Categories: Entertainment

The music and times of the British invasion

St. Albert actor

It started innocently enough, English rock bands crossing over into the American market after the breakthrough success of the Beatles.

What no one could have predicted was how British bands from the hard rock of The Rolling Stones and The Kinks to the sweet pop of Gerry & the Pacemakers and Herman’s Hermits would influence popular culture.

Yes, the British invasion of the sixties was repeated several times, and each one was a fresh infusion of rock, blues, R&B and pop-based melodies and hooks.

Many became rock icons, but a greater number didn’t survive the transition into the post-Yellow Submarine era.

Top of the Pops: A British Rock Invasion, now playing at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre until Feb. 1, 2015 skips back to the ’60s for a peek at the original invasion followed by a second wave in the ’70s and a new wave in the ’80s.

Touching briefly on The Beatles, authors Wil Marks and Marcia Kash have compiled charts from David Bowie, Tom Jones and The Who to the more contemporary Adele and Amy Winehouse. There’s even a special Bond medley.

For St. Albert actor Martin Murphy, now in his 13th show at the Mayfield, Top of the Pops is a special homecoming.

His first show with the theatre company was actually an original musical review on the British invasion. Top of the Pops allows him to regroup with four other prototype cast mates – Christine Bandelow, Kevin Dabbs, Pamela Gordon and Brad Wiebe.

“We were totally jazzed to play together again. The thing about this cast is that it’s the cream of the crop. We not only have a good pedigree, but the professionalism and energy is there. We all work together,” Murphy said.

One big difference from the original mount is the time.

“Last time it was almost three hours and we sang 95 songs. This time we’re in the 40 range and the show is about two hours,” said Murphy.

We have all listened to music from the United Kingdom with its wide spectrum and mixed variety.

“What I love about the show is the mix of styles and genres and that makes it more interesting for the audience because they never know what’s coming next.

Murphy, who was raised in the small town of Westlock, saved his dimes and quarters to buy records.

“I personally think it’s more honest. What the British create is mischievous and satirical. Even if it sounds like bubblegum pop, there is something interesting established. They hold up a mirror to society and cut to the chase. They are witty and they try to make it more than a toe tapper. They’re unabashed, so raw and honest and energetic.”

During the original mount, the role of a young Joe Cocker landed in Murphy’s lap and once again the songs of an older Joe Cocker have been bequeathed to him.

“Thirteen years later people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy that did Joe Cocker,’” Murphy commented.

“I love that he is so free with himself. He contorts his body to get the music out of him. He’s not doing it for effect. It’s just the way he has to do it.”

Murphy also makes a surprise visit as the internationally renowned Susan Boyle as well as carrying numerous ensemble roles.

“There is not a song we haven’t heard before. We all know them. We all listen to them. They are very present in our daily lives and we celebrate it.”

Tickets range from $80 to $110. Call 780-483-4051 or purchase online at mayfieldtheatre.ca.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.