Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat (after bands from Liverpool
and nearby areas beside the River Mersey) is a pop and rock music
genre that developed in the
United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Beat
music is a fusion of rock and roll (mainly
Chuck Berry guitar style
and the midtempo beat of artists like Buddy Holly), doo-wop, skiffle
and R&B. The genre provided many of the bands responsible for the
British Invasion of the American pop charts starting in 1964, and
provided the model for many important developments in pop and rock
music, including the format of the rock group around lead, rhythm and
bass guitars with drums.
1 Use of the term
4 British Invasion
5 Decline and influence
6 Notable artists
6.2 Other British beat groups
7 See also
10 External links
Use of the term
The exact origins of the terms 'beat music' and 'Merseybeat' are
Beat music seems to have had little to do with the Beat
Generation literary movement of the 1950s, and more to do with driving
rhythms, which the bands had adopted from their rock and roll, rhythm
and blues and soul music influences. As the initial wave of rock and
roll declined in the later 1950s, "big beat" music, later shortened to
"beat", became a live dance alternative to the balladeers like Tommy
Marty Wilde and
Cliff Richard who were dominating the
The name Mersey Beat was used for a
Liverpool music magazine founded
in 1961 by Bill Harry. Harry claims to have coined the term "based on
a policeman's beat and not that of the music". The band the
Pacifics were renamed the Mersey Beats in February 1962 by Bob Wooler,
MC at the
Cavern Club and in April that year they became the
Merseybeats. With the rise of the Beatles in 1963, the terms Mersey
sound and Merseybeat were applied to bands and singers from Liverpool,
and this was the first time in British pop music that a sound and a
location were linked together. The equivalent scenes in Birmingham
London were described as
Brum beat and the
The most distinctive characteristic of the music was the strong beat,
using the backbeat common to rock and roll and rhythm and blues, but
often with a driving emphasis on all the beats of 4/4 bar. The
rhythm itself—described by
Alan Clayson as "a changeless four-four
offbeat on the snare drum"—was developed in the clubs in Hamburg,
West Germany, where many English groups, including the Beatles,
performed in the early 1960s and where it was known as the mach schau
(make show) beat. The 8/8 rhythm was flexible enough to be adopted
for songs from a range of genres. In addition, according to music
writer Dave Laing,
"[T]he chord playing of the rhythm guitar was broken up into a series
of separate strokes, often one to the bar, with the regular plodding
of the bass guitar and crisp drumming behind it. This gave a very
different effect from the monolithic character of rock, in that the
beat was given not by the duplication of one instrument in the rhythm
section by another, but by an interplay between all three. This
flexibility also meant that beat music could cope with a greater range
of time-signatures and song shapes than rock & roll had been able
Beat groups usually had simple guitar-dominated line-ups, with vocal
harmonies and catchy tunes. The most common instrumentation of beat
groups featured lead, rhythm and bass guitars plus drums, as
popularized by the Beatles, the Searchers, and others. Beat
groups—even those with a separate lead singer—often sang both
verses and choruses in close harmony, resembling doo wop, with
nonsense syllables in the backing vocals.
The Dave Clark Five
The Dave Clark Five appearing on
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966
In the late 1950s, a flourishing culture of groups began to emerge,
often out of the declining skiffle scene, in major urban centres in
the UK like Liverpool, Manchester,
Birmingham and London. This was
particularly true in Liverpool, where it has been estimated that there
were around 350 different bands active, often playing ballrooms,
concert halls and clubs.
Liverpool was perhaps uniquely placed
within Britain to be the point of origin of a new form of music.
Commentators have pointed to a combination of local solidarity,
industrial decline, social deprivation, and the existence of a large
population of Irish origin, the influence of which has been detected
in Beat music. It was also a major port with links to America,
which made for much greater access to American records and instruments
like guitars, which could not easily be imported due to trade
restrictions. As a result, Beat bands were heavily influenced by
American groups of the era, such as
Buddy Holly and the Crickets (from
which group the Beatles derived their name, combining it with a pun on
the beat in their music), and to a lesser extent by British rock
and roll groups such as the Shadows.
After the national success of the Beatles in Britain from 1962, a
Liverpool performers were able to follow them into the
charts, including Gerry & The Pacemakers, the Searchers, and
Cilla Black. The first act who were not from
Liverpool or managed by
Brian Epstein to break through in the UK were Freddie and the
Dreamers, who were based in Manchester, a short distance away, as
Herman's Hermits and the Hollies.
Liverpool many local scenes were less influenced by rock
and roll and more by the rhythm and blues and later directly by the
blues. These included bands from
Birmingham who were often grouped
with the beat movement, the most successful being the Spencer Davis
Group and the Moody Blues. Similar blues influenced bands who broke
out from local scenes to national prominence were the Animals from
Newcastle and Them from Belfast. From London, the term
Tottenham Sound was largely based around the Dave Clark Five, but
British rhythm and blues
British rhythm and blues bands who benefited from
the beat boom of this era included the Rolling Stones, the Kinks
and the Yardbirds.
Main article: British Invasion
The arrival of the Beatles in the U.S., and subsequent appearance on
The Ed Sullivan Show, marked the start of the British Invasion
The term "British Invasion" was coined by T.V. reporter Walter
Cronkite to describe the Beatles' arrival in the United States and the
Beatlemania in 1964. Their appearance on
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show soon after led to chart success. During the
next two years, the Animals, Petula Clark, the Dave Clark Five,
the Rolling Stones, Donovan, Peter and Gordon, Manfred Mann,
Freddie and the Dreamers, The Zombies, Wayne Fontana and the
Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, and the Troggs would have one or more
number one singles in America.
Decline and influence
By 1967 beat music was beginning to sound out of date, particularly
compared with the "harder edged" blues rock that was beginning to
emerge. Most of the groups that had not already disbanded, like the
Beatles, moved into different forms of rock music and pop music,
including psychedelic rock and eventually progressive rock. Beat
was a major influence on the American garage rock and folk rock
movements, and would be a source of inspiration for subsequent
rock music subgenres, including
Britpop in the 1990s.
Gerry and the Pacemakers
Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1964
The Big Three
The Cryin' Shames
Lee Curtis and the All-Stars
Derry and the Seniors
Gerry and the Pacemakers
Billy J. Kramer
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes
The Swinging Blue Jeans
Other British beat groups
Herman's Hermits in 1965
Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers
The Dave Clark Five
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Eddy Grant and The Equals
Freddie and the Dreamers
Lulu and The Luvvers
Brian Poole and the Tremeloes
The Pretty Things
The Rolling Stones
The Small Faces
British rhythm and blues
Popular beat combo
^ a b B. Longhurst, Popular Music and Society (Polity, 2nd edn.,
2007), ISBN 0-7456-3162-2, p. 98.
^ a b Mersey Beat - the founders' story.
^ B. Eder and R. Unterberger, "The Merseybeats", Allmusic, retrieved
16 June 2009.
^ Ian Inglis (2010). "Historical approaches to Merseybeat". The Beat
Goes on: Liverpool, Popular Music and the Changing City (editors
Marion Leonard, Robert Strachan).
Liverpool University Press.
p. 11. ISBN 9781846311901. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
^ B. Eder, "Various artists: Brum Beat: the Story of the 60s Midland
Sound", Allmusic, retrieved 5 February 2011.
^ P. Hurry, M. Phillips and M. Richards, Heinemann Advanced Music
(Heinemann, 2001), p. 158.
^ a b Jon Stratton (2010). "Englishing Popular Music in the 1960s".
Britpop and the English Music Tradition (editors Andy Bennett, Jon
Stratton). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2010. pp. 41–46.
ISBN 9780754668053. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
^ J. Shepherd, Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World:
Volume II: Performance and Production (Continuum, 2003),
ISBN 0-8264-6322-3, p. 78.
^ Nell Irvin Painter, Creating Black Americans: African-American
History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2006), p. 261.
^ a b R. Stakes, "Those boys: the rise of Mersey beat", in S. Wade,
ed., Gladsongs and Gatherings: Poetry and its Social Context in
Liverpool Since the 1960s (Liverpool:
Liverpool University Press,
2001), ISBN 0-85323-727-1, pp. 157–66.
^ Gilliland 1969, show 27, track 4.
^ W. Everett,
The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men through Rubber
Soul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-514105-9,
^ a b c d e Gilliland 1969, show 29.
^ Daily Telegraph "'Dreamers' star Freddie Garrity dies", 20 May 2006,
accessed August 2007.
^ V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra, and S. T. Erlewine, All Music Guide to
Rock: the Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (Backbeat Books,
2002), ISBN 0-87930-653-X, p. 532.
^ I. Chambers, Urban Rhythms: Pop Music and Popular Culture
(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1985), ISBN 0-312-83469-1, p. 75.
^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 30.
^ J. R. Covach and G. MacDonald Boone. Understanding Rock: Essays in
Musical Analysis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997),
ISBN 0-19-510005-0, p. 60.
^ Gilliland 1969, show 28.
^ Gilliland 1969, show 48.
^ "British Invasion". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 January
^ E. Macan, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the
Counterculture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997),
ISBN 0-19-509888-9, p. 11.
^ V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All music guide to
rock: the definitive guide to rock, pop, and soul (Backbeat Books, 3rd
end., 2002), pp. 1320-1.
^ R. Unterberger, "Merseybeat", retrieved 5 February 2011.
^ D. B. Scott, "The
Britpop sound", in A. Bennett and J. Stratton,
Britpop and the English Music Tradition (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2010), ISBN 0-7546-6805-3, pp. 103-122.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Merseybeat (Top Artists)", Allmusic,
retrieved 5 February 2011.
Gilliland, John (1969). "The British Are Coming! The British Are
Coming!: The U.S.A. is invaded by a wave of long-haired English
rockers" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas
Leigh, S., (2004) Twist and Shout!: Merseybeat, The Cavern, The
The Beatles (Nirvana Books), ISBN 0-9506201-5-7
(updated version of Let's Go Down to the Cavern)
Mersey Beat magazine, including history of genre
decade of origin
Rock and roll
Pub rock (United Kingdom)
Pub rock (Australia)
Adult album alternative
Progressive rock (radio format)
Origins of rock and roll
Electronics in rock music
Rock Against Communism
Rock Against Racism
Rock Against Sexism
Rock music and the fall of communism
Rockism and poptimism
Women in rock
List of rock genres
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Wall of Sound