Motown Invades the U.K.


When the Beatles were here, they weren’t there. The same goes for the many other British pop-rock bands that abandoned the U.K. for America in the mid-1960s in search of fame and fortune. Which left Britain with something of an excitement gap. The first American groups to fill the void in the U.K. recorded for Motown. First came the Tamla singles from America, then the albums and finally, in 1965, the tour. But Britain’s yen for Motown was a bit oversold.

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The Tamla-Motown revue snaking through England, Scotland and Wales from March 20 to April 12, 1965 was a box-office flop. But a strange thing happened. The music captivated English artists, who in turn had been covering Tamla-Motown songs without the public being aware of the music’s origins. At the tail end of the tour, Dusty Springfield extended a helping hand and pulled the revue onto BBC-TV’s Ready, Steady Go for a special, which helped ignite Motownmania in Britain. Singles by Motown artists then flooded the British charts in 1966, starting with the Supremes and the rest is history. [Photo above of Motown artists arriving at London Airport in March 1965]


Here’s a wonderful BBC documentary on Motown’s invasion of Britain in 1965 just as the Beatles and other British bands were winning hearts and inducing screams in North America…


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