From The Beatles To Arctic Monkeys: How The Five Waves Of British Invasion Stack Up

nme_blur_oasis_opt.jpg
This and that Union Jack dress that Ginger Spice wore are just part of a list of uncomfortable moments in British invasion history.
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner looked dapper and distinctively British on the cover of SPIN's recent Success Issue. The slight singer sports a skinny suit that echoes the style of fellow Sheffield icon Jarvis Cocker, who in turn tends to model after the Jam's Paul Weller. British influence on the American music scene is less a cycle than a set of waves, often hyped by the UK music press and just as frequently underappreciated on this side.

Although we still have no idea why some bands make it here and others don't, we have broken down the five largest UK invasions on our shores in recent music memory. If you're of the cheesier variety, feel free to listen to "London Calling" as you read.

The quintessential invasion
Started around: 1964
Key players: the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Hollies, Small Faces
The story: We're all pretty familiar with the lore at this point, but let's recap. The year was 1963, and the setting was America. Fresh off the rebellious legacy of early rock and blues, the country was particularly well-poised for four bowl cut-sporting, smooth-crooning (some people would later even call them fabulous) young men who just wanted to hold your hand. Although the sentiments of the movement later grew deeper and more suggestive with the influx of other bands, it is still identified by a wholesome and endlessly catchy approach to modern pop music. Looking back, this is one of the best "right place, right time" stories ever.
Most embarrassing part of legacy: This category leaves a surprising wealth to choose from: Yoko Ono in general, the video for "Dancing in the Streets," the most recent Ringo Starr album, the abomination that is the Davies brothers' modern relationship. Instead, we're going to go with the neverending drunken argument about who's better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, a feat that's obnoxious even when you're sober and moderately interested in the other person's answer. (The real answer is the Kinks.)
Grade: A+

Never mind the British punk
Started around: 1976
Key players: Sex Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks
The story: Let's look past the Ramones for a second at another of the many angles of punk. It's pretty debatable where punk came from, but it's clear that the British variety began with the Sex Pistols and its short-lived career, much-mythologized legacy and badass fake last names. Its pure aggression and lack of classical talent was distilled by bands like the Clash into a heightened sound that mixed reggae, ska and elements of rockabilly into a more well-rounded reflection of similar sentiments. Today, these three and others are the owners of a simultaneously charming and depressing legacy and the continued existence of hardcore teenage angst.
Most embarrassing part of legacy: There's not a lot to pan here, given that this era informed bands such as the Jam, Wire and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but let's not forget Hot Topic. The teenage mall icon would be nothing if not for Sex Pistols paraphernalia and unsubtle references to Sid and Nancy.
Grade: B


My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
snejana
snejana

The Charlatans UK were a key Britpop group? What happened to the era between britpop and retro garage - Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse - The prog-alt-rock whatever? I thought that was even more influential.

snejana
snejana

The Charlatans UK were a key Britpop group? What happened to the era between britpop and retro garage - Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse - The prog-alt-rock whatever? I thought that was even more influential.

chris
chris

What about bands like Travis, Doves, Coldplay, Radiohead, Bush, Starsailor, etc?

matt f
matt f

Cool article, but in the intro are you saying The Clash is cheesy? I don't understand.

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

Definitely she isn't: That particular song is a little on the nose for this discussion.

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Clubs

Loading...