Listen to This, Not That: The British Invasion – Part 1

Since we are transitioning from the early to mid 60s to the late 60s, we are going to do a master post on a classic rock sub-genre, The British Invasion, covering the bands that I didn’t talk about – the smaller British Invasion acts. These acts weren’t small by any means and in fact many of them got their share of chart hits and definitely had their fanbase, but they may not be as remembered by the younger generations like they would be by the boomers. Although, young classic rock buffs definitely know their stuff and do not underestimate them!

British Invasion music was really my gateway into classic rock, as it is for a lot of us classic rock nerds and I wanted to get back to my roots in a way and make a couple posts as a tribute to a classic rock sub genre I love. This is not an exhaustive list, but I think this two part series will cover the essentials. If you want an idea of what music I was into in secondary school, basically this.

Military Ranks of the British Invasion

(Nice Small Faces erasure! But I digress…)

Since this is a rundown of a whole classic rock scene, I will give an introduction/bio for each band I talk about and name their most popular/overplayed songs, and songs that are under appreciated or could be played more. At most, we’ll talk about five of each type of song. The rules I used for the Beatles, Stones, Who, and Kinks will not apply since these bands are played a lot less on radio and aren’t so overexposed.

From The Animals to the Moody Blues Let’s go!

The Animals

The Animals are a band from Newcastle formed in 1963 and their sound had a bluesy/R&B inspired sound. Eric Burdon, who has a deep, gritty sounding voice, is a big part of their sound. The reason they were called The Animals, according to Eric Burdon, is because of a gang of friends they hung out with, and one of their nicknames was Animal. Being blues inspired, they would often cover songs by American R&B musicians, like Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Nina Simone. They made their American debut later in 1964, months after The Beatles, going on The Ed Sullivan Show and regularly performed in New York City. For the most part, the band didn’t write their own songs and would often do covers or sing songs written by TIn Pan Alley songwriters. Later in the 60s, they tried a more psychedelic sound, but this version of The Animals didn’t last long and they broke up in 1968 because of money problems and a disastrous tour in Japan with the yakuza kidnapping the band’s manager.

Instead of That:

The Animals had a bunch of hits and you definitely know these ones:

  • “The House of the Rising Sun” (#1 UK & US) – Their signature song, a traditional folk song that tells the story of a person whose life went wrong in New Orleans. This version was the most successful version of the song. Eric Burdon first heard it sung by Northumbrian folk singer Johnny Handle. The Animals started singing it when they toured with Chuck Berry because they wanted something distinctive to sing that wasn’t a straight rocker song.
  • “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (#3 UK, #15 US) – Originally sung by Nina Simone in a jazz style. The Animals’ version was more successful and had a blues rock sound. They fell in love with the song straight away when they first heard it even though it didn’t have a pop sound.
  • “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (#2 UK, #13 US) – A Mann/Weil song and popular among American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Some say this was the Vietnam War anthem. Also commonly played at senior proms and graduation parties in the 60s.
  • “It’s My Life” (#7 UK, #23 US) – A Brill Building song written by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. The lyrics convey the band’s working class origins in the Northeast of England.
  • “Don’t Bring Me Down” (#6 UK, #12 US) – A Goffin/King composition. The first Animals song released with drummer Barry Jenkins, who replaced founding member John Steel.

Listen to This:

  • “The Girl Can’t Help It” – Little Richard cover on the album, The Animals
  • “Gonna Send You Back to Walker” – The b-side to “Baby Let Me Take You Home”
  • “Bright Lights Big City” – Jimmy Reed cover from Animal Tracks
  • “I Put a Spell On You” – Doors-like cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins shock rock song
  • “Ring of Fire” – Psychedelic cover of the Johnny Cash song, one of the Animals’ last singles

Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas

Another Merseybeat band, but obviously not as well known as The Beatles. This band were also managed by Brian Epstein. Billy J Kramer was born William Howard Ashton in Bootle. He worked with British Railways as his day job and played rhythm guitar in a band he formed himself, but later switched to vocals. He chose the name Billy Kramer randomly from a phonebook and John Lennon suggested the middle initial, J, to make him sound different and tougher. Billy J Kramer’s band weren’t as ambitious as he was so he needed to look for another band, and the new band were Manchester band The Dakotas. The band had a bit of success in the UK in the early half of the 60s, but by 1965 beat music was out and psychedelia and blues rock were starting to be the new hip thing and so he was old news.

Instead of That:

Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas aren’t an overexposed band by any means and I don’t think any of these songs are overplayed, but in this series I want to go beyond the hits. Consider these a listen to this, if you’re not a British Invasion buff.

  • “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#2 UK) – Not an overexposed Beatles cover, but one of the band’s biggest hits. Definitely worth the listen.
  • “Bad to Me” (#1 UK, #9 US) –
  • “I’ll Keep You Satisfied” (#4 UK, #30 US)
  • “Little Children” (#1 UK, #7 US)
  • “From a Window” (#10 UK, #23 US)

Listen to This:

  • “I’ll Be On My Way” – B-side to “Do You Want to Know a Secret”
  • “I Call Your Name” – Beatles cover, although they released their version before The Beatles did
  • “Every Time You Walk in the Room”
  • “Humdinger” – an instrumental
  • “Oyeh” – an instrumental

Dave Clark Five

Dave Clark Five, named after the band’s drummer/manager/producer, were formed in 1958 in Tottenham, in North London. They were most popular between 1964 and 1967. Their first hit single, “Glad All Over” knocked The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” off the top of the charts in the UK. They were the second British Invasion act to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, appearing 18 times in total (in fact the most appearances on that show of any British Invasion group) and making their debut on the show one month after The Beatles. They were very successful, amassing 12 top 40 hits in the UK and 17 top 40 hits in the US in a period of three years. Like The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five made their foray into cinema, making the movie Catch Us If You Can. The band broke up in 1970. Dave Clark had control over the master recordings of the band and refused to licence them for a 15 year period between 1978 and 1993 – meaning those albums and singles were out of print for a long time. Dave Clark also bought the rights to the popular 60s pop series, Ready Steady Go! a show that aired every Friday from 1963 to 1966 – hosted by Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan.

Instead of That:

Keep in mind that these are really good songs. These are just their best known ones. I don’t think any of these songs are overexposed on the radio. Time is very much a filter and it’s sad that I don’t hear these songs as often.

  • “Glad All Over” (#1 UK, #6 US) – Their only UK #1 – first British Invasion hit by a group that wasn’t The Beatles
  • “Bits and Pieces” (#2 UK, #4 US) – Very prominent drums, catchy
  • “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (#10 UK, #4 US)
  • “Catch Us If You Can” (#5 UK, #4 US)
  • “Because” (#3 US) – The B-side to “Can’t You See That She’s Mine in the UK, did not chart in their home country

Listen to This:

  • “Do You Love Me” – The Contours cover
  • “Any Way You Want It” – Used an Echoplex for that echo and reverb effect
  • “Reelin’ and Rockin’” – Chuck Berry cover
  • “Over and Over” – Bobby Day cover, this version was the most successful
  • “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” – Jackie DeShannon cover, one of their better known late 60s songs

Dusty Springfield

This pop singer, born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, was popular in the 60s and best known for her blue-eyed soul songs. She got 6 top 20 hits in the US and 16 in the UK. She was born into a music loving family and was in two groups before getting famous: The Lana Sisters and The Springfields. She was a huge fan of soul music and would help popularise Motown singers in the UK on the Ready Steady Go! special, The Sound of Motown, singing with girl groups like Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes and hosting the show. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson were on the show too. After that, she became the best selling female artist in the world. In the late 60s, she went to Memphis, home of Stax, to increase her credibility as a soul singer, and that was when she recorded one of her signature songs “Son of a Preacher Man”. She was very much a perfectionist and paved the way for other women in pop and rock music.

Instead of That:

  • “I Only Want To Be With You” (#4 UK, #12 US)
  • “Wishin’ and Hopin’” (#4 US)
  • “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (#1 UK, #4 US)
  • “Son of a Preacher Man” (#9 UK, #10 US)
  • “Spooky” (B-side to “How Can I Be Sure?”, but one of Dusty Springfield’s most streamed songs on Spotify)

Listen to This:

  • “Mama Said” – Shirelles cover
  • “You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore cover
  • “Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart” – Erma Franklin cover
  • “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” – Randy Newman cover
  • “So Much Love” – Goffin/King song first recorded by Ben E. King

Gerry and the Pacemakers

Gerry and the Pacemakers were another beat/British Invasion act from Liverpool who were also managed by Brian Epstein and were recorded by George Martin. Don’t forget that Liverpool were more than just The Beatles. Gerry Marsden formed the band in 1959 with his brother Fred, Les Chadwick, and Arthur McMahon. Originally they wanted to call themselves Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars, but the chocolate company complained so they became Gerry and the Pacemakers. Their version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became the signature tune of Liverpool FC. Like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five, they even had their own movie, Ferry Cross the Mersey – what they called their answer to A Hard Day’s Night. Like a lot of British Invasion acts, their popularity was short lived because of changing musical trends and they didn’t innovate like The Beatles, Stones, Who, or Kinks did. Still, they accomplished a lot in such a short time with their first three singles going to #1.

Instead of That:

Gerry and the Pacemakers aren’t very overexposed to US listeners so young classic rock fans may or may not know these songs depending on how into British Invasion music they are.

  • “How Do You Do It?” (#1 UK) – A very Beatle like song, even they recorded a version in 1962, but the best known version is by Gerry and the Pacemakers
  • “I Like It” (#1 UK)
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (#1 UK) – A show tune from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.
  • “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (#6 UK, #4 US) – Their biggest US hit
  • “Ferry Cross the Mersey” (#8 UK, #6 US) – About the band’s hometown

Listen to This:

  • “It’s Gonna Be Alright”
  • “Come Back to Me”
  • “When Oh When”
  • “I’m The One”
  • “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues”

Herman’s Hermits

Herman’s Hermits were formed in Manchester in 1964. There is no actual Herman in the band, but Peter Noone gets called Herman, as the lead singer. The members of Herman’s Hermits came from two Manchester bands: The Heartbeats and The Wailers. Before being the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits, Peter Noone acted in soap opera Coronation Street as a teenager. They were very successful and got multiple hits throughout the mid 60s and appeared in a few movies. Peter Noone left Herman’s Hermits in 1971, but he reunited with the band in 1973 for a British Invasion tour. Peter Noone has continued to tour even decades later.

Instead of That:

  • “I’m Into Something Good” (#1 UK, #13 US) – Their first single, a Goffin-King song
  • “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (#2 US) – Only kept out of #1 in the US because of “Stop! In The Name of Love”
  • “Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (#1 US) – Their first American #1, a cover of a song from The Lads, a British TV play.
  • “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (#1 US) – A cover of a 1910 music hall song sang in a Cockney style. A bit of British history in this one. The Ramones found this song influential.
  • “No Milk Today” (#7 UK, #35 US) – A Graham Gouldman (who would later be in 10cc) song

Listen to This:

  • “My Sentimental Friend”
  • “Dandy” – The Kinks cover
  • “Listen People”
  • “A Must to Avoid”
  • “Just a Little Bit Better”

The Hollies

The Holles were formed in 1962 by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash in Salford, a city right next to Manchester. They were most inspired by Merseybeat and The Everly Brothers. They chose the name The Hollies as a tribute to Buddy Holly. They were one of the most popular British Invasion acts and were best known for their three-part vocal harmony style. They kept releasing music through the 70s even trying their hand at disco. Graham Nash left the band in 1968 to form Crosby, Stills, & Nash.

Instead of That:

  • “Bus Stop” (#5 UK & US) – Their first US top 10 hit, written by Graham Gouldman
  • “Stop Stop Stop” (#2 UK, #7 US) – Tony Hicks on banjo, which sounds like a balalaika thanks to tape delay
  • “Carrie Anne” (#3 UK, #9 US) – Vocal harmonies inspired by The Beach Boys
  • “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (#3 UK, #7 US) – Kelly Gordon cover
  • “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” (#32 UK, #2 US) – CCR inspired

Listen to This:

  • “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me” – their first single
  • “Hey What’s Wrong With Me” – first song Graham Nash ever wrote
  • “Then The Heartaches Begin”
  • “Have You Ever Loved Somebody”
  • “King Midas in Reverse”

Manfred Mann

British Invasion group founded by Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg in London in 1962. Manfred Mann was a South African immigrant who played piano at holiday camps and worked as a music journalist. Mike Hugg was a drummer and piano player who met Manfred at Butlin’s Clacton. They recruited Paul Jones (who nearly became the singer of The Rolling Stones, but turned it down) and Tom McGuinness. They made the theme song for Ready Steady Go!, “5-4-3-2-1”, which definitely helped them get fame. Most of their songs were R&B covers and they made quite a few instrumentals. In 1968, the band broke up and Mann and Hugg started Manfred Mann Chapter 3. Definitely a British Invasion band that deserved better and wish they had more fame in the US besides “Do Was Diddy” and “Mighty Quinn”. If you really like the R&B era of The Rolling Stones and want to hear something similar, Manfred Mann might be what you’re looking for.

Instead of That:

  • “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” (#1 UK & US) – Their best known song, originally performed by The Exciters and written by the Barry/Greenwich songwriting team.
  • “Sha La La” (#3 UK, #12 US)
  • “Pretty Flamingo” (#1 UK, #29 US)
  • “Ha! Ha! Said the Clown” (#4 UK)
  • “Mighty Quinn” (#1 UK, #10 US) – Bob Dylan cover

Listen to This:

  • “Smokestack Lightning” – Howlin’ Wolf cover, from The Five Faces of Manfred Mann – one of the longest LPs of the era at 39 minutes long
  • “I Really Do Believe”
  • “Come Tomorrow”
  • “Just Like A Woman” – Bob Dylan cover
  • “Up the Junction” – Psychedelic Manfreds with Mike d’Abo (fun fact, he wrote “Build Me Up Buttercup”) on vocals. From the movie of the same title. Manfred Mann made the soundtrack for that movie.

The Moody Blues

R&B turned prog rock band formed in Birmingham in 1964. In the early years, the band were made up of Denny Laine (who would later be in Wings), Mike Pinder, Clint Warwick, Ray Thomas, and Graeme Edge. Later on, John Lodge and Justin Hayward would join the band. Their first album, The Magnificent Moodies was their only R&B sounding album. Two years later, they released the concept album Days of Future Passed – one that I could picture as the soundtrack to a Fantasia made in the 60s (if there was one). From there, they made even more beautiful progressive rock that incorporated poetry by Graeme Edge. I had to mention The Moody Blues somewhere and while they’re more prog, they did get their start in the mid 60s like the rest of these bands.

Instead of That:

Since prog rock bands don’t get as much radio airplay, I will only list four tracks that are their biggest hits. I don’t think The Moody Blues are an overplayed band.

  • “Go Now” (#1 UK) – Bessie Banks cover, written by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett.
  • “Nights in White Satin (#9 UK, #37 US) – the best known track from Days of Future Passed
  • “Ride My See-Saw” (#42 UK)
  • “Question” (#2 UK) – Great song with different movements

Listen to this:

  • “I’ll Go Crazy” – James Brown cover. Denny Laine has such a good voice!
  • “Tuesday Afternoon” – Listen to the whole “Afternoon” song on Days of Future Passed.
  • “Fly Me High” – Found out about this song from listening to Slade’s cover, listen to the original because it’s good!
  • “The Word/Om” – You know I’m a sucker for sitar
  • “Higher and Higher” – Released a few months after the Moon landing, the crew of Apollo 15 brought a cassette of To Our Children’s Children’s Children with them to space.

That was the first part of the British Invasion edition of Listen to This, Not That! Stay tuned for part 2 which covers bands from Peter and Gordon to The Zombies. Let me know what are your favourite underrated songs in the comments!

Here is my Listen to This, Not That: British Invasion playlist:

Shoutout to my friend Patrick for supporting the blog!

Loved this blog post and want to support? If you cannot afford to donate to The Diversity of Classic Rock, there are many free ways to support the blog: Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, click the follow button on my website, leave a nice comment, send your music or classic rock related books for review, or donate your art and writing talents to the blog.

You can also download the Brave Browser using my referral link* and earn tokens that you can donate to your favourite creators (including me!), donate to charity, or you can keep them for yourself and redeem them for cash. The choice is yours! Thank you!

I am also an affiliate of MusoSoup*, a platform for musicians to efficiently share their music with thousands of bloggers, radio stations, and curators for coverage for a very affordable price. If you’re a blogger, you can sign up for free by contacting them. If you’re a musician, you can sign up and share your music with all the bloggers and content creators signed up on the website. If you sign up as a musician using my referral link, I get a commission, which helps keep this blog running and helps you get more publicity for your music.

*This is an affiliate link that you can use at no extra cost to you. I get $5 for every person who downloads the browser through my link. Downloading Brave (which is free) using my link is a nice gesture to support the blog at no out of pocket cost to you, but it’s not obligatory. For the MusoSoup affiliate link, I get 50% of the sign up fee for musicians. The cost is no extra if you use my affiliate link.