. If they were British, and played in the 60s, they are likely to be mentioned in this book.
The book is a heavyweight with over 300 pages, and is well illustrated with memorable photos from the era, some in colour. It’s the kind of book that you can dip in and out of, and bound to bring back happy memories for anyone over the age of 60. The editor has allowed the photos to speak, and has included informal photos of the stars which give an indication of their personal lives in the early stages of their careers.
There is an interesting photo of Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck posing with their brand new Rolls Royce Silver Clouds in 1969. Another is a photo of John Entwistle, bass guitarist with The Who, with some of his guitar collection. Following his death, 178 guitars were sold from his estate. The best informal photo would have to be one of The Kinks cooking up a meal on a camp stove beside the road, while on the way to a gig. The book recounts that this was a common practice for many bands of the era, who did it tough while on the road trying to make a name for themselves.
An interesting aspect of this book for me was in the recording the clothing and hairstyles of the sixties. The dress standards of the day are apparent, with many photos of young men wearing suits and ties and young women modestly dressed by today’s standards, with carefully coiffed hairstyles. I remember hair having tons of lacquer and hairspray loaded onto the ‘do’ to keep it in place. It took time the following day to brush it all out, wash it, and return to normality – only to have to repeat the process for the next social event.
An appendix lists the British and American music charts from 1963 through to 1969, allowing the reader to see who was top of the hit parade and when. A quick glance through this will bring back memories – 1963, and ‘Sugar Shack’ by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs spent five weeks at number one. In 1966, ‘I’m a Believer’ by the Monkees and ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ by Tom Jones were top of the pops, and who doesn’t remember ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye (1968), or ‘Get Back’ by the Beatles (1969)?
Thanks to New Holland Publishers for my advanced reading copy. This book would make a great gift for anyone in our age bracket. The recipient does not even need to be fond of reading, because the pictures tell the story.
Who is your favourite British pop star from the 1960s? Share with us below.