British beat music

The elements of pop music

Many British pop groups in the 1960s were heavily influenced by American blues and R&B. These included The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

R&B stands for rhythm and blues. It is a style of American music combining jazz and blues, which emerged in the 1940s - not to be confused with today's R&B.

The Beatles helped to reshape Western pop music and were the most successful band ever.

Every album was a huge hit from the early material on Please Please Me (1963) to the hugely innovative Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

A photo of the Beatles
The Beatles, from left to right: George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney

The Beatles helped to create a distinctly British sound which used:

  • British (rather than American) accents
  • standard song forms
  • distinctive chord sequences and vocal harmonies
  • rhythmic guitar work
  • simple melodies
  • clever lyrics

George Martin was their imaginative producer. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of their own material.

The Beatles had a huge influence and pop groups sprang up all over the UK, usually writing their own songs.

The Kinks were a four-piece band who had a string of hits during the 1960s including You Really Got Me, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Waterloo Sunset.

Their songs were short and punchy with thought-provoking lyrics and elements of music hall. Songwriter Ray Davies' lyrics often used images of everyday British life.

Groups such as The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Who helped to establish a British tradition of:

  • guitar-driven pop groups
  • a classic line-up of lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals
  • verse and chorus songs, rich in hooks and melodic interest
  • conventional chord sequences
A photo of The Kinks
The Kinks

The chorus:

  • sets the refrain of the lyrics and often contains the title words
  • usually returns several times, always with the same words
  • is normally the 'catchiest' part of the song

The verse has different words with each repetition. They will also contain these elements:

  • a riff is a short, repeated melodic pattern, often forming the background to a solo or vocal line. It is usually one to four bars long.
  • a hook is a short catchy melodic idea designed to be instantly memorable
  • guitar licks are short solo phrases that can be heard at the ends of some of the vocal phrases
  • fills are short flourishes used to fill a gap between phrases and are often played on drums