|Cultural origins||Late 1950s – early 1960s, UK|
Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat (after bands from Liverpool and nearby areas beside the River Mersey) is a popular music genre, influenced by rock and roll, skiffle, and traditional pop music, that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s.
The exact origins of the terms 'beat music' and 'Merseybeat' are uncertain. The "beat" in each, however, derived from the driving rhythms which the bands had adopted from their rock and roll, rhythm and blues and soul music influences, rather than the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s. As the initial wave of rock and roll subsided in the later 1950s, "big beat" music, later shortened to "beat", became a live dance alternative to the balladeers like Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, and Cliff Richard who were dominating the charts.The German anthropologist and music critic Ernest Borneman, who lived in England from 1933 to 1960, claimed to have coined the term in a column in Melody Maker magazine to describe the British imitation of American Rock'n'Roll, Rhythm & Blues and Skiffle bands.
The name Mersey Beat was used for a Liverpool music magazine founded in 1961 by Bill Harry. Harry claims to have coined the term "based on a policeman's beat and not that of the music".The band the Pacifics were renamed the Mersey Beats in February 1962 by Bob Wooler, MC at the Cavern Club, and in April that year they became the Merseybeats. With the rise of the Beatles in 1963, the terms Mersey sound and Merseybeat were applied to bands and singers from Liverpool, the first time in British pop music that a sound and a location were linked together. The equivalent scenes in Birmingham and London were described as Brum beat and the Tottenham Sound respectively.
The most distinctive characteristic of beat music was its strong beat, using the backbeat common to rock and roll and rhythm and blues, but often with a driving emphasis on all the beats of 4/4 bar.The rhythm itself—described by Alan Clayson as "a changeless four-four offbeat on the snare drum"—was developed in the clubs in Hamburg, West Germany, where many English groups, including the Beatles, performed in the early 1960s and where it was known as the mach schau (make show) beat. The 8/8 rhythm was flexible enough to be adopted for songs from a range of genres. In addition, according to music writer Dave Laing,
"[T]he chord playing of the rhythm guitar was broken up into a series of separate strokes, often one to the bar, with the regular plodding of the bass guitar and crisp drumming behind it. This gave a very different effect from the monolithic character of rock, in that the beat was given not by the duplication of one instrument in the rhythm section by another, but by an interplay between all three. This flexibility also meant that beat music could cope with a greater range of time-signatures and song shapes than rock & roll had been able to".
Beat groups usually had simple guitar-dominated line-ups, with vocal harmonies and catchy tunes.The most common instrumentation of beat groups featured lead, rhythm and bass guitars plus drums, as popularized by the Beatles, the Searchers, and others. Beat groups—even those with a separate lead singer—often sang both verses and choruses in close harmony, resembling doo wop, with nonsense syllables in the backing vocals.
In the late 1950s, a flourishing culture of groups began to emerge, often out of the declining skiffle scene, in major urban centres in the UK like Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London. This was particularly true in Liverpool, where it has been estimated that there were around 350 different bands active, often playing ballrooms, concert halls and clubs.Liverpool was perhaps uniquely placed within Britain to be the point of origin of a new form of music. Commentators have pointed to a combination of local solidarity, industrial decline, social deprivation, and the existence of a large population of Irish origin, the influence of which has been detected in Beat music. It was also a major port with links to America, particularly through the Cunard Yanks, which made for much greater access to American records and instruments like guitars, which could not easily be imported due to trade restrictions. As a result, Beat bands were heavily influenced by American groups of the era, such as Buddy Holly and the Crickets (from which group the Beatles derived their name, combining it with a pun on the beat in their music), and to a lesser extent by British rock and roll groups such as the Shadows.
After the national success of the Beatles in Britain from 1962, a number of Liverpool performers were able to follow them into the charts, including Gerry & The Pacemakers,the Searchers, and Cilla Black. The first act who were not from Liverpool or managed by Brian Epstein to break through in the UK were Freddie and the Dreamers, who were based in Manchester, a short distance away, as were Herman's Hermits and the Hollies.
Outside of Liverpool many local scenes were less influenced by rock and roll and more by the rhythm and blues and later directly by the blues. These included bands from Birmingham who were often grouped with the beat movement, the most successful being the Spencer Davis Group and the Moody Blues. Similar blues influenced bands who broke out from local scenes to national prominence were the Animals from Newcastleand Them from Belfast. From London, the term Tottenham Sound was largely based around the Dave Clark Five, but other London-based British rhythm and blues and rock bands who benefited from the beat boom of this era included the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Yardbirds.
The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show soon after led to chart success.During the next two years, the Animals, Petula Clark, the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Donovan, Peter and Gordon, Manfred Mann, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Zombies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, and the Troggs would have one or more number one singles in America.
Freakbeat is a subgenre of rock and roll music developed mainly by harder-driving British groups, often those with a mod following during the Swinging London period of the mid to late 1960s.Freakbeat bridges "British Invasion mod/R&B/pop and psychedelia". The term was coined by English music journalist Phil Smee. Allmusic writes that "freakbeat" is loosely defined, but generally describes the more obscure but hard-edged artists of the British Invasion era such as the Creation, the Pretty Things or Denny Laine's early solo work. Other bands often mentioned as Freakbeat are the Action, the Move, the Smoke, the Sorrows, and Wimple Winch.
By 1967, beat music was beginning to sound out of date, particularly compared with the "harder edged" blues rock that was beginning to emerge.
Most of the groups that had not already disbanded by 1967, like the Beatles, moved into different forms of rock music and pop music, including psychedelic rock and eventually progressive rock.
Beat was a major influence on the American garage rockand folk rock movements, and would be a source of inspiration for subsequent rock music subgenres, including Britpop in the 1990s.
Während der fünfziger Jahre schrieb ich eine wöchentliche Spalte in der englischen Musikzeitschrift 'Melody Maker'. Um den englischen Imitationen der amerikanischen Rhythm-and-Blues, Rock-and-Roll und Skiffle Bands einen Namen zu geben, erfand ich das Wort 'beat music', das sich mittlerweile in vielen Sprachen eingebürgert hat.
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Rock and roll originated from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, and country music. While rock and roll's formative elements can be heard in blues records from the 1920s, and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.
Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical, and other musical styles. For instrumentation, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.
The British Invasion was a cultural phenomenon of the mid-1960s, when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom and other aspects of British culture became popular in the United States and significant to the rising "counterculture" on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Pop and rock groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Swinging Blue Jeans and the Animals were at the forefront of the "invasion".
Garage rock is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada, and has experienced a series of subsequent revivals. The style is characterized by basic chord structures played on electric guitars and other instruments, sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as often unsophisticated and occasionally aggressive lyrics and delivery. Its name derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage, although many were professional.
Gerry and the Pacemakers were an English beat group prominent in the 1960s Merseybeat scene. In common with the Beatles, they came from Liverpool, were managed by Brian Epstein, and were recorded by George Martin.
Folk rock is a hybrid music genre combining elements of folk music and rock music, which arose in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s. In the U.S., folk rock emerged from the folk music revival and the influence that the Beatles and other British Invasion bands had on members of that movement. Performers such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds—several of whose members had earlier played in folk ensembles—attempted to blend the sounds of rock with their pre-existing folk repertoire, adopting the use of electric instrumentation and drums in a way previously discouraged in the U.S. folk community. The term "folk rock" was initially used in the U.S. music press in June 1965 to describe the Byrds' music.
British blues is a form of music derived from American blues that originated in the late 1950s, and reached its height of mainstream popularity in the 1960s. In Britain, it developed a distinctive and influential style dominated by electric guitar and made international stars of several proponents of the genre including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.
The Merseybeats are an English beat band that emerged from the Liverpool Merseybeat scene in the early 1960s, performing at the Cavern Club along with the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and other similar artists.
British rock describes a wide variety of forms of music made in the United Kingdom. Since around 1964, with the "British Invasion" of the United States spearheaded by the Beatles, British rock music has had a considerable impact on the development of American music and rock music across the world.
Rory Storm was an English musician and vocalist. Born in Liverpool, Storm was the singer and leader of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a Liverpudlian band who were contemporaries of the Beatles in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ringo Starr was the drummer for the Hurricanes before joining the Beatles in August 1962, replacing original drummer Pete Best.
Freakbeat is a loosely defined subgenre of rock and roll music developed mainly by harder-driving British groups, often those with a mod following, during the Swinging London period of the mid-to late 1960s. The genre bridges British Invasion R&B, beat and psychedelia.
British rock and roll, or sometimes British rock 'n' roll, is a style of popular music based on American rock and roll, which emerged in the late 1950s and was popular until the arrival of beat music in 1962. It has generally been considered inferior to the American version of the genre, and made little international or lasting impact. However, it was important in establishing British youth and popular music culture and was a key factor in subsequent developments that led to the British Invasion of the mid-1960s. Since the 1960s, some stars of the genre, most notably Cliff Richard, have managed to sustain successful careers and there have been periodic revivals of this form of music.
British pop music is popular music, produced commercially in the United Kingdom. It emerged in the mid-to late 1950s as a softer alternative to American rock 'n' roll. Like American pop music it has a focus on commercial recording, often orientated towards a youth market, as well as that of the Singles Chart usually through the medium of relatively short and simple love songs. While these basic elements of the genre have remained fairly constant, pop music has absorbed influences from most other forms of popular music, particularly borrowing from the development of rock music, and utilising key technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes. From the British Invasion of rock bands in the 1960s, led by The Beatles, British pop music has alternated between acts and genres with national appeal and those with international success that have had a considerable impact on the development of the wider genre and on popular music in general.
This article includes an overview of the events and trends in popular music in the 1960s.
British rhythm and blues was a musical movement that developed in the United Kingdom between the late 1950s and the early 1960s, and reached a peak in the mid-1960s. It overlapped with, but was distinct from, the broader British beat and more purist British blues scenes, attempting to emulate the music of American blues and rock and roll pioneers, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It often placed greater emphasis on guitars and was often played with greater energy.
Music of the United Kingdom developed in the 1960s into one of the leading forms of popular music in the modern world. By the early 1960s the British had developed a viable national music industry and began to produce adapted forms of American music in Beat music and British blues which would be re-exported to America by bands such as The Beatles, The Animals and Rolling Stones. This helped to make the dominant forms of popular music something of a shared Anglo-American creation, and led to the growing distinction between pop and rock music, which began to develop into diverse and creative subgenres that would characterise the form throughout the rest of the twentieth century.
Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes were a British rock and roll band, formed in Liverpool in the late 1950s. One of the first beat groups in the Merseyside area, they were a locally popular and influential group who were contemporaries and rivals of The Beatles, and featured Cilla Black as a guest singer before her solo career, but had little commercial success except in Germany.
Spencer Leigh is a BBC radio presenter and author, with particular expertise in the development of pop and rock music and culture in Britain.