The British invaded the U.S. in 1964. This time it wasn’t a military operation but a musical and cultural revolution. It was touched off when the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for three consecutive weeks, Feb. 9, Feb. 16 and Feb. 23. The British rockers were simply bringing American music back to its home, repackaged and stamped with a distinctly British imprint. In bringing the music back, the British changed U.S. musical tastes, fashion and even the length men wore their hair.
The British rock invasion from 1964-67 was beneficial but it did have a downside. Many U.S. music artists were pushed off the “Billboard” charts and struggled to continue their careers. Here are some of the artists who had been dominant but were now displaced.
Pat Boone. Between 1955 and 1962 Boone placed 38 songs into the “Billboard” Top 40, including six number one hits. Since Boone had no Top 40 hits in 1963, it might be argued that his time with significant hits was already over. But the invasion ushered in by the Beatles had to be a primary reason why Boone never again had a Top 40 hit after 1962.
Fats Domino. From 1955 to 1963 the legendary Domino had 37 songs enter the Top 40, but October 1963 was the last time he had a Top 40 song. The British Invasion occurred a couple months later, and he was shut out from that moment on. Ironically, he was an inspiration to many of the British rockers. He later became one of the ten performers inducted into the original class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Connie Francis. She had her first big hit in early 1958 with her Top 10 record “Who’s Sorry Now.” From that point until early 1964 she had three number one songs, 16 Top 10 hits and 35 singles that cracked the Top 40. However, after early 1964 there were no more Top 40 hits.
Dion. Whether as a solo artist or singing with the Belmonts, his doo-wop group, Dion was quite a force in music from 1958 thru 1963, scoring 20 Top 40 singles over that stretch. But after the British Invasion he had only one more entry in the Top 40, “Abraham, Martin and John,” a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John and Bobby Kennedy, released in 1968 in the wake of the political assassinations.
The Shirelles. One of the hit-making girl groups of the early 1960s, the Shirelles had 12 Top 40 songs from 1960 thru 1963, including two number one songs. But after the new era arrived in early 1964, the Shirelles never had another Top 40 hit.
Chubby Checker. The British Invasion not only swept away American girl groups, the instrumental surf sound, American teen idols, and folk music, it also terminated the dance craze that had been led by Checker. Chubby had 18 Top 40 hits thru 1963, including eight Top 10 smashes. But after the British Invasion he never had another Top 10 hit.
Even Elvis Presley took a huge dent to his career when the British invaded. The Four Seasons and the Beach Boys were two of the few American groups to withstand the onslaught. One form of music that actually gained in popularity and ran parallel to the British Invasion was the Motown Sound. Motown benefited immensely from the Beatles doing covers of Motown songs, and also because the Motown “sound of young America” appealed to the same demographic as the British rockers.
The year 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion. As we celebrate Beatlemania of 1964 and all the wonderful acts who came after the Beatles from the United Kingdom and provided half of the 26 chart-toppers on the “Billboard Hot 100” in 1965, we shouldn’t forget the numerous American acts whose careers were short-circuited by the new arrivals.
* Note: The statistics cited in this article are taken from “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” and “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits.”
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003