British Invasion 50 years ago | Beatles or the Stones?

It was on Feb. 7, 1964, 50 years ago today, when The Beatles first stormed the American beaches and the term "British Invasion" was coined by veteran war correspondent Walter Cronkite.

They arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to a crowd of thousands of screaming girls.

(Believe me, the throng at JFK makes that current Justin Bieber bunch of "Beliebers" look like nothing.)

And that was just the beginning, a prelude to four amazing years of British groups "crossing the pond" with their music. Being a teenager at the time was the best.

The Beatles appeared that Sunday on the iconic The Ed Sullivan Show and every TV in America, it seemed, was tuned to that show.

In quick succession, the British Invasion included Gerry and the Pacemakers (that word didn't mean then what it does today), The Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Hollies, Herman's Hermits, Chad & Jeremy, the Rolling Stones and, my personal favorite, The Dave Clark Five (Mike Smith made my heart race much more than any of the Beatles ever did.)

They all brought with them the British style of talking and the fashions -- "mod" and "Carnaby Street." The words "gear" (great), "mod" (modern), "telly" (television), "daft" (crazy), "mate" (buddy or friend) and "bird" (girl/woman) were soon coming out of the mouths of every American teenager.

And the style of clothes -- now mocked -- included bell bottoms, pea coats,very wide paisley ties, mini-skirts, and Dutch-boy-style caps. While the fans of Elvis were legion, it soon seemed that everyone had their own favorite British rock group.

And don't think for a minute that our parents weren't concerned.

With the Invasion came an underlying element of rebellion, a flippant attitude and long hair. Although teens had been Elvis-crazy before, this was something different. It wasn't just one singer that could be "dismissed," it was dozens.

And they weren't the "teen idol-types" like Fabian, Dion and Frankie Avalon or the up-and-coming Motown groups. These Brits were something altogether different.

If you didn't live through the era, you probably can't fully appreciate the impact they made at the time. We had long been immersed in rock-and-roll but it was nothing like this.

Soon we saw that the Beatles weren't like the Kinks and they certainly weren't like the crazy Rolling Stones. And that also led to a slight division among teens -- do you like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones better?

So, here we are 50 years later and I ask again -- the Beatles or the Stones?

As I said earlier, I was a Dave Clark Five fan but, given the choice between the Beatles and the Stones, I was a Beatles fan.

But my heart was always focused on DCF's Mike Smith. As the lead singer, he got the most attention and lots of people thought he was Dave Clark. Know that on Feb. 28, 2008, Smith, at the age of 64, died of pneumonia complications from an earlier fall at his home.

I remember that vividly because it was 11 days before he was to be inducted with the DCF into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sigh.

The DCF's song "Because" has been and always will be my favorite love song. It was released in 1964 just as I started high school. Feeling stressed? Then unplug, and go "Back to the Future" with me.

Follow me on Twitter @KimWendel


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