The 10 Best Songs from the British Invasion 1963-68 [OPINION]
If Frank Sinatra was the first rock star idol, Chuck Berry the first guitar god, and Elvis Presley is The King of Rock and Roll, the British usurpers looked to remind the world that the sun never sets on the Britsh Empire, and it seemed at the time that the spotlight wouldn't, either.
The music began to reach the American shores late in 1963 and when The Beatles arrived in November of 1964, the British Invasion had begun. It seemed the island nation had an endless wave of talent that continued to arrive and dominate: the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Moody Blues, Manfred Mann, the Animals, and others.
The Beatles share an elite status in rock and roll close enough to the same level of dominance as Elvis. Fate would somehow bring three kids from Liverpool together and their writing skills are still felt today even in the most modern progressive rock. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and eventually Ringo Starr would be the most influential band in history.
While the Beatles' hair was considered sort of long in that day, they were still giving off the vibe of the kind of guy you hope your daughter brings home one day. The bands that followed in their footsteps, not so much.
The Rolling Stones are the guys who remind fathers to lock their doors and windows every night. Had it not been for their knack to play and to write songs, I'm convinced they would have had alternate careers – specifically, one that includes the conning skills to convince people to walk over to their booths and try to win stuffed animals at the carnivals they traveled with.
The Stones were more my cup of tea. I was born in the middle of the British Invasion and it would be many years before I sorted out that kind of preference, but I worked it out that the Stones were closer to the heart of what rock should have been than the Beatles.
That is no slight on the Beatles, they were great. I just picked a side.
The Who also starred here. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend might not have the image of knife-wielders like the Stones, but through their music, they did come off as bare-knuckle brawlers. Power chords, dominant drums, and masculinity found a home with anthems of the Who.
While the Beatles brought the pop-rock and popularity, and the Stones brought the seedy blues, the Who owned the power. The Kinks also found their niche. Ray Davies and his brother Dave told great tales, humorous ones, and with some pretty notable power chords of their own.
Of all the bands from the British Invasion, mine was the underdog Kinks.
Here are my choices for the 10 best songs from the British Invasion:
10. "Twist and Shout," Beatles (1965)
It's almost like you could fill a hat with Beatles songs and pull out a solid entrant, but "Twist and Shout" made my list for a few reasons. One, it shows the band's appreciation for the roots of their American predecessors in rock with their own style to it, and includes their patented harmonious wooos, a catchy chorus and pre-chorus, and is a great example of what early Beatles music was all about.
9. "Paint It Black," Rolling Stones (1966)
Inspired by James Joyces' book Ulysses, "Paint It Black" points to a sudden loss of a loved one. This song struck a nerve with increasing amounts of Americans who began to see thousands of caskets returning from Vietnam. The sitar was introduced to rock in this song and it was a song that was vital to the band as they needed to keep up with the Beatles, and this 1966 hit shot to No. 1 in both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart.
I particularly like the sudden change of pace after the lead-in chorus. A lot of rock has been built with this sudden change-of-pace, "kick-in" kind of bridge.
8. "Yesterday," Beatles (1965)
Showing one of many levels more to come, this Beatles ballad stunned many who suddenly found the appeal of the band through a uniquely orchestrated song that reflects in a way most of us do on a regular basis.
For me, the lesson learned here is you really didn't need to sing or play better than anyone else. The genius, fame, and fortune come in the writing.
7. "My Generation," The Who (1965)
While the Beatles tapped into the hippie and pacifist market, the Who engaged the angry of the world. They resonated with everyone from the soldier to the ironworker, from the hooligan to the athlete. They confronted abuse of power and the globe's increasingly powerful governments' baseless use of force with a force of their own.
The Who's debut album was, at the time, the hardest rock guitar and drums ever recorded. This would be the heaviest of metal to be found in 1965. And yes, for those who have the ear, Jimmy Page is heard on guitar in this song.
6. "The House of the Rising Sun," Animals (1964)
By far their greatest hit, this song reminds me of the sudden arrival of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana 27 years later. When people heard this song, they must have known that a change-was a-comin'.
It is one of the great examples of what should be in a time capsule for 1960s music. The Animals would not again enjoy a song that rose to such fame but they did forever forge a corner of history in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ominous riffs on guitars, original organ/keyboard style and approach by Alan Price (which would be quickly and often copied soon after) and an interesting change of register from chest to head by singer Eric Burdon. Most people couldn't tell you who sings this song but they would still know the words.
5. "You Really Got Me," Kinks (1964)
The Kinks would go on to perform and brawl with each other for the next 45 years but they drove their flag into the ground with "You Really Got Me" and other hits with seven records released between 1964-69. More modern bands would perform Kinks covers on their records with great success, including Van Halen's selection version of "Where Have All The Good Times Gone?" and this one.
4. "I Can't Explain," The Who (1965)
This band turned rock and roll into a full-contact sport and inspired the stage presence for thousands of others who performed. Mick Jagger once credited The Who for pushing his live physical performance. The Who owned the heavier, cutting edge side of rock and were, for a while, peerless.
2-3 (tie). "I Saw Her Standing There" and "She Loves You," Beatles (1963)
Flip the order of these two songs. What's the difference? I think even Elvis wondered how long his reign would last after these songs were played on The Ed Sullivan Show. It all changed after this.
1. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Rolling Stones (1965)
Yup, the Greatest Rock and Roll Band will take the top song on my list of British Invasion tunes. I chose a more contemporary live recording to point out the long-standing stardom of the band and this song in particular. An anthem song of the 1960s and embraced ever since.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@