A Personal Reflection by Alan L. Chrisman
I was privileged to grow up in the 1960’s and witness the British Invasion come to America. Seeing the CNN-TV episode on it brought back a lot of memories to me-50 years later.
It’s hard to articulate the effect The Beatles and other British groups had on us then. Music up until that time had been pretty tame, since early rock ’n’ roll in the 50’s, anyway. I remember seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and not knowing quite what to make of them. Everything about them was different-their hair, their accent, their music, their humor, etc. They were, as someone said, like aliens from a strange land. They were playing American music, influenced by black roots, but reflected through their own words and sounds. I remember getting their first records and the songs jumping off the vinyl-it was just pure energy-this was their “Yeah Yeah” period. Along with them, came many other talented British groups, after The Beatles had first opened the floodgates to America-The Stones, Animals, Kinks, Zombies,The Who, Yardbirds, etc. It did seem like a flood, one after the other, each a little different. What’s amazing is the quality of most of them, and all at one time, unusual in pop culture.
Soon The Beatles themselves were making great advances in their song writing and song subjects. They released 5 Lps (including two movie soundtracks) within the next two years from ’64-’66 alone, plus singles. Artists today are lucky to put out one every 2-3 years. Each album was a quantum leap from the previous one, from the folk-rock of Rubber Soul to the psychedelic electric of Revolver. They had been influenced by Dylan and he had gone from acoustic folk to electric because of them and the folkies followed. Technology had also advanced so they could experiment more in the studio. As listeners, these immense changes in their music opened us all up to new possibilities. The other 60’s artists tried to keep up with them and pop music was raised to whole new levels. For the first time, perhaps, pop music could be about more than just entertainment. When Sgt. Peppers came out in ’67, it became clear that it could be art as well. It could make social comments too, besides just “boy and girl songs” which had dominated pop up until then. It also coincided with all the political changes, the Civil Rights Movement, and The Vietnam War protests, which were also taking place in The Sixties. As a black commentator said, they also reached that community too.
Rock was never the same again. Every generation probably thinks their own is unique (and is in some respects, they are), but THE SIXTIES, as I said, changed so much and at one time. Rock music and THE BEATLES, especially, would have a profound influence on the whole culture, then and in the future. There would likely be few artists today, creating their own music or experimenting with sounds, if they and some of the other artists of the 60’s, hadn’t opened the creative doors first or so wide. Nobody would take rock music and culture seriously, as more than entertainment only for teenagers, without them and the advances they made. But it is the revolutionary music and possibilities they inspired, that I remember most, even a half-century later and that will live on.