While Americans were celebrating the Fourth of July this summer, the English were celebrating another British Invasion. A British Invasion of Los Angeles, that is.
The English chose Independence Day 2006 to kick off the eighth annual “Mods & Rockers” summer film festival at Hollywood’s elaborate Egyptian Theatre. The date marked the 40th anniversary of the British Invasion of pop music upon American shores. The American Cinematheque, a film group dedicated to the preservation and screening of rare and classic movies, opened the festivities by showing a time capsule gem titled “Go-Go Mania!” Way, way before MTV, this music revue featured made-for-broadcast performances by British groups like The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Peter and Gordon, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, The Fourmost and The Spencer Davis Group.
In lieu of American celebratory fireworks, the Brits spiced up the screening with a live concert in the theatre courtyard featuring Spencer Davis and Gordon Waller (of Peter and Gordon fame) backed up by The Ravers. The Spencer Davis Group was one of the British Invasion bands that grabbed hold of blues styles. They had international hits with “Gimme Some Lovin” (1966) and “I’m A Man” (1967). Peter and Gordon were often compared to the Everly Brothers and had great success with ballads written for them by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. They scored on the charts with “A World Without Love” in 1964.
Joining Davis and Waller on stage was American songwriter Stephen Bishop, best known for the ballad “On and On” and the theme song for the film “Tootsie.” Bishop ad libbed a wicked imitation of John Lennon trying to explain the colossally misunderstood Jesus Christ comment in his best Liverpudlian. A surprise guest for the evening was Rod Stewart’s bassist, Phil Chen, who has played with Donovan, Jeff Beck, Jackson Browne and Pete Townshend.
When all four of the rockers were waling away on their guitars deep into an improvised version of “I’m A Man,” they blew out the power on the courtyard stage. After a few jokes about Yankee sabotage, American ingenuity soon got the musicians plugged back in for more music.
The British also reveled in another 40th anniversary by celebrating the 1966 World Cup victory of the English football team. The achievement was honored with the screening of the award winning documentary titled “Goal! World Cup 1966.” Just imagine it. Swinging London was in full bloom. The British Invasion of music and fashion was at its zenith. England was hosting the World Cup games for the first time ever. To top it off, England beats Germany in a harrowing overtime championship game attended by Queen Elizabeth. Hail, Britannia.
The American Cinematheque continues the “Mods & Rockers” festival of rare, goofy and cult films from the 1960s in two theatres in the Los Angeles area throughout August.