Thursday, August 20, 2015

'Satisfaction:' The Triumph of the British Invasion

If you weren't alive during the so–called British invasion of the mid–20th century and you would like an idea of how thoroughly and how quickly it succeeded in capturing the imagination of American youth, you really need look no further than the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," which was released in the Stones' homeland — the United Kingdom — 50 years ago today.

It was released in the United States nearly three months earlier.

Although there had been earlier reports in the American media of the popular music being made in England, the British invasion of United States pop culture generally is believed to have begun when the Beatles arrived in New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. By 1965, it seems the invasion was over, and the British performers were here to stay. America was where the money was. Media, too.

There is a pretty convincing case to be made for the significance of the year 1965 in modern popular music history. The Beatles had three of the top five hits of the year — "Help!" "Yesterday" and "Ticket to Ride" — but the Stones' "Satisfaction" was the top–selling single of the year, followed by America's Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."

If you listened to the radio in 1965, you heard some of the biggest hits ever recorded by The Kinks, The Who, The Supremes, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Roger Miller, Tom Jones, Herman's Hermits, The Temptations, and the list went on.

I was a small child in those days, and many of my peers had older brothers and sisters who introduced them to the music of the time, but my experience was different. I was the oldest in my family but far too young to be interested in the radio, and my parents rarely listened to the radio (my father would switch it on in the car if there was a good football game being played). I suppose my exposure to the music of my generation would have been further delayed if not for the fact that my father was a professor at one of the three colleges in my hometown, and he and my mother typically hired his students to watch my brother and me when they wanted to go out for dinner or a movie or something else. Sometimes the students came to our house to watch my brother and me; other times, my parents dropped us off at the dorm, and I can remember hearing the music of that time echoing through the halls of the dorms.

Undoubtedly, that is where I heard many songs for the first time. It is probably why I feel as if I have always known the words to some songs — I heard them played over and over again when I was young.

(If brainwashing were as benign as simply implanting song lyrics into one's brain, I could probably support it. But, I suppose, that form of brainwashing already exists.)

Speaking of which, it is funny how the brain functions, isn't it? I mean, every time I hear "Satisfaction," I remember — however briefly — when I saw "Apocalypse Now" and it was featured on the movie's soundtrack.