The Beatles-led British invasion of American airwaves and record stores in the 1960s influenced all aspects of the American popular music scene. In Britain and the United States, few towns were without their amateur groups, almost all of whom attempted to write some of their own material. Self-penned songs were unusual for the mainstream of popular music, but held no fears for folk revivalists; what struck them most forcibly was the immense, unsuspected capacity of this new form of rock’n’ roll for personal expression.
The greatest impact of British music may not have been on “creative artists”, however, but on the music industry. The industry had grown bored with the popular – music scene in the early 1960s. The Beatles in particular reawakened its interest. The reinvigoration of popular music recording brought with it a search for new ways of marketing, and a scramble for new performers to meet the demand.
The Beatles pioneered the idea that the long-playing record (LP) should be more than a discrete collection of unrelated songs. This encouraged the industry to move much of its popular music production into that area – a shift made permanent a little later in the decade by the arrival of the “concept album” (usually attributed to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967). And the simple but effective notion of reducing the traditional number of tracks (and hence the royalties) meant that LP’s could be sold at the same price but bring in more revenue for the music industry.
To an audience that took its music with a growing seriousness, the LP was confirmation of the status of that music. It also proved particularly attractive to the ever-increasing number of FM (frequency modulation) radio stations in the United States. This system of broadcasting, conceived in 1933, was based on a fuller range of frequency than AM (amplitude modulation), and was characterized by its ability to filter out intruding noises.
Finally taking hold in the 1960s, FM statitons steadily grew in number, helped by several related factors such as the introduction of stereo sound in about 11960 (stereo systems soon came complete with FM); the consequent improvement in LP quality; and the adoption of the LP for rock records. Beginning in San Francisco, FM stations became closely associated with “progressive” rock.
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