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CNN presents 'The Sixties – The British Invasion': The Beatles lead the way

 The Flag of the United Kingdom, Union Flag or Union Jack.
The Flag of the United Kingdom, Union Flag or Union Jack.
User:Zscout370 via Wikimedia Commons

The Beatles opened up this installment from CNN’s 10-part series on the fascinating ‘60s, on Thursday night titled “The Sixties -- British Invasion.” “The Sixties” docu-series is later scheduled to air in its entirety in May. Actor Tom Hanks is one of its co-producers.

This is one of many Beatles 50th anniversary specials, documentaries, and tributes bound to air in the coming weeks. What makes this television special different is its extensive and profound focus on the wave of other British bands and artists, those who followed shortly thereafter the Beatles.

It begins on how the Beatles were introduced to American audiences prior to “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Media sources included an in-depth CBS news report, a Beatles fan introducing them on a metro Washington, DC Top 40 radio station, and Ed Sullivan’s 1963 introduction to Beatlemania while in London.

After their three Ed Sullivan TV appearances a bevy of British acts, including the Dave Clark Five, followed in their footsteps to America. The one common thread all of the British invasion bands brought, including the Beatles, was their early rock n’ roll sounds. They were heavily influenced by Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, and Buddy Holly.

Earlier on the Beatles and Motown was a match when they covered Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.” Smokey Robinson later reflected on being extremely flattered at the time. You see a clip of Smokey singing the Beatles song “Yesterday.”

During the show “Shindig” the Rolling Stones invited blues great Howlin’ Wolf on this dance music program. It is the Stones and other British bands that re-invigorate blues back into mainstream music. Blues is a traditional form of R&B, while remaining obscure up until that time. Jagger evens takes on James Brown’s moves. This is after the Stones followed his high energy act on the “T.A.M.I. Show” concert film.

Bob Dylan later sets the stage with his protest messages, while playing in his traditional folk style. In 1965 after Dylan goes electric, he meets with the Beatles. It is John Lennon who becomes inspired by Dylan. The Beatles folk-infused “Rubber Soul” album gets the attention of the Beach Boys, who want off the beach music path. Brian Wilson develops new sounds and instruments resulting in their seminal “Pet Sounds” album.

“The Sixties -- British Invasion” closed with the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” album. Just like with the Beach Boys, the Beatles stopped touring in 1966 to devote all their time to creating the album of all albums. It ends with a portion of their global telecast from the song “All You Need is Love.”