The coming of rock & roll spread American popular music worldwide, transforming the industry into a multi-billion dollar global entity. Nowhere was the new music more enthusiastically received than in Britain, and Liverpool in particular, where the "Mersey Sound", an up tempo r&b-based pop, was pioneered by the world's first supergroup, The Beatles.
During the ten or so years of their existence The Beatles created a new, sophisticated popular music which changed virtually all the music that followed, both popular and classical. Their genius lay in a seemingly innate ability to fuse the energy of rock & roll with elements of classical harmony which had been discarded during the experimental avant-garde of the 1950's, and their use of archaic forms which underly folk music.
Their early popularity was of course less to do with musical innovation than the propulsive energy of the music and the magnetic personalities of four good-looking lads from Liverpool. As their following and reputation grew exponentially, the Fab Four took the sound that had so inspired them back to the States in it's new form, alongside similarly inspired bands such as The Animals, with their trademark r&b / blues mix, The Rolling Stones, with their Chicago style blues sound, and the straight-ahead rock of The Kinks. But as the Brits invaded, the scene continued to shift Stateside....
The 1960's was an era of change and turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic as the the new contraceptive pill made previously
only imagined sexual freedoms a reality and the the drug counter-culture kicked in. In America, in addition to these changes, the Vietnam War
prompted mass peace rallies, and the continuing suppression of blacks exploded in urban race riots across the country.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man - Bob Dylan, a folk singer from Duluth whose poetic anthems of protest seemed to speak for a
frustrated and bewildered generation, galvanising it into action and launching the Sixties counter-culture.
The decade also saw the coming of age of soul music, initially in the hands of pioneers such as Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cooke. As a style it underlies much of the pop music of the 1960's and beyond, appealing to all areas of mainstream society both black and white. By the middle of the decade James Brown had moved away from soul's r&b roots into funk, a hard-hitting groove-based offshoot taken up and made more palatable for a mainstream audience by Sly Stone and George Clinton in particular. Funk became the precursor of the much softer mid-1970's disco sound, but also laid the foundations for the development of hip hop
Throughout the 1960's the rock industry continued to expand and diversify, principally into hard rock, the crossover sound of jazz rock and progressive rock, which developed the largely British idea of the concept album following the release of The Beatles' "SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND" in 1967. The decade also saw the birth of stadium rock as The Beatles played New York's Shea Stadium in 1965 in front of 55,600 fans, and culminated in the massive Woodstock Festival in 1969 which was attended by more than 400,000 people over three days. Woodstock, and the Isle Of Wight Festival of the following year, are now seen as the high water mark of the idealistic Hippy movement, which faded rapidly soon after in the face of hard commercial and political realities.