The Impact of the British Invasion on Cross-Cultural Communication

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Intercultural communication refers to the type of communication that takes place between individuals drawn from a diverse cultural background. One of the distinctive features of cultural identities emanates from the mode of communication. Hence, intercultural communication will likely differs from communication between persons from similar cultural backgrounds (Beamer and Varner, 2001). One of the ways in which intercultural communication is achieved is through music. There is a common saying that music transcends language barriers. People listen to music from all cultural backgrounds rather than those that only arise from their cultural backgrounds. Hence, it should be acknowledged that music has the power to shape cross-cultural communication thus accomplishing cultural universalism in the long run.

            A textbook case of how music was used to achieve cross-cultural communication was in the 20th Century. The United Kingdom’s music culture was so influential to the rest of the Western world in such a way that those Western countries accomplished cultural universalism. The paper discusses the development of this culture along with its influence across the world.

            The development and subsequent influence of the United Kingdom’s music culture is often referred as the British invasion. The era occurred in the 1960s when such music genres like pop and rock spread beyond the United Kingdom’s boarders (Mauch et al., 2015). The rise in popularity of these acts also helped spread British culture to other Western countries like the United States. Other British cultural aspects that were accordingly propagated due to the British invasion included literature, fashion, and film.

            The Beatles were amongst the most influential British musicians of the 20th

Century. In the midst of the British invasion, the Beatles influence was not only limited to the United Kingdom’s national borders but also in other Western nations. Especially, the United States was the most culturally impacted by the United Kingdom’s 20th Century music culture (Nunes and Azzi, 2017). The British invasion led by the Beatles changed both music styles and music business in the Western countries.

            To better comprehend the music culture that was propagated by the British invasion, it is prudent to relook at the state of the music culture prior to this period. In the 1950s and early 1960s, there were very many differences between the United Kingdom’s and the United States’ music cultures. By and large, most of the British music was made to serve the British audiences solely. Other countries such as the United States viewed British music to be less influential in pop culture. The country only had four main record labels which included EMI, Philips, Decca, and Pye (Nunes and Azzi, 2017). Additionally, there were only two radio stations that could be used to play music. Both of these radio stations were state-owned.

            Moreover, the British had for long been infatuated by the United States’ folk and jazz music from dating back to the era of World War II. Mostly, they listened to traditional jazz which was later widened to entail jazz styles. In some instances, the traditional jazz was blended with folk music along with the United States’ textual themes.

            Other than the music styles, the music business was also a significant aspect then. The British were faced with the challenge of making more British music top the country’s charts. At the time, the charts were mostly dominated by the United States’ music. Cliff Richard of EMI record was the most successful United Kingdom’s rocker then. In the periods between 1958 and 1963, he managed to score 27 United Kingdom hit singles (Szatmary and Garofalo, 2014). However, his success at home was not replicated across the Atlantic. The only UK hit the made to the U.S charts was the “Living Doll” that was number thirty in 1959.

            The Beatles were the first group in the United Kingdom that changed this dominance of the United States’ music culture over the British. Formed in Liverpool, the band went on to become the most influential music band in the 2oth Century. Some of the band members such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney become global music icons (Nunes and Azzi, 2017). The Beatles were originally based in Liverpool. There were both benefits and disadvantage of their location in this coastal city. First, since Liverpool was a major seaport city, the sailors from across the Atlantic brought with them United States’ records. Hence, the Beatles were exposed to American pop culture from their early days. The main disadvantage, however, of being located in Liverpool was that they were very far from the United Kingdom’s music business hub-London. At those times, it was difficult for groups from outside London to gain the public’s acceptance.  

            In spite of the hurdles, the Beatles become the Liverpool band to release a hit that topped the U.K charts. They also got signed to a music label in the capital. There are many ways in which the Beatles influenced the United Kingdom’s music culture. Young songwriters have been known to develop and train themselves by modeling their songs on the ones that were previously released. In the 1960s, the Beatles’ songs were the most accessible in the United Kingdom compared to those from across the Atlantic. Thus, they provided a rich source of repertoire upon which upcoming songwriters modeled their songs. Second, the Beatles were greatly influenced by the United States’ pop culture. Therefore, they helped influence the British audience into accepting more of the music across the Atlantic.



            One of the significant changes of the Beatles’ music and by extension the United Kingdom music culture was the shift from craftsmen to artists. In the early stages, the band made music that imitated the United States’ music culture. For instance, they reworked some musical elements that were earlier used by pop artists across the Atlantic. The other approach that was employed was mainly associated with the 19th Century classical artists such as Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Brahms. Rather than establishing a formula, those composers determined novel solutions for each piece of music they produced. Along the way, the Beatles, in particular, shifted from the formulaic approach to the artistic one.  

            The other aspect of the United Kingdom’s music culture in this period was the growing importance of song lyrics. The vitality of song lyrics aligned with the shift to artistic approach rather than formulaic one. Folk music influenced the increasing significance of song lyrics in the United Kingdom's music culture. The artists also applied a broader stylistic range in their music. In contrast with earlier periods, musicians such as the Beatles incorporated more United States’ styles such as rhythm and blues (Nunes and Azzi, 2017). The Beatles change from craftsmen to artists arose a high sense of self-consciousness with the rock genre with both the musicians and audiences perceiving the music genre differently. An artistic approach to music required a more hands-on approach to music production.   

            Other than the Beatles, the Rolling Stones was also an influential British band of the 20th

Century. There are also the bad boys of the British invasion. By and large, the sprouting bands in the United Kingdom were divided into either Beatles-type and Rolling Stones-type. The Beatle-type bands mostly made pop and vocally oriented music. On the other hand, the Rolling Stones-type bands majorly focused on blues.

            The United Kingdom’s music culture also entailed playing guitars and adorned fashion statements like wearing long hair. The Rolling Stones led Blues revival in the United Kingdom. Blues enthusiasm steadily rose with the central point of this growth of Blues music being London. Musicians who aspired to focus on blues would mostly play cover versions of the United States’ electric blues. The Animals were also a significant blues band that got their breakthrough in the United Kingdom when they got an opportunity to play alongside Chuck Berry’s British tour. They closed their performance by performing a traditional folks piece that emanated from across the Atlantic.

            As stated earlier, The Rolling Stones were also as influential as the Beatles in molding the United Kingdom’s music culture in the previous century. Amongst the band members, Jagger and Richards were the most known. However, there should also be an appreciation of backroom leaders such as Brian Jones who was well versed in the United States’ blues genre. There was also Stewart- a renowned pianist.

            In spite of the two major categorizations of the 20th Century British music culture as either Beatles-type or the Rolling Stones-type, The Kinks and Who defied the strict classification by producing music that employed both pop and blue styles. Though the group had emerged from mostly Stones-type roots, their music incorporated pop-leaning acts (Szatmary and Garofalo, 2014). Hence, it was difficult to place them into either of the only two major categorizations then. In spite of the bands shifting between pop and blue oriented acts, it was ostensible that the British music culture of this time was distinctively either Beatles-types, Stones-type or a mash-up of the two orientations.  

            After the British invasion in the 1960s, the United Kingdom experienced another revolution in the music culture scene. There was the emergence of the New Wave of British Heavy metal. By the 1980s, the moved had already gotten international attention. The mainly referred to the new heavy metal bands that emerged at that time when punk rock was steadily declining. The music entailed heavy metals fused with high-intensity punk rock of the previous years to result in highly aggressive sounds. The new music movement largely subscribed to the DIY attitude which resulted in the production of authentically original raw sounds (Cope, 2016). Many records were self-produced, and the lyrics were primarily concerned with escapist messages such as fantasy, horror, and mythology.   

            The New Wave of British Heavy Metal entailed musicians and audiences that were majorly young white men. The people shared a common ethnic and class values. The heavy metal audiences were commonly referred to as muthas or metalheads. The names were coined from the way the listeners rhythmically shook their heads while the music was playing. The rock musicians also donned specific attire influenced by United States’ bikers in the earlier years.  

            The New Wave of British Heavy Metal did not stay in the limelight for too long. The movement declined in the 1980s with the premiering of MTV music broadcasts in 1982 (Cope, 2016). Though the new cable network was important to the music industry in general, the heavy metal took a beating with this turn of events. MTV increased the importance of music videos. Previously, music videos were merely used as promotional tools. Now, musicians had to invest in quality music videos as MTV broadcasted the rock videos to its audiences. Owing to the simplicity of the then heavy metal bands, most could not afford to produce quality music videos. Most bands were amateurish and comprised of young people with little or no experience in making quality videos.   

            Overall, the United Kingdom 20th Century music culture is a clear demonstration of how intercultural communication was accomplished between the United Kingdom and the Western world; especially the United States. One of the most influential groups than was the Beatles. The group emerged in the 1960s and were responsible for taking British music culture across the Atlantic. Other groups such as the Rolling Stones later emerged and further spurred the United Kingdom’s music industry. The continued acceptance of British music in the United States and also United States’ music in Britain was instrumental in achieving cultural universalism between the two countries. The music helped in creating similar fashion trends, pop culture, and film industries. Later, the United Kingdom’s music culture was defined by heavy metal rock music which spread to the rest of the world.


Beamer, L., Varner, I.I., 2001. Intercultural communication in the global workplace. McGraw-Hill/Irwin New York, NY.

Cope, A.L., 2016. Black Sabbath and the rise of heavy metal music. Routledge.

Mauch, M., MacCallum, R.M., Levy, M., Leroi, A.M., 2015. The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010. R. Soc. Open Sci. 2, 150081.

Nunes, M.B., Azzi, J.N., 2017. Did America Invade The Beatles as they invaded America?-A comparative analysis on The Beatles’ accent in former and later years. Entrepalavras 7, 46–65.

Szatmary, D.P., Garofalo, R., 2014. Rockin’in Time. Pearson.

October 05, 2023

Entertainment Music

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