British rock music first truly emerged during the 1960s, but the revolution was actually stimulated during the 1950s.
Blues, jazz and rock and roll were already established as genres in the United States, and it was primarily the shipping links between the Merseyside Docks and America which introduced this radical new type of music to Britain. Thousands of local sailors, known as the Cunard Yanks, would frequently return from the States armed with American rock and roll recordings. These were soon to have a significant impact on home-grown music.
One of the major catalysts for a new wave of guitar-led music in the United Kingdom was a four-piece group called The Beatles. They would of course go on to become one of the most significant bands of all-time, and are still an inspiration to many new artists today.
Based in Liverpool, it wasn’t long before John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were listening to the likes of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, while the rest of the country was oblivious to the music from across the pond.
The Beatles developed into the ‘Fab Four’ during the late 1950s and early 1960’s, and went through a number of guises and band names, most famously The Quarrymen, before McCartney and Harrison joined the band.
Lennon initially formed the band as a ‘skiffle’ group in 1957, but it was not until 1962 that the famous line-up was complete. It was only after Sir George Martin signed the band to EMI’s Parlophone record label that former drummer Pete Best was replaced by Richard Starkey (otherwise known as Ringo Starr).
The Beatles played nearly 300 times at The Cavern Club in Liverpool during the 50s and 60s (left to right: George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney, John Lennon)
Within months The Beatles’ popularity had spread from packed out live performances at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to across the United Kingdom, and by the end of 1963 Beatlemania had started to extend across the globe. On 18th January 1964 ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ entered the US Billboard Charts and by the start of February it had hit number one spot, where it remained for seven weeks. When the track was finally knocked off the top spot it was replaced by ‘She Loves You’, another Beatles song.
And so the British Invasion had commenced. While The Beatles enjoyed huge success at home, their dominance of the American charts will probably never be matched.
Before them though, a previously fairly obscure genre called Skiffle had also played a major part in the development of British rock and roll music during the 1950s. Its popularity was something of a revival of the early 20th Century skiffle movement in America. Scottish musician Lonnie Donegan was known as the ‘King of Skiffle’ and is considered a large influence on many early successful British musicians.
During the 1960s a number of bands came to prominence and were helped along by the Beatles-led British Invasion; most famously The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who and The Yardbirds.
The Brit Rock Timeline continues under “1960’s to 1970s”…