CILLA BLACK: I remember coming down Fifth Avenue, and I was wearing a Mary Quant black plastic mac. Some fans who had caught me on The Ed Sullivan Show wanted a souvenir, so they pulled a button off my mac. And of course it all ripped, and I was really upset. But they were still being friendly—they just wanted a Beatle souvenir.
__PETER ASHER:__Almost all our fans were also Beatle fans. By zeroing in on one of the subgroups of the Beatle phenomenon, the fans had more of a chance to actually get to meet the musicians, or to feel more personally involved. I remember one time, we finished a show and jumped off the stage in San Diego or somewhere. And as we did, the girls broke through some sort of barrier thing, chasing after us. My glasses fell off and fell to the ground. I picked ’em up and put ’em back on, and looked behind me. And a girl, where my glasses had fallen on the lawn, was pulling the grass out and stuffing it in her mouth. Something that had touched me had now touched this grass, and the grass had now become sacred. It was fascinating.
Of these acts, Peter and Gordon were the odd ones out, not rough-hewn northerners but posh kids from London’s prestigious Westminster School who’d formed an Everly Brothers-style harmony duo. Their Beatle connection was that Paul McCartney was dating Peter Asher’s actress older sister, Jane. Lacking a permanent home in London at that time, McCartney had taken to bunking with the Ashers, a bourgeois-bohemian Jewish family, when the Beatles weren’t on tour.
__PETER ASHER:__The top floor of our house had two bedrooms on it, which was him and me. So we were hanging out together a lot. One day—I think Gordon was there, too—Paul was fiddling about, playing a song, and I said, “What’s that?” And he said it was something he’d written for Billy J. Kramer, and that Billy J. didn’t like it, and that John didn’t want to do it with the Beatles. So I said, “Well, could we sing it?”
The song, “A World Without Love,” became Peter and Gordon’s debut single, and it went to No. 1 in America in June 1964, making them the first Englishmen after the Beatles to top the U.S. charts.
But even British acts with no Beatles connection whatsoever discovered, as they made their way to the United States in ’64 and ’65, that they were fab-by-association, no matter what their actual provenance.
PETER ASHER: The funny part was that in America at that time “Beatle” almost became a generic term. People would actually come up to you and say, “Are you a Beatle?” Literally, middle-aged America at that time thought everyone with long hair and English was a Beatle.
JEREMY CLYDE, CHAD AND JEREMY: All the time—“Are you from Liverpool?” And our record company, since they didn’t have a band from Liverpool, dubbed us “the Oxford Sound,” because I had been brought up near Oxford at one point. “You’ve heard the Liverpool Sound. Now—wait for it, kids!—it’s the Oxford Sound!” The Oxford Sound, thank God, didn’t last very long.
__GORDON WALLER, PETER AND GORDON:__Americans just assumed that everyone from England was from Liverpool. But if they referred to us as “the Liverpool Sound,” I just went with the flow. If that made them happy and made the kids buy the records—solid!
One band that did not instantly reap the benefits of hysterical Brit-mania was the Rolling Stones. By 1964 they had already developed a fierce live reputation, had hits in England (including the Lennon-McCartney-written “I Wanna Be Your Man”), and had appeared on the frenetic British teen-pop program Ready Steady Go! But establishing a U.S. foothold proved elusive.
__VICKI WICKHAM, PRODUCER, READY STEADY GO!:__I remember sitting with Brian Jones and Mick Jagger at Wembley Stadium when we were doing Ready Steady Goes Mod, some extravaganza out there. We were sitting over a cup of tea, and I remember them saying, “If only we could get a hit in America—wouldn’t it be great? We’d get a trip, we’d get to shop, we’d get to go there.”
ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM: All the people that we would laugh at while we were backstage at Ready Steady Go!—Dave Clark, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals—they were having hits in America a long time before the Rolling Stones. Name anybody—even [the unforgivably glutinous Irish vocal trio] the Bachelors got to No. 10.
Oldham, just 20 years old in 1964, had already made a name for himself in England by embarking on a whistle-stop apprenticeship tour of early Swinging London, working brief stints for the designer Mary Quant, the jazz-club impresario Ronnie Scott, and the Beatles’ famous manager, Brian Epstein. The son of an American soldier who had been killed in World War II combat before Andrew was born and an Australian-born Englishwoman who concealed her Russian-Jewish background, Oldham gorged himself on American culture, became obsessed with Alexander Mackendrick’s quintessential New York film, The Sweet Smell of Success, and became one of Swinging London’s greatest self-inventions—an immaculately turned-out press manipulator who loved trouble, wore eyeliner, and, in Marianne Faithfull’s words, “would say things you only hear in movies, like I can make you a star, and that’s just for starters, baby!’”
At 19, Oldham took over the management of the Rollin’ Stones (as they were then known), a nice group of middle-class blues enthusiasts from the suburbs of London, and masterfully recast them as mystique-laden bad boys—scruffing them up, encouraging them to unleash their delinquencies, and stoking the newspapers with his “Would you let your daughter marry a Stone?” campaign.
__SIMON NAPIER-BELL:__What Mick Jagger did onstage subsequently was what Andrew did offstage. Andrew was camp and flamboyant and outrageous, and Mick stole Andrew’s movements and put them into a stage act.
But, for all his bravado in England and his romance with America, Oldham never anticipated that he would actually have to try to crack the States.
ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM: February ’64, when the Beatles came to America, it was a big “Uh-oh”—no, a huge one. I was in a @#$%&’ panic, man. All of my gifts were of absolutely no use to me. This was a country where you killed your president. I mean, c’mon, we’re turning up only six months after you’d popped Kennedy. That did have an effect on one.
The Stones arrived in the U.S. in June for a disastrous two-week tour that found them, at one juncture, playing four consecutive shows at the Texas State Fair in San Antonio.
ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM: Texas . . . [Sighs.] There was a swimming pool in front of us. With seals in it. Performing seals were on in the afternoon, in front of us. And Bobby Vee appearing in tennis shorts—forget the American Dream, now we’ve got the American nightmare. The tour was only 15 dates, but it was a hard slog, a lot of disappointment. You know, if the Beatles’ landing at J.F.K. was like something directed by Cecil B. DeMille, it looked as if Mel Brooks directed our entry.
The indignities piled on. Making their American TV debut on the ABC variety program The Hollywood Palace, the Stones were ritually abused by that week’s host, Dean Martin, who said of them, “Their hair is not long—it’s just smaller foreheads and higher eyebrows.”
Oldham did manage one coup on the Stones’ first trip, though, getting the group a recording session at Chess Studios in Chicago, where many of their blues idols had put down their most famous tracks.
__ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM:__I could not have them going back to England with long faces. So, as a compensation, I organized a recording session at Chess, where they could basically record at the shrine. That got us as far as “It’s All Over Now,” the Bobby Womack song . . .
. . . the Stones’ cover of which squeaked into the American Top 40 in late summer ’64, peaking at No. 26 in mid-September—just as their nemesis, Martin, was enjoying his eighth week in the Top 10 with “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
The early Stones were hardly the only British group whose repertoire consisted almost entirely of covers of American R&B singles. For bands who were not writing their own material, it was crucial to have a good song picker. The Searchers, from Liverpool, had one of the best in drummer Chris Curtis.
CHRIS CURTIS: At Brian Epstein’s family’s store, NEMS, you could ask him, and he’d get you anything you wanted. I listened to Radio Luxembourg virtually every night—they used to do an American slot, and I’d say, “Oh, that’s good,” and order it at NEMS. “Needles and Pins”—I just heard Jackie DeShannon’s version on the radio, so I bought the record. “Love Potion No. 9”—we were in Hamburg, and I used to go out on my own, looking in old shops. I found this old secondhand shop in the next road up from the Grosse Freiheit, which is where the Star Club was. I thought, That’s strange—what’s a 45 doing in the window? And it was the Clovers singing “Love Potion No. 9,” which became our biggest hit in America.
Manfred Mann’s song picker was its singer, the dreamy Paul Jones. The band, named after its bespectacled, Beatnik keyboardist, started out as a jazz combo but had little success. Enlisting Jones, they reconstituted themselves as an R&B outfit but still weren’t having much luck, prompting the singer to take them in a poppier direction.
PAUL JONES: I would avidly listen to the very few programs on British radio where you could hear American popular music. And every time I heard something that I liked, I would go to one of the very few record shops in London you could rely on to stock that stuff. And I heard this “Do Wah Diddy,” by [the black New York vocal group] the Exciters, and I thought, It’s a smash!
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” had been written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, one of the hit-making teams that worked in Manhattan’s fabled Brill Building. But the Exciters’ version had done surprisingly little business in the U.S. Manfred Mann’s version, however, a future staple of sports-arena playlists, became another No. 1 for the British side in October of ’64.
PAUL JONES: I wanted to get over to America as fast as possible. And when some guy said, “There’s a tour with Peter and Gordon,” I said, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” And it was dreadfully arranged, in the depths of winter ’64-’65. When we got to New York, we played at the New York Academy of Music, and ticket sales were very poor indeed. So they decided that it would be necessary, at the last minute, to beef up the bill with some local talent. And of all the blind-blank stupidities, the local talent that they booked was the Exciters, who then sang “Do Wah Diddy” before we did.
Manfred Mann’s tour wasn’t a total washout, though. While the band was in Los Angeles, the ubiquitous scenester Kim Fowley witnessed what he deems a seminal event in music history: the first official campaign by a groupie to bed a rock star.
KIM FOWLEY: Her name was Liz, with red hair and green eyes; she looked like a Gidget version of Maureen O’Hara. She was about 18 years old. She was the first girl who I ever saw walk into a hotel room for the express purpose of @#$%& a rock star. I was standing in the driveway, between the Continental Hyatt House and Ciro’s. I had just gotten out of a cab, and I was gonna go over to the hotel and welcome the guys. Then her cab came up. I said, “Hey, Liz, what’s going on?” She said, “Do you know Paul Jones in Manfred Mann?” I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “Well, I want to @#$%& him.” I said, “Really? So what do you want me to do?” She said, “I want you to drag me into their room and introduce me, so I can nail this guy.”
So we knock on the door, and they open the door, and I said, “Paul Jones, here’s your date for the evening.” “Hi, I’m Liz, I’m gonna have sex with you tonight!” And he said, “Great!”
__PAUL JONES:__If I said Kim was lying, I’d be lying, because I don’t know whether it’s true or false. I seem to remember that at the time there were lots of girls that made a beeline for groups—especially the singer. Look: the music was always the main thing for us. If I did get into debauchery, then I have to admit that girls were more likely to be the subject of it than drink. And drugs a poor third.
The greatest of England’s song pickers in the Invasion era was Mickie Most, a former pop singer of middling achievement who’d made himself over as a Svengali-like producer. Unique among London music figures, Most was jetting off to New York even before the Beatles’ breakthrough, trawling the Brill Building music publishers for songs that he could turn into hits with the promising young groups he’d found, the Animals and Herman’s Hermits.
__MICKIE MOST:__The previous generation of British pop artists, like Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, and Marty Wilde, were basically clones of the Americans, except that they didn’t have the ability to write. They used other people’s songs, normally covers of American records that had already been successful. So I designed a shortcut—go to America, to the publishing companies, and get the songs before they were recorded. When I’d find a band like Herman’s Hermits—I liked the band, but they didn’t have any tunes. So off I went to New York, and we found a song called “I’m into Something Good,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. And the Animals, for instance—their first hit was “House of the Rising Sun,” which was an old folk song they were doing in their set; they weren’t writers. So “We Gotta Get out of This Place,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “It’s My Life”—those tunes were all American songs which had never been recorded.
The Animals, from Newcastle, were an earthy blues-R&B act fronted by Eric Burdon, a volatile, charismatic belter of small stature and serious intellect. Their slow, portentous version of “House of the Rising Sun” held the No. 1 spot for three weeks in September ’64, establishing them as rootsy heavyweights of the Invasion.
ERIC BURDON: I still resent being lumped in with the British Invasion. That’s just not the way I saw music—to have our management look around for chewing-gum commercials. We weren’t bubblegum. I was @#$%&’ serious about the blues. In one of my first journals, I made an incision into my arm and wrote the word “blues” in blood. It was a crusade.
Herman’s Hermits, on the other hand, were the perfect teen-dream band, acutely polite, unsubversively cheeky, and forever dressed for school-picture day. “Herman” was actually Peter Noone, a relentlessly chipper, well-to-do boy from the suburbs of Manchester who had been a child actor on the English soap opera Coronation Street. He was barely 17 when “I’m into Something Good” became an American hit in the fall of 1964.
__PETER NOONE:__Herman’s Hermits were always very civil. Girls, guys, mums, and dads liked us, ’cause we were not in your face in any kind of way. You know how people say, “I couldn’t let me sister see that”? That’s how we were. We all had a sister who was a little bit older than us or a little bit younger than us, and my sister had, like, a plastic statue of Sister Mary Teresa implanted in her forehead: ALL MEN, LEAVE ME ALONE. We thought all girls were like that. Until we found out that we had a shot at them.
Precocious and possessed of Clintonian energy and political skills, Noone proved adept at ingratiating himself to the appropriate American media figures.
PETER NOONE: I made an alliance with Gloria Stavers, the editor of 16 magazine, because I knew that she was the most important person in rock ’n’ roll in America. She developed acts. If she liked what you represented—she liked Paul McCartney; she liked John Lennon—she made you look better. She would change your answers to make you look better . . .
. . . e.g., Stavers: “What do you think of American girls?” Noone: “They make me wish we still owned the colonies. That’s what America used to be, luv!”
PETER NOONE: And Ed Sullivan was charmed by Herman’s Hermits because I was a bit brighter than the average musician. He said, “You’re a Catholic, aren’t you? Meet me tomorrow at Delmonico’s”—which I thought was a restaurant; he meant the building—“and come with me and my family to Mass.” It was a big honor. I showed up, suited up and everything, and genuflected in all the wrong places; I hadn’t been for about 10 years.
Noone’s politicking and Most’s production savvy paid off. erman’s Hermits commenced a streak of five straight Top 5 hits, including the No. 1s “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”
__WAYNE FONTANA, WAYNE FONTANA AND THE MINDBENDERS:__I’d say that at that time in America, in ’65, Peter was bigger than the Beatles.
PETER NOONE: Mick Jagger didn’t like Herman’s Hermits. ’Cause people would ask was he Herman in those days.
__ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM:__Mick was stopped in Honolulu Airport and asked for his autograph. And they were disappointed that he hadn’t signed “Peter Noone.” The look on his face! But we took Peter Noone and Mickie Most very seriously, and so did other folk. They and the Dave Clark Five, after the Beatles, took the heart of America way before the Stones. They toured on hits, we went looking for them.
__PETER NOONE:__There was a time when we were all staying at the City Squire hotel in New York—us, the Stones, and Tom Jones. Herman’s Hermits had just done “Henry the VIII” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and there were two or three thousand kids standing outside the hotel for us—it had been on the news. We went up on the roof—the Stones and Tom Jones too—and it must have made a big impact on the Stones, because they started to write pop tunes. No more of the blues stuff, “Little Red Rooster”—that was instantly gone. They went to start and write songs, ’cause they said, “Look what happens when you make it in America.”
As ’64 turned into ’65, the Invasion grew ever more literal, with British groups coming over in great numbers for package tours, New York variety showcases hosted by D.J. Murray “the K” Kaufman, and appearances on the various manic television programs that had arisen to cater to the hysterical-teen demographic: NBC’s Hullabaloo, ABC’s Shindig! and Where the Action Is, and the syndicated Hollywood A Go Go. Among the groups to visit were the Kinks, whose Ray Davies-written originals “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” were all over the radio; the Zombies, whose extraordinary debut single, “She’s Not There,” was the first self-written British No. 1 after the Beatles; the Yardbirds, who came to America with a new featured guitarist, Jeff Beck, because the old one, blues purist Eric Clapton, found the band’s hit “For Your Love” inexcusably poppy; the Hollies, who were having hits in England but who wouldn’t crack the U.S. Top 10 until ’66 and ’67 with “Bus Stop” and “Carrie-Anne”; and lesser acts like Nashville Teens, yet another Mickie Most discovery, who had a hit with a cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road,” and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, who went to No. 1 with the soulful “The Game of Love.”
For young Brits abroad for the first time, America was at once a wondrous land of untold exotica . . .
__GRAHAM NASH:__Those little white grease pencils, where you don’t sharpen them, but you pull a little string and they sharpen themselves—incredible!
WAYNE FONTANA: American diners were like top restaurants in London. Meat loaf, Boston cream pie, the steaks—incredible!
RAY PHILLIPS, NASHVILLE TEENS: This little Jewish girl, she always used to bring a hot casserole along to the dressing room in the Brooklyn Fox. It was stuffed peppers. Which I guess must be a Jewish thing.
. . . and a place that was, surprisingly, still very much in thrall to 1950s mores and tastes.
DAVE DAVIES: On our first tour, I was surprised how old-fashioned Americans were. Ray and I grew up listening to Big Bill Broonzy and Hank Williams and the Ventures, all these really cool people. So before I went, I was in awe of America, thinking, We’re gonna go places where all these great people are, and we’re gonna listen to the radio and hear all this great music! And they didn’t play anything on the radio that was any good; it was all that poppy, croonery, 50s kind of stuff. I expected to hear Leadbelly on the radio—no one knew who he was!
__ERIC BURDON:__We were put in a Christmas special called The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, with Liza Minnelli as Little Red Riding Hood, Vic Damone as the romantic lead, and Cyril Richard as the Big Bad Wolf. We were his Wolfettes. We’d walk around with this bloody makeup on and tails, and we had to sing a song called “We’re Gonna How-How-Howl Tonight.”
ROD ARGENT, THE ZOMBIES: We did the Murray the K Christmas Show at the Brooklyn Fox. It was Ben E. King and the Drifters, the Shangri-Las, Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles, Dick and Deedee, and another English band, Nashville Teens. Headlining the show was Chuck Jackson. We started at 8 o’clock in the morning and did six or eight shows a day, until about 11 o’clock in the evening. Each act did a couple of songs—our hit and one other song—and then we would have to go to the back of the stage and sort of dance, almost like a very naff chorus line.
But, for all the bands who were chagrined at having to go the cornball route, there were those who embraced the opportunity.
GERRY MARSDEN: On Hullabaloo, I think I was in a hairdresser’s chair, singing “I Like It” while surrounded by a bevy of beauties. I found it great—bloody hell, to be on television in America, I would have shown me bum to get on!
Chad and Jeremy, a harmony duo whose mellow, Kingston Trio-like sound on such hits as “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me” was as far away as could be from that of the Rolling Stones, were so Old Guard-friendly that they actually lived with Dean Martin for a short time.
JEREMY CLYDE: We were brought over to do the Hollywood Palace show as a sort of antidote to Ed Sullivan—“Well, he’s got the Beatles, so we’ll get Chad and Jeremy!” My parents knew Jeannie Martin, so we stayed with Dean and Jeannie and hung out with Dino, Deana, and Claudia. The house revolved around this great big wet bar.
Clyde was the Invasion’s one authentic English aristocrat, the grandson of the Duke of Wellington. Between his august lineage and his and Chad Stuart’s drama-school backgrounds, Hollywood could not keep its hands off the pair. They could sing; they could act; they had English accents; they had mop-top hair—they were TV-land’s official Invasion mascots.
JEREMY CLYDE: We were on Batman and Patty Duke and The Dick Van Dyke Show. On Dick Van Dyke, we played a British band, and Rob and Laura Petrie kept them in their house for three days—actually, not unlike Dean and Jeannie Martin. On Batman, we did a double episode. We played ourselves, Chad and Jeremy. Catwoman stole our voices—Julie Newmar, who was gorgeous. As I remember, because Catwoman had stolen our voices, the amount of tax that Chad and Jeremy were paying to the British Exchequer would then be lost, and Britain would collapse as a world power. It was a Beatle joke, obviously.
Like Chad and Jeremy, Freddie and the Dreamers were a clean-cut English group who, through the magic of American television and the sheer force of the Invasion, became much bigger in the U.S. than they were in their homeland. Freddie Garrity, a 26-year-old who’d shaved five years off his age to appear more youthquake-friendly, was an impish little fellow in Buddy Holly glasses whose trademark was a spasmodic leg-flailing dance that came to be known as the Freddie.
FREDDIE GARRITY: We were really just a cabaret act. The Freddie dance was just an old routine—it depicted a farmer in a field kicking his feet out in the mud.
Freddie and the Dreamers’ chart placings were already in decline in England when, in 1965, Brian Epstein, moonlighting as the host of Hullabaloo’s London segment, showed a clip of the group performing its 1963 U.K. hit “I’m Telling You Now.” The clip proved so popular that the group was invited to Los Angeles to perform live on Hullabaloo*.*
__FREDDIE GARRITY:__So we went on, did “I’m Telling You Now,” and the phones lit up. Policemen were doing the Freddie in the street. And the song shot to No. 1 in America . . .
. . . which it hadn’t done even in Britain. Freddie-mania took such hold in America that Garrity’s record company hastily put together a follow-up single called “Do the Freddie” for him to sing (it reached No. 18), and on Hullabaloo such luminaries as Chuck Berry, the Four Seasons, Trini Lopez, Frankie Avalon, and Annette Funicello joined Garrity in doing the dance. Freddie and the Dreamers also embarked on a U.S. tour with two fellow Manchester bands, Herman’s Hermits and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.
__WAYNE FONTANA:__We had No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 on the chart throughout the tour. One week I was No. 1 with “Game of Love,” then Freddie and the Dreamers, then Herman. It was amazing, because we’d all grown up together.
Another young Englishman unwittingly caught up in the slipstream of the Invasion was Ian Whitcomb, a wellborn boy who, while attending Trinity College in Dublin, had started up a band called Bluesville and secured a modest recording contract with Tower, a small subsidiary of Capitol Records. At the end of a Dublin recording session in which he’d committed to tape a protest song called “No Tears for Johnny,” he and his band played a boogie-woogie joke song they’d made up in which Whitcomb panted like a phone pervert and sang, in falsetto, “C’mon now honey, you know you really turn me on.”
IAN WHITCOMB: I was brought across to New York in spring of ’65 by Tower Records. And, to my horror, the promotion man had a copy of the next release of mine, and it was called “Turn On Song.” I said, “You’re not gonna release this! It’s No Tears for Johnny’! I’m gonna be the next Dylan!”
“You Turn Me On (Turn On Song),” as it was officially billed by Tower, somehow made it all the way to No. 8 in the U.S.
IAN WHITCOMB: I was so embarrassed by this damn thing, because I thought I was a singer and rhythm-and-blues man. And here I was with this novelty hit, and I couldn’t stop this damn thing from going up the charts. It’s still an albatross around my neck. When I was on tour with Peter and Gordon in late ’65, Peter said, “You know, you’ve made one of the worst records that’s ever been. Just as pop is progressing, just as we’re getting into serious art with the Beatles and we’re trying to elevate rock into a serious art form, you come along with this rubbish.”
Conveniently, the British Invasion dovetailed with the sexual revolution, which made for plenty of post-show action for visiting English musicians.
__GORDON WALLER:__It was all too easy, frighteningly easy. I bumped into a woman a couple of years ago who still had a youthful figure and a great-looking face, and she said, “Are you Gordon?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I’m Cathy. You took me to Vegas when I was 15.” I said, “Cathy, I think we’ll rephrase that. We were playing in Vegas, and you happened along.” She said, “Yes, happened along—in your bedroom.” These days, damn, you’d be banged up, wouldn’t you?
PETER NOONE: I thought I was in love with every girl, and I was gonna get married. I never, ever took advantage of anybody. I didn’t know that they were groupies. I thought, What a nice girl! She likes me!
__FREDDIE GARRITY:__It was difficult. I had a wife and a baby daughter. And all of a sudden you’ve got girls coming out of your ears! And, you know, I didn’t want to go deaf.
WAYNE FONTANA: Oh, Freddie was the worst! Even though he was the funny one that jumped around—oh, what a lech! The group joined in—they hired film cameras and everything, so they could set movie scenes up in bedrooms.
Among the most famous of the early rock groupies was Cynthia Albritton, a shy Chicago teen who, for reasons she barely understood, found herself suddenly impelled to storm the hotels where visiting British musicians were staying. In time, she would make a name for herself, literally, as the groupie who made plaster casts of rock stars’ erect penises—she became Cynthia Plaster Caster.
CYNTHIA PLASTER CASTER: I’d say the British Invasion made me what I am. It was the hysteria of Meet the Beatles that evolved into plaster-casting. When it happened, a lot of us were virgins. We would climb fire escapes—like 15, 20 stories—to get to the rock ’n’ roll floor, because the hotel security guards just didn’t allow girls in. They didn’t think it was proper.
PETER ASHER: The funny part was, a lot of the girls were really young. They’d be trying to sneak into the hotel room, but they would have no idea what to do if they got there. They would be horrified if you really said, “Well, O.K. now—take ’em off!”
CYNTHIA PLASTER CASTER: I didn’t know what my goal was. I didn’t even know why I was drawn there. The guys were like magnets, and I didn’t know what I wanted at first. ’Cause I’d only made out with a boy or two before that.
In time, though, Cynthia and her friends embraced overt naughtiness.
__CYNTHIA PLASTER CASTER:__We discovered along the way this Cockney rhyming slang that only British bands seemed to know. So we learned all the dirty words that we could find out. Such as “Hampton wick,” which rhymes with “dick,” and “charva,” which meant “@#$%&.” I’m guessing it rhymed with “larva.” Maybe larva’s a sexual term, I don’t know—they didn’t go as far as telling me what it rhymes with. But it was a very popular word; we made a lot of contacts from that word. We actually wrote a note to somebody saying that we were the Charva Chapter of the Barclays bankers. And “Barclays Bank” rhymes with “wank”: “Would you like to make a deposit? Would you like to make a nightly deposit? We have nightly banking hours”—that was it. This was for somebody in Gerry and the Pacemakers. And we didn’t even know what a wank was. We were still virgins.
The end result was that two days later I got a long-distance phone call from the guy. And it transpired into him finding out very quickly that I didn’t know what the @#$%& I was talking about.
The plaster-casting idea arose from Cynthia’s and her friends’ desire, having given the matter some consideration, to lose their virginity to British pop stars. Nervous about how to break the ice, Cynthia and company decided that asking musicians to submit to having their members coated in a viscous molding agent was the way to go.
__ERIC BURDON:__I was fascinated by the whole thing. They had a team, and one of them was a real expert at fellatio, and she was beautiful. They came with a wooden box and showed us all the equipment and everything.
The problem was that, initially, Cynthia was not well schooled in the art of molding.
__CYNTHIA PLASTER CASTER:__There was, like, a two-year period where we were dragging the [casting-equipment] suitcase around, not really knowing how to do it, just wanting to try it out, using it as shtick to get to the hotel rooms. We’d tell people, “We need someone to experiment on. Would you like to help us experiment?” We’d get the pants down, and then, ultimately, they would put the make on us, and voilà—sex would happen. I think we encountered Eric Burdon during that time period. We were on an airplane with him, and we were gonna try aluminum foil, wrap it around his dick. That proved not to work.
ERIC BURDON: It was on a tour plane, and the engines were already running. And they had me in the bathroom, and everybody was yelling, “C’mon—we gotta leave!” And the plane was rocking backwards and forwards. They got as far as getting the plaster on. It wasn’t very comfortable, you know. I’m a romantic character—I have to have candles, music, and a bottle of wine.
The British Invasion also ushered in a new kind of sex symbol—not the Brylcreemed, conventionally handsome pop idol of yore, but the skinny, spotty, often myopic, often dentally deficient Englishman whose magnetism derived from his Englishness and status as a musician.
CYNTHIA PLASTER CASTER: Peter Asher was so cute. Him and that guy from Herman’s Hermits, Lek? [Derek “Lek” Leckenby, the group’s bassist.] They wore those Peter Sellers glasses. I thought that was really hot.
PETER ASHER: I had pretty substantially crossed teeth. I think the cliché of the glasses and the bad teeth—I know that I contributed something to Austin Powers’s reality. People have said to me, “It must have been you who inspired Mike Myers.” And while he won’t say that, he did say, in the one conversation we had, that he knew all about Peter and Gordon. Unfortunately, I was never that shagadelic.
For all the fun that touring America entailed, there were some rocky moments for the invaders. Some were merely tempests in a teapot . . .
__JEREMY CLYDE:__It was difficult when you were working with American musicians, ’cause they were resentful. Len Barry, who we toured with, had a hit called “1-2-3,” and he had quite a chip on his shoulder—“English musicians don’t have the chops,” all this kind of stuff. And Paul Revere and the Raiders were there to bring American music back to America.
__MARK LINDSAY, PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS:__Actually, Derek Taylor, who was the Beatles’ publicist, split from them kind of early on and came to America, and we were one of his first clients, and he said, “This is a publicist’s dream—the Americans stem the tide for the second time!” There was never any animosity or real competition. As far as the Brits, I was going, “Yeah, more power to ’em!”
. . . while others were more serious.
JIM MCCARTY, THE YARDBIRDS: Giorgio Gomelsky, our first manager, was a big guy with a beard who looked like Fidel Castro. And when we first came to America, there was still a lot of Communist paranoia going on, you know? And, of course, lots of people used to think he was Fidel Castro, and that all of us, with our long hair, were dropouts following him around. So we’d get people threatening to throw us out of town and beat us up.
DAVE DAVIES: I said “@#$%&” on the radio in Boston once. The D.J. was talking like the Beatles, so I called him a @#$%& on the air. They closed the radio station down and dragged me out of the building.
ERIC BURDON: America was hotter than I expected it to be and colder than I ever imagined it would be, weatherwise and culturally. I went to the Stax Studio in Memphis one day and watched Sam and Dave cut “Hold On! I’m a Comin’,” and the next night, in the limousines on the way to the gig, we ran into the Ku Klux Klan on the streets. So one minute you were like, “This is the new South! This is the new dream!,” and then the next minute the old world would just come and slap you upside the head.
Burdon did discover, serendipitously, that his affinity for black America had a secondary benefit.
__ERIC BURDON:__I wanted to hear black music. Anywhere I went, I asked, “How do I get across the tracks? How do I get to Browntown?” And I found out that all you had to do to get away from the screaming girls was drive across the tracks. They would follow us up to Harlem—flying wedges of cars, teenagers hanging out of cars—and as soon as we crossed 110th Street, they would peel off and fall back, and then I’d be alone.
There were fewer high jinks and groupie problems for the women of the British Invasion, a stylistically disparate group—the soulful Dusty Springfield (“Wishin’ and Hopin’”) and Cilla Black; the poppier Petula Clark (“Downtown”) and Lulu (“To Sir with Love”); and the enigmatic Marianne Faithfull (“As Tears Go By”)—whose one common trait was that they were all solo artists who couldn’t seek solace in the camaraderie of a group.
__CILLA BLACK:__It was all right for the guys in any of the bands, because they all had each other. But I’d lost my grandmother while I was over in New York, and it really hit me badly. I was just too homesick, and I wanted to come home. Which I totally regret now.
More sure of herself was Petula Clark, who, at the time of her first U.S. smash, the winter ’65 No. 1 “Downtown,” was a trouper already in her third show-business incarnation—as a child she’d been an actress, England’s answer to Shirley Temple, and as a young woman she’d married a Frenchman, relocated to Paris, and had a second career as a French-singing chanteuse.
PETULA CLARK: The first show I did live was The Ed Sullivan Show. I got there on the day of the show, which was unheard of. But I had a show in Paris on Saturday night, so I got there on Sunday just in time for the dress rehearsal, which was in front of a live audience. I was totally jet-lagged, no makeup, just enough time to throw on my funny little black dress, and they were playing my music—too fast, actually. I walked out onstage, my first time in front of an American audience, and before I’d sung a note, they stood up and cheered. It was extraordinary—that was the moment that I realized what this British Invasion really meant. And then I remember waking up in the hotel and hearing “Downtown,” thinking, Am I dreaming this? It was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade going up Fifth Avenue—the marching band was playing it.
The most beguiling of the Invasion gals was Marianne Faithfull, an aristocratic beauty who was just 17 when Andrew Loog Oldham discovered her at a London party in March of 1964, pronouncing her “an angel with big tits.” By Christmastime of that year, her single “As Tears Go By” had become the first original Mick JaggerKeith Richards composition to crack the American Top 40. Though she was at the epicenter of the Swinging London scene—friends with Paul McCartney and Peter Asher, a visitor to Bob Dylan’s Savoy Hotel suite as chronicled in D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary, Don’t Look Back, affianced to bookstore and gallery owner John Dunbar—Faithfull was reluctant to plunge headlong into America to capitalize on her success. She had her reasons.
MARIANNE FAITHFULL: I was pregnant. So I got married to John Dunbar and had my baby. But, also, I was so young, I couldn’t quite get my head ’round going away to America for a long tour. A very sheltered little girl I was—I honestly did think I would be eaten alive in America. I also knew about the Buddy Holly thing and the Big Bopper and all that stuff. So I couldn’t imagine touring America, and maybe I was right. I did do Shindig!, and it was very weird. I was really beautiful, right? And they covered me in makeup, and put false eyelashes on me, and made me look like a tart—a @#$%& dolly bird!
Still, Faithfull’s success augured the beginning of better times for the Rolling Stones. The group had secured its first U.S. Top 10 hit late in ’64 with yet another R&B cover, of Irma Thomas’s “Time Is on My Side,” but Oldham had already realized that for the Stones to compete they would have to start writing their own material. After a tentative start, Jagger and Richards, egged on by their manager, finally hit their stride in 1965.
__ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM:__That was a hell of a process for two people who basically thought I was mad, telling them that they could write. My stance, as I was not a musician, was based on the simplicity of “Hey—if you can @#$%&’ play music, you can write it.” And they did. “The Last Time” was the first time they got into the Top 10 [in May 1965] with a self-written song. And then the record after that was “Satisfaction” . . .
. . . which was a No. 1 in the summer of ’65, to be followed by “Get off of My Cloud,” to be followed by “19th Nervous Breakdown,” to be followed by “Paint It, Black,” and so on. The Rolling Stones were at last the Rolling Stones.
Another significant development of ’65 was the emergence of Invasion-inspired American bands. Back in ’64, the future members of the Byrds, all folkies, had bonded over their mutual love of the Beatles—a bold stance in the severe, smoky environs of hootenanny-land.
CHRIS HILLMAN, THE BYRDS: I was a bluegrass mandolin player before I was in the Byrds, and I’d cross paths with David Crosby and Jim McGuinn, as Roger was then known, at this folk club in L.A., the Troubadour. So one night I’m down there with my bluegrass group to play open-mike night, and Jim McGuinn gets up. His hair is a little funnier, it’s starting to grow out, and he’s doing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on an acoustic 12-string! And I’m going, “What the hell is that?”
__ROGER MCGUINN:__I was working for Bobby Darin in New York, working in the Brill Building as a songwriter, and he was a mentor to me. He said, “You ought to get back into rock ’n’ roll,” because I was influenced by Elvis Presley originally. So I would go down to the Village and play these sort of souped-up folk songs with a Beatle beat. Then I got a gig at the Troubadour in California and did the same thing. Of course, it didn’t go over well—it was like Dylan at Newport. They were antagonistic, and I got the freeze, and they’d talk and talk over my set. Except [future Byrd] Gene Clark was in the audience and was a Beatles fan, and he liked what I was doing. So we decided to form a duo around that, and then Crosby came in a few days later.
__DAVID CROSBY:__Roger and I and Gene Clark all went to see [the Beatles’ 1964 movie] A Hard Day’s Night together. I was, like, spinning around the stop-sign poles, thinking I’d just seen my life’s work. We started growing our hair right away. We learned how to manipulate a dryer and a comb pretty quickly.
On the more plastique end of the Anglophilic spectrum was Gary Lewis, Jerry’s son, who was the drummer, singer, and leader of the beat combo Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
__GARY LEWIS:__Hearing the Beatles inspired me to get the drums out of storage and put a band together from college students. My father was very supportive. He said, “Son, you’re doing great. Just give it a hundred percent and don’t ever grow your hair like those damn Beatles.”
Soon enough, the Byrds were holding their own during the Invasion with their jingle-jangle No. 1s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” and Lewis was at No. 1 with the ersatz Merseybeat of “This Diamond Ring.”
The English bands weren’t offended by their American imitators—far from it. The Beatles and the Stones befriended the Byrds, while Peter Noone befriended Gary Lewis, toured with him, and found his Old Guard connections useful.
PETER NOONE: We were in Kansas City with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and Gary says, “I’m gonna go up to see my dad’s friend, this guy who used to be president.” He meant Harry Truman, who was one of my heroes, just because he had big American balls. So I said, “Can I come with you?,” and off we went.
Meeting one’s heroes was a big part of the American experience for Invasion acts, and the biggest hero of all was Elvis Presley—who, though he’d been rendered passé by the Beatles and was then trapped in a grim career limbo of overbaked, sideburnless movie features, proved surprisingly sympathetic to English artists.
PETER NOONE: Elvis was absolutely charming. I had to interview him for the BBC or something. It was the most ridiculous interview, because I didn’t prepare: “When are you coming to England? How did you make it without long hair?” The dumbest questions! But he was charmed, because I was so respectful. And he looked @#$%& unbelievable! I mean, if you were a woman, you would come.
__ROD ARGENT, THE ZOMBIES:__When we were on tour, we got up one day and said, “Let’s go to Graceland.” And we just walked through the gate. There was no security. We walked up the drive; we knocked on the door. And the guy that I remember being Elvis’s father, Vernon—but some of the others remember it being his uncle—came to the door. And we said, like little boys, “We’re the Zombies from England! Is Elvis here?” And he said, “Well, no, Elvis isn’t here. But he’ll be really sorry to have missed you guys, because he loves you.” And we thought, He’s probably never heard of us and it’s bullshit, but it’s a very sweet thing for him to say. But I later found it out to be true.
Meeting one’s black heroes, however, was more fraught with difficulties, especially given the British artists’ obvious debt to American R&B. For Dusty Springfield, the prospect was downright nervous-making, as her best friend, Vicki Wickham, remembers.
__VICKI WICKHAM:__When Dusty came over to America, there was a certain sense of “Oh, shit—what if I meet Baby Washington, whose song I’ve covered?” ’Cause she always thought the original was better than hers. She met Maxine Brown, who she’d also covered. She wouldn’t deal with it well, unfortunately. She’d shuffle a bit and then run away instead of having a conversation. And they, obviously, were in awe of her, because as far as they were concerned, she was the best English singer.
ERIC BURDON: The agent would say, “Well, boys, I got you on a Chuck Berry tour in the U.S. And guess what? You’re the @#$%&’ headliners.” What? We were headlining above these guys who I’d worshiped since I was 14. Chuck was really nice to me. I’ve heard a lot about how nasty Chuck can be, and how difficult he can be to work with, but I showed some interest in his feelings, knew all his records, and told him that I thought he was America’s poet laureate. He was embarrassed, I think, but he was kind enough to take me to dinner, sit me down, and say, “Look—stay away from booze and drugs, you know, and keep your money in your sock.”
With Little Richard, though, there was a huge fight backstage at the Paramount Theater in New York between the manager of the Paramount and our publicist. Little Richard’s set kept going overtime, and they were going to slap him with a $10,000 fine, and he was just going off: “I am Little Richard, I am the king!”—emulating Cassius Clay. And there was this little black kid running around, toweling him down and trying to get him to cool down. And that turned out to be Jimi Hendrix.
Resolutely unimpressed by the Brit parade was Bob Dylan, who, though gracious enough a host to introduce both the Beatles and Marianne Faithfull to marijuana when they visited New York, was otherwise disdainful.
__MARIANNE FAITHFULL:__I don’t think Bob’s ever thought much of the British Invasion. What I do know is how he treated people in London, all those who came to worship at the shrine. He felt that he was much, much, much, highly superior. I think he was really irritated that I wouldn’t run away with him to America, or whatever it was he wanted. And then I went off with bloody Mick Jagger! I can see what he means, quite frankly.
By 196667, there was a palpable shift under way in music, from pop to rock. The vestigial flourishes of 50s showbiz began to fall away, endangering the more clean-cut Invasion acts like Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Chad and Jeremy.
JEREMY CLYDE: For us, I think it lasted about two years, ’64 to ’66, and then the girls stopped screaming. And we wanted them to stop screaming, because it was annoying, actually. Chad and I tried all kinds of things. We did a two-man show and took it ’round colleges—bits of drama, mime, and songs, very mixed-media. And then people started to re-invent popular music, and it all became very serious and, in quite a lot of cases, certainly ours, pretentious.
This should have been the moment for the Yardbirds, who, with their instrumental virtuosity and futuristic original compositions such as “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down,” were poised for greatness. But they proved too volatile to last, as Simon Napier-Bell, who took over their management from Giorgio Gomelsky, found out.
__SIMON NAPIER-BELL:__The Yardbirds were a miserable bunch. They were always arguing, bickering, and they weren’t fun.
Before the group’s 1966 U.S. tour, Paul Samwell-Smith, their bassist and driving musical force, quit. Jeff Beck recommended that they draft in his guitarist friend Jimmy Page on bass.
SIMON NAPIER-BELL: After three days, Jimmy said, “I think I should play guitar.” And then [rhythm-guitarist] Chris Dreja had to play bass. It was sensational, but, of course, Jeff no longer was getting 100 percent of the credit for his own solos, ’cause he was playing them with Jimmy, and Jimmy wasn’t getting any credit, ’cause everybody knew they were Jeff’s solos. So both of them were pretty dissatisfied. You could see it was just gonna get sourer and sourer, and on the American tour Jeff just walked out.
JIM MCCARTY: There was a bit of competition going on, ’cause they’d follow each other playing solos, and try and outdo each other, and maybe play at the same time. Sometimes it sounded good, but not very often. But I think Jeff just got stressed out. We were on this dreadful Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour, and it was the totally wrong sort of thing for us—Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Sam the Sham, Brian Hyland, all these really straight American acts. We’d play in some of these little southern towns, and they’d shout, “Turn the guitars down, you’re too loud!” Jeff just blew his top, smashed his guitar up in the dressing room, and disappeared.
Another band to break on the later end of the Invasion, in 1967, was the Spencer Davis Group, whose Top 10 hits “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man” featured the uncannily blacksounding vocals of Steve Winwood, a white, 17-year-old Birmingham boy. The group, named after its founder-guitarist, had actually been knocking around for a while, with two U.K. No. 1s already to its credit.
__SPENCER DAVIS:__We had a kind of cult status in America, with the young Winwood prodigy, Little Stevie—a name he hated with a passion. In respect to why we were late in having hits, we weren’t really a pop group. A lot of groups—Manfred Mann, Stones, Animals—weren’t pop, but went pop for a minute to have a hit and then went back to what they were doing. For us, the hits came when there was a better climate for rhythm and blues.
The only trouble was that the Spencer Davis Group, like the Yardbirds, couldn’t keep its hit-making lineup together.
__SPENCER DAVIS:__We didn’t quite invade as a complete unit. When we recorded “Gimme Some Lovin’,” the band was already splitting. Steve was going into Traffic with Dave Mason. We ended up going to New York in 1967 with a new singer, Eddie Hardin. Elton John had shown up as Reggie Dwight for the audition, wearing a milkman’s outfit, and we didn’t think that was cool.
A lot of the Invasion groups were beginning to splinter or close up shop, either outpaced by musical currents or eager to try new styles with new colleagues. Eric Burdon organized a new lineup of the Animals. The Jeff Beck less Yardbirds carried on briefly before packing it in, prompting their remaining guitarist to form the New Yardbirds, soon to be known as Led Zeppelin. The increasingly psychedelicized Graham Nash was growing disenchanted with the Hollies and more interested in hanging out with his friends David Crosby from the Byrds and Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield.
__GRAHAM NASH:__I realized that I was drifting far away from the Hollies. And then, when they didn’t want to do “Marrakesh Express” or “Teach Your Children,” I said, “I’m done.”
__GORDON WALLER:__The whole thing had been drained dry. The people who were left had run out of things to say musically, except for the Beatles and the Stones. And there were other people coming along, the Elton Johns of the world, the Who.
For London’s the Who, the tail end of the Invasion was just the beginning. In 1965 and ’66, they were already a massive success in England with their mod anthems “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation,” and “The Kids Are Alright.” Their single “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere” had been adopted as Ready Steady Go!’s theme song, and their volcanic live act was thought to be the U.K.’s greatest. But they didn’t make so much as a dent in the American charts. Part of the reason for this was that their managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, were film producers making their first foray into the music business.
__CHRIS STAMP:__We signed in America with a company called Decca, which we thought was the same as the English Decca, which was the second-biggest label in England. In fact, American Decca was utterly unrelated, an old-fashioned label that released Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” sort of stuff. They were Sinatra guys—they didn’t know rock ’n’ roll, didn’t even like it. Well, there was a natural outbreak of Who fans somewhere in Michigan with “I Can’t Explain,” and the next record was “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere.” And this company, Decca, sent it back to me, because they thought there was something wrong with the tape, because of the sounds the Who were making. We think of those songs now as pop, but, you know, they weren’t Herman’s Hermits. “My Generation” had stutters in it; it had feedback.
Lambert and Stamp were desperate to break the Who in America, no matter what it took.
VICKI WICKHAM: Kit was a total eccentric, very upperclass, very upper-crust. And we didn’t know till afterwards that he was selling the family silver, pawning the cuff links his dad had given him, to bankroll the Who. ’Cause they had no money.
Stamp, who was in charge of the Who’s American campaign, caught a break when his brother, the quintessential Swinging London actor Terence Stamp, was going off to the U.S. on a promotional junket.
__CHRIS STAMP:__The first time I got over to New York, I got over because my brother had a premiere of a film called The Collector, and he was coming over to do Johnny Carson and promote the film. He exchanged his studio first-class ticket for two economyclass tickets, and I came over with him and stayed in his hotel for three days while he was doing all this stuff.
Stamp managed to make the acquaintance of promoter Frank Barsalona, whose firm, Premier Talent, had developed a reputation as the best of the booking agents for British groups. One of Barsalona’s star clients at the time, Mitch Ryder, was from Detroit, the one place where the Who had an American fan base. Ryder, an early champion of the Who, had gotten his big break in 1965 playing one of Murray the K’s 10-day multi-act shows, and in gratitude had promised to come back whenever Murray Kaufman beckoned.
__FRANK BARSALONA:__Well, of course, a year and a half later, Mitch was really happening, and Murray, of course, wanted him to headline his Easter show. And Mitch called me and said, “Frank, that’s 10 days, five shows a day. I can’t do that.”
Barsalona, in an effort to extricate Ryder from this situation, tried to sour Kaufman on Ryder by making a series of absurd demands, such as having Ryder’s dressing room done up entirely in blue, from the walls to the carpet to the curtains.
__FRANK BARSALONA:__Murray kept saying yes to everything. So then the last thing I said was “Look, Mitch has this thing about this British act called the Who, and he would like them on the show.” Murray said, “They don’t mean anything.” I said, “Murray, that’s what I’m saying. So why don’t we forget about Mitch?” “I’m not going to forget about Mitch!” I said, “Well, then you have to put the Who up in the show.”
In such a fashion did the Who secure its first American engagement, as a support act, along with Eric Clapton’s new group, Cream, in Murray the K’s 1967 Easter show at the RKO 58th Street Theater in New York.
__FRANK BARSALONA:__I had never seen the Who live, and I thought, Oh my God, I’m going to screw myself over! I went to the dress rehearsal with my wife, June, and I said, “You know, June, they’re not bad at all.” And then Pete Townshend starts smashing his guitar to pieces, and Roger Daltrey is destroying the microphone, and Keith Moon is kicking over the drums. I said, “June, do you think this is part of the act?”
__CHRIS STAMP:__Murray the K was still doing these old-fashioned shows in Brooklyn where the act came on, sang their hit, and walked off. So we had to compromise—we stretched it out, I think, to about four songs. The Who would come on; do, like, “I Can’t Explain” and some other song; and finish up with “My Generation” and smash their equipment. Normally, the smashing came about of its own volition—it wasn’t meant to be a showbiz thing. But in the Murray the K thing, it tended to be slightly that. Although Pete was just as angry, I suppose, about having to do only four songs.
Naturally, the Who stole the show, and their reputation grew to the point that by June of ’67 they were one of the major attractions of the Monterey Pop Festival in California, a three-day event that effectively brought down the curtain on chirpy, well-groomed, besuited 60s pop—and, therefore, the phenomenon known as the British Invasion. At Monterey, hair was longer, “Monterey Purple” acid was being taken, and such ascendant, hirsute San Francisco bands as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and the Holding Company were the stars. Eric Burdon played with his hippiefied new Animals, and Burdon’s friend Jimi Hendrix made his first major U.S. appearance, bringing down the house by setting fire to his guitar during his version of the Troggs’ late-Invasion hit “Wild Thing.”
ERIC BURDON: Monterey was probably the most important three or four days of my life. It was the apex of what was happening. I’d known Jimi from London, and we traveled across together with Brian Jones. And I saw him cut loose in America—it was his first opportunity to be Jimi Hendrix in front of an American audience.
Though many Invasion acts moved in the late 60s and 70s to distance themselves from their scrubbed Shindig! images, most have since come around to accepting their identification with those days.
__GRAHAM NASH:__You can’t change anything that’s already happened. And so you have to embrace it and say, “You know, the Hollies weren’t too bad.” Would I have done it differently, knowing what I know? Possibly. But I choose to look back at it with fondness rather than look back at it and say, “Boy, was I @#$%&.”
PAUL JONES: I find that, as time goes on, I’m just more and more associated with the 60s. I’m not getting further into the future; I’m getting further into the past. And I just think, Oh, man, accept it and just don’t worry. You know, I could have gone on to design motorcars, and I might have had some success; in the end, people would have said, “It’s old Paul Do Wah Diddy’ Jones.” You can’t get away from it.
DAVE DAVIES: On my new album, Bug, there’s a song called “It Ain’t Over, ’Til It’s Done!” which is about the 60s. It’s saying, Maybe it’s not all finished yet. Maybe, rather than it always being a retro thing, all us crazy guys from the 60s are alive and well for a reason, and there’s still something we’ve yet to say.
And while the actual value of the Invasion’s music remains a subject of debate . . .
MARIANNE FAITHFULL: I was a great friend of [the American arranger and producer] Jack Nitzsche, and from Jack I got a different perspective on the British Invasion—that American music was on the verge of changing into something incredible. They were all working away—him, Phil Spector, the Four Seasons, Brian Wilson. And the visions they had, what they were trying to do with American music, were completely @#$%& up by the British Invasion. Jack never really got that vicious about the Beatles and the Stones, but in the wake of those bands that were actually good—real musicians with some kind of vision—came all this other crap like Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, et cetera. And I actually agree with him.
. . . its social impact was indubitably huge.
__PETER NOONE:__The bit that people are missing about the British Invasion is that it really was a much bigger deal than people think it was. Even though the newspapers keep going, “Twiggy!,” “Bobbies on Bicycles!,” and all that. Because, before it, England was this quaint little country. It wasn’t considered a haven of brilliant musicians. Can you imagine what it’s done for the British economy? That all these songwriters are bringing all this money back into the economy? Britain is a new place—a new place.
__DAVE CLARK:__When Britain started to do all this stuff, have all these bands, the gap between the countries was so great.In London you’d see these bombed-out blocks of flats, and there were restrictions and rations, and you didn’t always have the luxury of indoor plumbing.In America, we saw the possibilities.I’m still grateful to America—it really is beautiful. “America the Beautiful” is my favorite American song. It really should be your national anthem.