The End of the British Invasion
By the end of 1966 the thrust of the British Invasion had ebbed. New acts continued to come to America from Britain, and a comparable flow of American acts to the UK emerged by the end of 1966. New sounds from California in the United States brought a more equitable distribution of record sales and chart positions. The Mersey sound lost popularity and those bands which were unable to adjust fell by the wayside. Gerry and the Pacemakers disbanded in 1966, though they reformed later as an oldies act. The Searchers kept working but by the end of 1966 they were no longer charting records and they never again reached the peak they achieved during the British Invasion.
The Beatles, who had started it all, quit touring after their American tour in August 1966, and though they continued to provide films of some of their songs on an exclusive basis to The Ed Sullivan Show, they became a studio band. The following year Brian Epstein was found dead in his London home, from an overdose of barbiturates. A London Metropolitan Police detective named Norman Pilcher began a campaign to bust rock stars and other celebrities, and members of the Rolling Stones (Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards), The Beatles, (John Lennon and George Harrison) and several others found themselves arrested, and later experienced visa problems affecting their ability to tour in America.
Fashion changed from the flashiness under the British Invasion to that of the flower power and hippie image which originated on America’s west coast and transferred to England. Tight peg legged trousers were replaced with bell bottomed jeans, and denim jackets, covered with patches and the more tattered the better, became popular. Music, which during the British Invasion was primarily about youthful love, became oriented towards social problems, including the war in Southeast Asia and the civil rights movement. A brief interlude of psychedelia in 1966 and throughout 1967 was replaced by 1968 with songs like the Rolling Stones Street Fighting Man and the Beatles Revolution.
Emulation of British culture was replaced with emulation of student protesters and antiwar demonstrations. America became divided by the war, by the civil rights movement, and by the growing feminist movement. The music of the British Invasion became increasingly dated, and only the bands which evolved, the Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones, and others among them, continued to be relevant in the American music scene. The audience which had driven the success of the British bands – young teens – turned to what became known as bubble gum music, fed by performers such as The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Monkees, The Archies, and Tommy Roe.
Although the British Invasion was short and most of the bands which created it faded into oblivion, their influence on American music and culture was long lasting. The invasion spanned the period between the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the peak of American involvement in the Vietnam War. For most Americans the period of the British Invasion was one of relative peace and prosperity, with newly empowered youths using their buying influence to shape trends in music, films, and fashion in a manner which had never been seen before. Nostalgia for that time is one reason that the music of the time remains popular today.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“The British Invasion: From the Beatles to the Stones, the Sixties Belonged to Britain”, by Parke Puterbaugh, Rolling Stone Magazine, July 14, 1988