We’ve all heard of the British invasion, right? That period of the 1960s when America was flooded with great rock bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Kinks and many more. And how this movement lasted until the 70s with other bands like Led Zeppelin.
This time, for sure, it gave great, great, great music. But how did it happen? What were the situations and scenarios that led to these great British acts? While the music is certainly the result of talent, skill, and hard work, it’s also the result of those bands listening to American blues records.
During World War II, soldiers brought records from artists like Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Lead Belly and others to Europe. Many of these vinyls remained after the fight in small poor towns, such as Liverpool (where the Beatles originated). These albums served as the basis for British rock bands Invasion.
As such, we wanted to present a list of old blues songs that would eventually provide the inspiration, basis or outright material for covers of tunes now made famous by UK bands Invasion and other bands now beloved.
We hope you enjoy this walk through history. And while not all of the songs on the list are directly involved in the British invasion itself, you get the idea behind the various connections in these songs. Finally, we would like to thank KEXP DJ Eva Walker (of The Black Tones) for her help in putting together this list.
1. Howlin Wolf “The Backdoor Man” / The Doors “The Backdoor Man”
2. Lead Belly “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” / Nirvana “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
3. Erma Franklin “Piece of My Heart” / Janis Joplin “Piece of My Heart”
4. Sonny Boy Williams “Bring It Home” / Directed Zeppelin “Bring It Home”
5. Irma Thomas “Time is on my side” / The Rolling Stones “Time is on my side”
6. Muddy Waters “Rollin and Tumblin” / Hornet Leg “Rollin and Tumblin”
7. Memphis Minnie “When the levee breaks” / Led Zeppelin “When the levee breaks”
8. John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom” / “Boom Boom” Animals”
9. Lead Belly “Black Betty” / Ram Jam “Black Betty”
10. “Crossroads” Cream / Robert Johnson “Crossroads”
Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage