by Alex Cosper (5/30/13)
American jazz was a big influence on British popular music in the 1930s. The BBC, launched in 1934, helped shaped the nation's popular music over many decades.
The 1950s skiffle music began to emerge in Britain, following a period of the pop scene being dominated by American pop artists such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. Skiffle was developed by British jazz musicians influenced by American blues, country and folk. Lonnie Donegan became one of the genre's top artists in the 50s. Thousands of other skiffle bands emerged in Britain because it reflected down to earth music of the working class. Many skiffle musicians, including young Jimmy Page, created their own hand-crafted instruments. The skiffle craze in Britain coincided with the popularity of rock and roll music in America. Cliff Richard started out as a skiffle artist and went on to be one of the UK's top artists of all time.
Many of the trends in Britain paralleled similar developments in America. During America's instrumental surf craze of the early sixties, for example, the Tornadoes from Britain topped the American pop charts with a song called "Telstar," which was named after a NASA satellite. Another instrumental band called The Shadows had several hits in Britain. The rise of the Beatles in the 1960s and other British rock and roll bands led to the British Invasion in America and around the world. These bands included The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon, Herman's Hermits and The Searchers.
Glam rock was one the spinoffs of British Invasion music starting with David Bowie in the late sixties and taken to extremes in the 1970s by Gary Glitter. At the same time Led Zeppelin emerged as the pioneers of hard rock, which had a huge impact around the world, leading to the heavy metal genre further developed by Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In a completely different musical sphere Pink Floyd picked up where The Beatles left off at Abbey Road studios, exploring and experimenting with layers of multi-track recording, culminating in landmark rock masterpiece albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
Technology began to play a big part in British music in the 1970s, as Germany and the rest of Europe began to put electronic music on the map. Music by Human League, Depeche Mode and New Order in the early eighties paved the way for what became known as techno pop. This new sound coincided with the popularity of new wave artists that represented a return to simple pop melodies sometimes with avant garde experimentation. Following the lead of American garage and punk bands, The UK experienced its own punk movement that protested against British royalty. The Sex Pistols were the most prominent punk act of 1976, tearing down every tradition imaginable. Their influence led to a wave of aggressive and political acts like The Clash, who fused reggae and ska with their music, as did The Police. Elvis Costello & The Attractions blossomed as one of the more articulate new wave acts.
The 1980s and 1990s was an era in which many British artists became leaders in paving the new mainstream, built on electronic music and melodic rock.
Check out information on the following British music scenes: