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Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Merseybeat"


A typical Merseybeat album

A typical Merseybeat album

source: eil.com
Definition: Merseybeat was the first flowering of British rock and roll -- based around the self-contained guitar-based rock band. In the Fifties, rock existed in Britain, but only in the teen idol sense: acts like Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele aped the Elvis Presley formula with varying degrees of success. Postwar youths, not being able to afford real instruments, instead made do with skiffle, a homemade mix of watered-down blues, music-hall pop, and traditional or "trad" jazz performed on household items like tea chests, washboards, pianos, and the occasional guitar.

As rock swept across the country, however, British bands began buying real instruments and forming rock groups based on their twin idols: Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who'd invented the rock band format, and Britain's own The Shadows, proto-surf instrumentalists who also followed the basic formula of bass, drums, and guitar. Adding a little old-fashioned pop songwriting sensibility caused the phenomenon to explode, first in Liverpool and then in neighboring Manchester. The Beatles were, of course, the biggest band to emerge from what was then known as the "beat music" genre. (Drums being a new concept in British rock groups, the term "beat music" was coined to separate the style from skiffle; later, the name of the Mersey river, which Liverpool is built around, was added for clarification.) Contrary to a popular misconception, however, the Beatles built their sound around the existing scene, and not the other way around.

Merseybeat came to America as the first wave of "British Invasion" music, but a second wave, built around hard blues and R&B, soon replaced it (The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals). Except for the Beatles, who stayed ahead of the curve, most Merseybeat bands went pure pop in response, then faded entirely as rock got more complex and serious in the late Sixties.

Also Known As: Beat Music, British Invasion
  1. "I Want To Hold Your Hand," The Beatles
  2. "Glad All Over," Dave Clark Five
  3. "Hippy Hippy Shake," The Swinging Blue Jeans
  4. "How Do You Do It?" Gerry and the Pacemakers
  5. "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat," Herman's Hermits
  6. "I'm Telling You Now," Freddie and the Dreamers
  7. "The Game Of Love," Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
  8. "I Can't Let Go," The Hollies
  9. "Sugar And Spice," The Searchers
  10. "Bad To Me," Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas
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