The Top 8 British Invasion Bands of the ’60s

In terms of music history, the British Invasion is one of the most interesting times in American history. Kicking off in the early ’60s with bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the incoming songs and groups made American audiences go wild. Just think of all the viewers and screaming audience members when the Fab Four played The Ed Sullivan Show.

Videos by American Songwriter

But what makes that time so interesting, sociologically speaking, is that the bands coming to America via the Atlantic were bringing “the”new” rock ‘n’ roll music that was actually originally from and born in the U.S. The musical heroes of people like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were Robert Johnson, Little Richard, and B.B. King. The rebellious garage rock was inspired by American R&B. Yet by April of 1965, British acts accounted for 30 singles in the Billboard Hot 100.

While the musical exchange is a lovely example of cultural cross-pollination and should assuredly be celebrated, it’s also an indication of America’s lack of appreciation and understanding of the genres in its own backyard at the time of its creation—before Clapton and McCartney brought it over again. That aside, however, to behold the swath of bands that came to America from the U.K. as part of what’s now known as the British Invasion is quite the feeling.

Let’s dive in.

1. The Beatles

If you’ve ever heard the term “Beatlemania” you know at least a little bit about the impact the Mop Tops had on the U.S. in the early ’60s. The band, born in Liverpool, England, and comprised of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, honed their sound in Hamburg, Germany, and in 1964 landed in the U.S. on The Ed Sullivan Show. Early singles included “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You” and “From Me to You.” Today, the band remains the most popular group of all time.

2. The Rolling Stones

Likely the second most famous band of all time is the U.K.-born group, the Rolling Stones, fronted by singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards. The ‘Stones landed in the U.S. in 1965. That same year two of their early hits made the airwaves, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get Off My Cloud.” A year later, “Paint It Black,” came out. The youthful band with Jagger’s swinging hips drove American audiences wild.

3. The Kinks

In 1964, The London-born band the Kinks released their hit “You Really Got Me.” The band was popular in the U.S. Sadly, however, they never achieved quite the success that they could have because the band incurred a touring band in 1965 that lasted about four years until 1969. But poor timing and frontman Ray Davies’ marital problems kept the band from doing more. Yet, it’s a testament to the band’s music itself that, even with a half-a-decade ban from entering the U.S., they achieved such popularity, thanks to other hits like “Lola” and “All Day and All of the Night.”

4. The Who

The Who released its first big hit, “My Generation,” in 1965, from the album of the same name. The band, which formed a year earlier in London, has since become one of the most popular bands from the U.K, with its big sound, iconic guitar smashes, and powerful lyrics.

5. The Hollies

Formed in 1962 by Graham Nash and Allan Clarke, this was the group Nash left in 1968 to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. But that’s not to diminish their sound. The band, which was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, created a bright, strong early rock ‘n’ roll sound thanks to harmonies, powerful lyrics, and thoughtful lyrics. In total, the band boasted 22 songs that charted on the U.S. Billboard 200.

6. Dusty Springfield

The English singer born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien is known for songs like “Son of a Preacher Man.” She had a bluesy, soulful, brittle-raspy voice that is memorable as soon as you hear it. “Son of a Preacher Man” was released in 1968 in the U.K. and a year later in the U.S. But before that, Springfield had more success, including with The Springfields in the early ’60s with her brother. Her first big solo hit was “I Only Want to Be with You” in 1963, hitting No. 12 in the U.S.

7. The Zombies

Formed in 1961, The Zombies rocketed up the charts in 1964, in both England and America, with its hit song “She’s Not There.” In 1968, the band had another huge hit, “Time of the Season.” With haunting harmonies, these songs will live forever.

8. The Yardbirds

Formed in 1963, The Yardbirds included, at various times, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. In 1965 the band released the hit “For Your Love,” which made the charts in the U.K. and U.S. Others followed, including “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down.” The group broke up in 1968 (though it got back together with a new lineup in 1992 and continues to go on).

Photo by King Collection/Avalon/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Behind the Grammy-Winning Songwriting Duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David