The British Invasion that began in 1964 brought to our shores bands that produced decades of great rock. The popularity of America’s teen idols faded as the Beatles, the Who, the Stones and the Kinks became rock royalty in the States.
Fans embraced the wave of new artists from the U.K. throughout the mid-’60s and beyond. But many shaggy-haired bands with British accents, while talented, produced only one memorable song that climbed the U.S. charts. Some of the best are in our Top 11 British Invasion One-Hit Wonders.
- You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by the Silkie
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away was largely written by John Lennon for the Beatles’ Help! soundtrack. “That’s me in my Dylan period,” Lennon recalled in All We Are Saying. “I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.”
Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein signed the Silkie after an appearance at the Cavern Club. Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison helped the folk group record a cover version that became a Top 10 hit in 1965. “It was really Paul’s arrangement of John’s song,” Silkie singer and guitarist Mike Ramsden told the Independent.
“The bit at the beginning on guitar is Paul. We hadn’t been expecting George Harrison but he turned up and he suggested tapping on the back of a guitar and going ‘sssh.’
“John was with an engineer in the control room, producing the record. We had six hours with three Beatles and Jane Asher, who was opening the beer. John was so chuffed that he rang Brian Epstein and said, ‘Listen, Brian, we’ve just made a No. 1.’ He played it over the phone and Brian said, ‘Well done.'”
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by the Silkie
- It’s Alright by Adam Faith
Adam Faith was a struggling British singer in a skiffle group in 1957 when he was discovered by BBC Television producer Jack Good. Faith went on to record a string of pop hits in the U.K. but went unnoticed in America. But in 1964 his luck changed when Good, who had become a producer of Shindig!, brought Faith to the States to appear on the hit TV show.
Instead of promoting one of Faith’s U.K. hits, Good chose a B-side, the more raucous It’s Alright, which the singer lip-synched for his debut. When Faith returned to the show a few months later, he performed the song live, backed by the Isley Brothers and the Newbeats. That energetic version helped Faith reach No. 31 in early 1965, his only U.S. hit.
It’s Alright by Adam Faith
The Pied Piper by Crispian St. Peters
Crispian St. Peters‘ first and only U.S. hit was The Pied Piper, written by Artie Kornfeld and Steve Duboff. Kornfeld, who would become famous as the music promoter of 1969’s Woodstock festival, performed the song with Duboff as the Changin’ Times. That Dylan-styled version went nowhere but St. Peters made it a No. 4 hit in 1966.
St. Peters was coming off an earlier hit in the U.K. when he got into hot water with the British press. According to The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars, “On one occasion, the singer – who’d already rated himself as ‘sexier’ than Elvis or Tom Jones – claimed to have eighty songs better than those of the Beatles. It was a gimmick that backfired badly; St. Peters’ later attempts to qualify the statements were met by an unamused audience who promptly ignored his following records.”
The Pied Piper by Crispian St. Peters
The Pied Piper by the Changin’ Times
- You’re My World by Cilla Black
Cilla Black was one of many British Invasion artists represented by Brian Epstein. The Beatles’ manager brought Black the song You’re My World, originally recorded in Italian as Il Mio Mondo. “You’re My World was an out-and-out ballad and I’m a rock and roll singer at heart,” Black said in The Word magazine. “I didn’t think I could do this song any justice at all. I thought, ‘Is this song me? Isn’t it more like that lady who used to sing and cry every time?’ I thought, ‘I’m turning into Vikki Carr, and I’m a rock and roll singer.’ But I put my faith in Brian and he was right.”
When the Beatles visited Elvis Presley in Los Angeles in 1964, they spotted You’re My World at The King’s home. “A couple of weeks later, when the Beatles returned from America, Ringo told me at the Ad-Lib club that You’re My World was also a big hit there,” Black wrote in her autobiography, What’s It All About? “And what’s more, he had some other riveting news for me. ‘You’ll never believe this,’ he said, ‘but when we went to visit Elvis, your record was number twenty-one on Elvis’s own jukebox.'”
You’re My World by Cilla Black
- I’m Gonna Love You Too by the Hullabaloos
Buddy Holly and the Crickets were a major influence on the music of the Beatles, the Hollies and other British bands. In 1965 the Hullabaloos had a hit with Holly’s I’m Gonna Love You Too. Best known for its members’ long dyed blonde hair, the Hullabaloos often performed on the Hullabaloo TV show but their name came from their hometown, Hull, in the U.K.
The film The Buddy Holly Story credits the recording of I’m Gonna Love You Too for the origin of the Crickets’ name. Snopes.com, however, sets the record straight.
“Although the account presented in The Buddy Holly Story about the origins of the name ‘Crickets’ is complete fiction, it does have one small element of truth to it. When Buddy and the Crickets recorded the song I’m Gonna Love You Too, a real cricket that had made its way into the recording studio did let loose with a chirp that was captured in the song’s fade-out; since the sound fit the rhythm of the tune quite nicely, it was left on the tape. This occurred in July 1957, however, several months after the group had decided on the name ‘Crickets’ for themselves.”
I’m Gonna Love You Too by the Hullabaloos
I’m Gonna Love You Too by Buddy Holly and the Crickets
- Concrete and Clay by Unit 4+2
As the high-energy sound of the Beatles swept America, the British band Unit 4 realized they needed a more pop approach. Led by singer Tommy Moeller, the quartet added a couple of session players and became Unit 4+2.
The band’s sole success was the Latin-influenced Concrete and Clay. The No. 28 hit would have done better on the charts had Four Seasons‘ producer Bob Crewe not heard the song on a trip to England. Back home, Crewe rushed Pennsylvanian Eddie Rambeau into the studio and released a competing cover version in the U.S. that split sales and reached No. 35.
Concrete and Clay by Unit 4+2
Concrete and Clay by Eddie Rambeau
- Have I the Right? by the Honeycombs
The Honeycombs‘ Have I the Right? reached No. 5 on the U.S. charts in 1964. The most visually striking member of the Honeycombs was its female drummer, Ann “Honey” Lantree. The ex-hairdresser’s nickname, along with a reference to her former work with a comb, spawned the Honeycombs’ name. But it was as the Sheratons that the band was discovered by songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, who were looking for a group to record Have I the Right?
Howard and Blaikley brought the band to producer Joe Meek, whose website describes how Meek recorded the song.
“He asked the band members and some other persons to trample the beat on the wooden stairs to the studio and recorded that noise with five microphones he had fixed to the banisters with bicycle clips. In addition, a tambourine was beaten directly onto a microphone. After that, as usually with Meek, the whole recording was sped up and compressed until the cows came home. Dennis D’Ell, the Honeycombs’ singer, hated his sped-up voice, all the more so as this sound couldn’t be reproduced on stage.”
Have I the Right? by the Honeycombs
- Everyone’s Gone to the Moon by Jonathan King
Jonathan King was an undergraduate at Cambridge University in 1965 when he wrote and recorded Everyone’s Gone to the Moon. King was inspired to become a singer-songwriter after a chance meeting in Hawaii with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. An eclectic group of artists that includes Marlene Dietrich, Bobby Womack, Doris Day, Nina Simone and Jan & Dean have recorded the melancholy tune.
Everyone’s Gone to the Moon reached No. 17, King’s only U.S. chart appearance. King discovered Genesis in 1967 and produced their debut album. In 1971 King produced the Bay City Rollers‘ first hit, followed by his signing the next year of 10cc.
Everyone’s Gone to the Moon by Jonathan King
- Hippy Hippy Shake by the Swinging Blue Jeans
In the wake of Ritchie Valens‘ death in a plane crash, singer Chan Romero traveled to Los Angeles and was discovered by Valens’ manager Bob Keane. One of the first songs Romero wrote and recorded for Keane’s DelFi Records was 1959’s Hippy Hippy Shake. Though never a big hit, the song was heard by Paul McCartney and became part of the Beatles’ early repertoire. The band played the song on the BBC in 1963.
Other British bands followed. The Swinging Blue Jeans recorded a version of Hippy Hippy Shake and on its release, the song was judged by the Beatles on the British TV Show Juke Box Jury. “I thought it was good,” said Ringo Starr. “But it’s not as good as the original by Chan Romero.”
“I don’t think it matters much about the Chan Romero record being greater, ’cause I don’t think many people will remember the fact that he did it, and he wrote it as well,” added McCartney. “They’ll just think of it as a new song.” And he was right. The Swinging Blue Jeans’ version, a Top 5 hit in the U.K., reached No. 21 in the States.
Hippy Hippy Shake by the Swinging Blue Jeans
Hippy Hippy Shake by Chan Romero
- As Tears Go By by Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull was 17 years old when she recorded As Tears Go By, written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Appearing on TV’s Hullabaloo, Faithfull explained how she was discovered. “I met Andrew Oldham at a party and he asked me if I’d like to make a record, because he thought I had a face that could sell. I thought, ‘This is fine. Perhaps I have. Let’s sell it.'”
As Tears Go By reached No. 22 for Faithfull in 1964. The Stones released their own version in 1965. In her autobiography, Faithfull, the singer wrote that it was one of the first songs written by Jagger and Richards. “Andrew had locked them in the kitchen and told them, ‘Write a song. I’ll be back in two hours.’ Andrew gave them the sense and feel of the type of thing he wanted them to write – ‘I want a song with brick walls all around it, and high windows and no sex.’ They came up with a song called As Time Goes By. Andrew knew a lot about how songs were constructed. Although it was still in a very primitive state, he knew he could fix it. There was another problem: the title. It was the title of a very famous song, the one Dooley Wilson sings in Casablanca, so Andrew changed it to As Tears Go By.
“Andrew played me a demo of the tune with Mick singing and [session player] Big Jim Sullivan on acoustic guitar. He handed me a scrawled lyric sheet and I went back into the studio and did it.”
As Tears Go By by Marianne Faithfull
As Tears Go By by the Rolling Stones
- You Turn Me On by Ian Whitcomb
Ian Whitcomb‘s infectious You Turn Me On was memorable for his falsetto singing and heavy breathing. “That record, like most of my records, was not produced at all. It happened in the studio,” Whitcomb told Classic Bands. “At the very end of the session, this is in February 1965, we had a few minutes left. And the band began playing this lick, and we’d been doing this blues lick on stage as a sort of joke. They used to play this and I would sing. The Swim is one of the dances I think we would do it with, and then I started doing some panting, some breathing. I started doing the breathing because I’d had a record of Jerry Lee Lewis recorded live at the Birmingham, Ala. auditorium. He was doing Memphis. He was doing the breathing.”
You Turn Me On reached No. 8 in 1965. It was Whitcomb’s first and last hit. His follow-up, N-N-Nervous, barely made a d-d-dent in the charts. “The thing is, it’s very hard to follow up a novelty song like You Turn Me On,” Whitcomb continued. “It’s just a very odd-ball song. What do you follow it up with? You can’t go on panting all your life. And I had a lot of other kinds of music in my head that I wanted to record. I didn’t fit any particular category or genre. So it was hard for me to have any more hits.”
You Turn Me On by Ian Whitcomb