Beat music originated in England in the early 1960’s. British beat or Mersey beat originally pertained to bands from Liverpool, beside the River Mersey. The beat format is largely responsible for the British invasion of the American music scene beginning in 1964. The exact origins of the term “Beat Music” seem to be uncertain. There are two schools of thought on the origins of the term. One is that beat music had little to do with the Beat Generation of the 1950’s and more to do with the driving rhythms the bands featured in their music. On the other hand, The Beatles, who were big fans of the Beat Poets like Keroac and Ginsberg and the like, spelled their name with an “a” as a tribute to these poets of the 1950’s. Liverpool was the epicenter for this new form of music. Liverpool is a major port with links to America, this made for easy access to American records. Ironically, these British groups were heavily influenced by American groups like Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Chuck Berry and so on. Groups like The Beatles , The Hollies, The Zombies, The Who, and of course The Rolling Stones came out of this period, but we all know every word of every song these groups ever put out. In America, beat music had a very unique sound, quite different from its British counterpart. Much of the music from American groups of the period has faded into obscurity. This is the music you never hear anymore, the music you may have never heard of.
The Beat Generation, or Beatniks, morphed into the Hippie Counter Culture Movement beginning around 1965. The Hippie movement fueled the American music scene that was getting underway in the early 1960’s, but it was overshadowed by the British invasion. Early on there was some co-operation going on across the pond. Bob Dylan wrote a couple of songs for Manfred Mann before hitting the big time with Doo Wah Diddy. These Dylan composed songs did fairly well on the British charts, but never caught on in the States. If You Gotta Go, Go Now is an example of one of these songs. If You Gotta Go is typical of that Mersey sound. The American form of beat music became known as “Garage Rock,” because the early bands were quite amateurish and some rehearsed their music in the family garage. This form was much more raw and edgy sounding than the British form. The difference is apparent when you compare the music from the U.K. with that which was going on here in the States. Let's take a look at If You Gotta Go and one of my favorites, The Witch by the Sonics, from Tacoma.
The difference is quite apparent, in all fairness, The Sonics were probably the rawest sonding band of the time, it was their trademark. Most of the other bands of this time had more polish, even so, there is still a marked difference between British beat and what was called garage music here in the States. In the coming weeks I will be focusing on the music from this side of the pond, starting from around 1965 up to about 1969. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Rock on groovy guys and gals!