Top 10 British Invasion Bands


Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone.

  1. The Beatles: Beatlemania didn’t happen for nothing. They weren’t an average boyband. Lennon and McCartney were touched, possessing the ability to write pop songs that were pretty and not sappy. Harrison was truly an innovator on the guitar, finding the strange notes to use rather than the obvious ones. He also never overstayed his welcome, with solos short and concise, making every second count. How four men could transform several times between 1962 and 1965 is amazing. Moving from pop classics like “Please Please Me” to mature songs like “In My Life” and “Nowhere Man” in such little time is evidence enough as to why they resonate five decades later.
  2. The Rolling Stones: Always showing off a hard edge, the Stones kept the blues alive and well in their early days. Jagger and Richards always knew how to make a tune that was rough around the edges without succumbing to cheap shock-value. The Beatles were masters of gorgeous love songs, but the Stones were the masters of fury and disgust. “Satisfaction,” “The Last Time,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “Play With Fire” all show these boys, some of the top musicians of their day, in gleeful rage.
  3. The Kinks: Before Ray Davies started reflecting on the beauty and futility of English culture, The Kinks were pioneers of hard rock. “You Really Got Me” was the testament of four wild men. However, it wasn’t long before they began letting Indian influences into their songs, as in “See My Friends.” Their best Invasion period track, “A Well-Respected Man,” showed off Ray’s wit, an attack on the upper classes and a preview of the satirical nature of their future songs.  
  4. The Who: Townshend, Daltrey, Moon, and Entwistle were only in the British Invasion era for its last year (1965), but they stuck out immediately. One didn’t need to see them live to feel their energy. “My Generation” and “I Can’t Explain” created the dawn of a new direction in rock (even if The Kinks probably deserve more credit for the sound than they receive). “The Kids Are Alright” was clearly influenced by The Beatles, but included that energy the was purely that of The Who. Few bands, to this day, put such vigor into their work. Everyone was pulling their weight.
  5. The Zombies: Led by Rod Argent’s glorious keyboard and Colin Blunstone’s pristine vocals, the Zombies still seem an oddity in the British Invasion canon. There weren’t really any other bands that based their songs off of keyboard riffs. “Tell Her No” and “Is This The Dream?” showed off a Motown vibe by a band that was all about capturing a cool atmosphere. Sadly, they were quickly forgotten after the height of the Invasion.
  6. The Yardbirds: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton were leading this group, one that gave garage rock a perfect start, before they became household names. Working off of the blues the Stones loved, the Yardbirds combined it with a raucous, experimental feel. “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things,” and particularly “For Your Love” stood out because they had a raw intensity that no one else was really trying at the time.
  7. The Animals: Eric Burdon has one of the most soulful voices of all-time and it was the glue that kept the Animals together. They were also one of the most socially conscious acts across the pond. Whether it was their take on “House of the Rising Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” or “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” The Animals spoke for the working class with no apologies.
  8. Herman’s Hermits: Another band that prided themselves in light pop songs, Peter Noone led Herman’s Hermits. “I’m Henry The Eighth,” “There’s A Kind of Hush,” and “I’m Into Something Good” have staying power because they don’t take themselves too seriously. The arrangements are lovely, but their best track is the stripped down “Listen People,” based on a descending chord progression, that is utterly beautiful.
  9. The Hollies: Before Graham Nash teamed with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, he took part in a group that became big on covers and light pop songs. The result was one of the most accessible bands in their time. Being able to churn out hits like “I’m Alive” and “Look Out Any Window,” the Hollies would hit their peak just after the British Invasion, but still earned their names among the greats.
  10. Dave Clark 5: “Glad All Over,” “Because,” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” are among the best songs of their time because they showed off an ease. Some of the best songs are based on sadness and anger, but there is something appealing about the Dave Clark 5’s ability to create breezy tunes that didn’t carry much weight. There’s nothing wrong with carefree pop ditties. They make the heavier things easier to appreciate.