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Beacon Senior News

The British Beat

May 03, 2022 02:32PM ● By Bobby Dee

In music history, February 1964 brought about a major change when The Beatles first set foot on American soil and made their historical appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, for which they were paid a tidy sum of $3,500. What followed was an influx of British bands on our shores, known still today as the British Invasion

These are only a few of the many British bands that changed the course of music back in the 1960s, and put an abrupt end to the careers of many successful American singers and groups. Here are some interesting lesser-known facts about many of the popular British singing groups of that era.

The Dave Clark Five, famous for the songs “Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces” and “Do You Love Me?” was the second British Invasion band to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, less than a month after the Beatles. They went on to appear 17 more times on the show. Sadly, Mike Smith, the band’s lead vocalist and keyboardist, passed away only 11 days prior to the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Coincidentally, at the induction ceremony, it was announced that their arrival for the event was exactly 44 years to the day they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on March 8, 1964. 

The Animals, whose style was considered more blues and folk rock, hit it big in the U.S. with their number-one rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.” The first-known recording of the song, however, dates back to 1933, when it was called “Risin’ Sun Blues,” sung by Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster. In 1938, it was recorded as “Risin’ Sun” by Roy Acuff, and in 1961, Bruce Springsteen recorded it on his debut album. However, the most popular version by far, was by The Animals. In fact, it was voted Britain’s fourth favorite No. 1 song of all time.

Herman’s Hermits (“I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry the Eighth”) fans often wondered how the band came up with its name considering that no one in the band was named Herman. The story is that the band’s lead singer, charismatic 15-year-old Peter Noone, had been told he resembled Sherman, the adopted son of the cartoon character, Mr. Peabody, who gained fame on “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Peter Noone decided to drop the “S” on Sherman and shorten it to Herman. The band originally was called Herman & the Hermits, but that name was also shortened.

The band Gerry and the Pacemakers (“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” “I Like It”) was originally called Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars, but the Mars Company issued a complaint and the band changed its name.

British Decca Records probably experienced more regrets than any other record company of that era. First of all, they refused to release the record “Tell Laura I Love Her” by Ray Peterson because they thought it was too depressing, and even destroyed thousands of already-pressed copies of it. The song later went on to sell over seven million copies on the RCA label.

Then, in 1962, British Decca turned down the opportunity to sign The Beatles because they thought guitar bands were on their way out. They subsequently also turned down The Yardbirds and Manfred Mann. Ironically, it was George Harrison of The Beatles who recommended that British Decca take a serious look at The Rolling Stones. This time, Decca took the advice and signed the Stones shortly afterwards.

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Manfred Mann (“Doo Wah Diddy,” “Mighty Quinn”) was named after the band’s keyboardist. Mann went on to form Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in the 1970s and had a chart-topping hit with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Blinded By the Light.” The deuce in the original lyrics of Springsteen’s song referenced a car—as in a hot-rod deuce coupe. Before Mann recorded the song, however, he changed the lyric to “revved up like a deuce.”  Thus was born one of the most misunderstood and misquoted lyrics of all time. 

Because of the way it sounded on the recording, the word “deuce” is frequently misinterpreted as “douche”—a ladies’ feminine-hygiene product. Another common misinterpretation: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a goose that’s run over in the night.”

Thanks to the Internet, song lyrics are no longer the mystery they used to be. 

Peter and Gordon, a duo formed by Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, also hit it big in the U.S. during the early 1960s. Peter’s sister, Jane Asher, was seriously dating Paul McCartney of The Beatles at the time, so McCartney penned several songs for Peter and Gordon, including four of their biggest hits: “A World Without Love,” “Nobody I Know,” “I Don’t Want to See You Again” and “Woman.” Although McCartney wrote the songs alone, they were  credited to the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney. 

On the song, “Woman,” however, McCartney wanted to know if he still could produce a hit song if he used a pseudonym, so he used the names A. Smith and then Bernard Webb. It reached the Top 20 on both Billboard and Cash Box. 

Peter Asher later went on to manage and produce such singers as Linda Rondstadt and James Taylor.

The Zombies (“She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” “Time of the Season”) were originally called The Mustangs, but Paul Arnold, the band’s original bass guitarist, decided to choose a name that was so original, no one else would have it. He came up with the word “zombie” even though he and the other members only vaguely knew the meaning of the word—“Something about Haitian dead people,” one of them said. The name stuck and the band went on to chart several times on the Top 10. Although Arnold made his mark by naming the band, he quit shortly thereafter to become a physician.