Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The British Are Still Coming!

British Invasion: Part 2
Unlike our usual weekly themes, I forgot to warn you that the British Invasion at The 60's Beat will be extended to a couple of weeks! We have so many artists lined up, so who says we have to cram it all into a week? Of a list of about 35 significant groups in the Invasion, we're planning on covering at least 30, so buckle up and here we go!

So continuing on with this British Invasion phenomenon, we have the English group, The Animals, whose signature song was featured during folk rock week. With their gritty/bluesy sound led by the deep-voiced Eric Burdon, the group had ten Top-20 hits including "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," released in February of 1965. Originally written for American singer Nina Simone, The Animals turned this jazzy, soulful song into a faster, blues rock version with a memorable organ/guitar riff, becoming a trans-Atlantic hit. Yet another tune found in the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Interestingly, this group later went through so many personnel changes that in the late '60s, they relocated to California as a psychedelic rock group named Eric Burdon & the Animals (as Eric Burdon was the only original member).
Also joining in the Invasion was another Merseybeat group (the name for the rock 'n' roll style of music by bands from Liverpool), Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Also managed by The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, John Lennon and Paul McCartney helped the fellow Liverpudlian Billy J. (backed by the Manchester-based Dakotas) reach stardom by writing a series of songs just for them. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released in July 1963 (finding its way to the US in '64), "Bad to Me" was a John Lennon composition that put Billy J. and the guys at the #1 position on the charts, becoming the first Lennon/McCartney song covered by an artist (other than The Beatles) to reach the Top-40.
Another group with this Merseybeat sound was the British Invasion-era duo Peter and Gordon. Schoolmates Peter Asher and Gordon Waller achieved fame in 1964 with the song "A World Without Love," written by Paul McCartney, who composed several songs for the pair (sometimes even receiving uncredited Beatle tunes since Peter's sister, Jane Asher, was Paul's girlfriend throughout the mid-60's). In late '64, they released Del Shannon's "I Go to Pieces," who gave this song to the duo after they had toured together. Also recorded in Abbey Road Studios, this Merseybeat-style tune ascended to the top of the charts in 1965, contributing to their string of hits. After the two disbanded in 1968, Peter took charge of a department at Apple Records, signing artists like James Taylor, and Gordon even went on to perform the roll of Pharaoh in a production of Joseph. Interesting stuff!
We'll end today with the British R&B, beat, and pop band Manfred Mann, named after their South African keyboardist, Manfred Mann. Emerging from the British blues scene in London's club (along with The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, and The Yardbirds), these guys was the first south-of-England-based group to top the charts during the Invasion. With their distinct sound fueled by Manfred's keyboard and the soulful voice of singer Paul Jones, the group had a huge hit with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," reaching #1 on both the UK and U.S. charts in the fall of 1964. Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and originally a minor hit by The Exciters (an American vocal group), Manfred Mann's cover version continues to remain a well-known favorite for generations. Later in the early 1970's, Manfred went to form the successful progressive rock group Manfred Man's Earth Band (remember "Blinded By the Light"?). Anyway, I have vivid memories of singing this tune at the top of my lungs as a kid.

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