In a recent paper "The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010" published on the Royal Society Open Science website, the authors claim that "... these results suggest that, even if the British did not initiate the American revolution of 1964, they did exploit it and, to the degree that they were imitated by other artists, fanned its flames ...".


So, my question is: If you agree with the authors that there was already a music revolution "brewing" in the US in 1964, who were these revolutionaries? Sure, we already had Elvis, Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, etc. So we had Rockabilly and later Rock & Roll. But was there a US band with a "new" sound and a tune like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (and a whole bunch more where it came from) poised to become the phenom that the Beatles were?

  • 1
    This question should be closed because it has to be primarily opinion based. There were too many influences on society (reflected in music) at the time to be able to say one group had any controlling influence. No Beatles would only have reduced the "British Invasion" influenced music and groups, a small segment (musically) in US music at the time..
    – user3169
    May 9, 2015 at 5:49
  • Also I would not take the linked study too critically. You shoud read in Section 4 "Our study is limited in several ways...".
    – user3169
    May 9, 2015 at 5:56
  • @user3169 meta question : meta.musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/200/…. Some of the chat in 'Off the record' over the last few weeks may be relevant too.
    – user16
    May 9, 2015 at 7:59
  • 1
    If this question is closed, then it might be suitable for Worldbuilding.SE. May 10, 2015 at 4:17
  • obviously rolling stones
    – Freddy
    May 12, 2015 at 12:09

3 Answers 3


Well, The Beach Boys had that whole vocal harmony thing going on, and were one of the major influences on the Sgt Peppers album. So, while The Beatles certainly influenced a huge number of U.S. artists, they, themselves, were influenced by some U.S. artists.

The Byrds, The Animals and Bob Dylan were all finding their stride around the same time The Beatles broke in America.

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    The Animals were another British band, though.
    – DaveP
    May 8, 2015 at 14:02
  • 2
    +1 the Beach Boys pretty much were the American version of the Beatles (or vice versa)
    – DA.
    May 14, 2015 at 1:07

It's impossible to say who would have filled the popularity niche of the Beatles, had they not occurred, since the British Invasion was just one facet of the major music styles of the time. Surf rock was in full swing, folk music was beginning to take off, blues and garage rock styles were just coming into their own.

That said, going by the Billboard Top 100 chart, if we discounted all British acts, the bands with the most #1 singles in the 60's were Elvis Presley and The Supremes. While The Supremes definitely don't fit the "make women swoon" aspect of the Beatles, Elvis certainly did. Granted, being a top band doesn't require even having #1 songs, it is certainly in the metrics.

So while it's impossible to say, money, in an alternate reality without a British Invasion, is probably best placed on Elvis dominating a second decade of music.

You didn't come for that, however; you wanted to know about a stylistic niche. For that, I would offer up the Four Seasons. Their changing style over their most relevant decades and relative popularity would likely have opened them up to greater popularity in a void left by a lack of British bands, in turn pushing more music and experimentation.


  1. Motown, as a record label and a production house, might have continued its dominance over the pop charts without a British Invasion to disrupt its hegemony. Groups like Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops, and the Temptations had a wider range than we remember them for -- they could, like the Beatles, move from ballads to uptempo dance numbers at the drop of a hat. In this soul-dominated world, Sly and the Family Stone could have become the Beatles -- and maybe Sly would have avoided the disillusion and drug use that destroyed him...

  2. One "out of the box" possibility would be that Country music, especially Bakersfield and "outlaw" country, with their twangy guitar licks, could have become dominant as a pop-rock style: imagine Buck Owens and Johnny Cash crossing over big, and Elvis making a permanent comeback.

  3. If one must imagine "rock without the Beatles," arguably the SF Bay area would still have given birth to acid rock even without the British Invasion. Most of the key players in that scene were folkies who moved seamlessly from playing in jug bands or bluegrass to LSD-fueled jams based on old blues, string band music, and or rhythm & blues. Unlike the LA bands, they were not primarily interested in becoming pop stars like the Beatles.

  • Strange thing about point 1 above is that there were several Motown/Philly acts that were more successful in UK than in US.
    – DaveP
    May 12, 2015 at 8:25

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