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THE PLACES |   Top Ten Books

Liverpool | Hamburg | London

'There's a place where I can go…'

Some of the best books to have a look at if you want to know more about Liverpool—its Clubs, Pubs, Cafes, Coffee Bars, Ballrooms, Theatres, and Music Stores—and the Hamburg Clubs, and the London Recording Studios most closely associated with the early years of The Beatles: 1960-1963

01

Mersey Beat: The Beginnings of The Beatles — Bill Harry (Compiled by Miles)

For the authentic feel of what was going on around Merseyside—on the streets, in the stores, as well as in the clubs—even who was off in Hamburg—there's no better place to start than with this compilation of replica pages of Mersey Beat—Merseyside's Own Entertainments Paper. Whatever else you read was written years afterwards (Hunter Davies and Michael Braun the most notable exceptions—but even they wrote several years after the events that saw the birth of The Beatles.) It's always struck me as truly extraordinary that two such gifted chroniclers as Bill Harry, in Liverpool, and Astrid Kirchherr, in Hamburg, were both on hand to witness and record the early days of the biggest pop-music phenomenon of the Twentieth Century. And that they both did it so well, so convincingly, and so very expertly—everyone that came after them stands on their shoulders—no exceptions. 

    This 'facsimile newspaper-size’ compilation may be hard to locate, but if you manage to get your hands on one, you'll see it's more than worth it, as you'll find yourself reading it from cover-to-cover, over and over again.

 

02

The Birth of The Beatles US  (The Rocking City UK)

— Sam Leach

One of my absolute favourite books about the Liverpool of the early days of the Beatles. Sam Leach's very funny, sometimes sad, book deserves a place on every Beatles' bookshelf. Recommended on so many levels—and multiple times on this website—simply to ensure that you—or the person before or after you—doesn't miss it. A few photos in black and white—but colourful memories aplenty. The fine eye for detail in Sam's "word pictures" and the all-encompassing sweep as regards The People—The Places—The Times—will astonish, astound, confound, and delight you.

03

The Beatles in Liverpool — Spencer Leigh

Spencer Leigh knows Merseyside—its People, Places, and Times—like the back of his proverbial hand. It's so very rewarding to see so many key photographs and facts all made so very accessible by this terrific author—a true Liverpudlian. Look out for his other books, too—especially The Beatles in Hamburg and The Beatles in America.

 

04

Liddypool - Birthplace of The Beatles — David Bedford

Another true Liverpudlian and true Beatles' fan at work—and a weighty tome it is, too—almost the size of an LP album cover. Three hundred and thirty-plus pages of great photos—old and new—detailed notes, maps, and commentaries. As Bedford says: "To understand The Beatles, you have to understand Liverpool." The author's love for The Beatles and the city that gave birth to them shines through on every page. A bit like taking a magical mystery tour all around Liverpool with the friend that lived there you'd always wished you'd had. Not cheap—but the good stuff rarely is. 

 

05

The Beatles - The True Beginnings — Roag Best with Pete Best and Rory Best

A coffee table book—hardback and in full colour—for one of Liverpool's truly original beat clubs and coffee bars. I'm a great admirer of Pete Best—by all accounts a very decent man. He endured with unfailing dignity events that would have undoubtedly reduced most other men to rubble. But Pete Best survived and later—once he got back to where he once belonged—behind a drum kit—thrived. All aided, no doubt, by the love of a very close-knit family. I like the very idea of The Casbah Club. What a truly astonishing idea it was for the times, too—to have a club in the basement of a large suburban house that also just happens to be the family home. Like the club, itself, the book is a labour of love by Roag, Pete, and Rory Best—that charts the storied times of the club—from pre-Beatles' days—through the tumultuous times when Pete played with the band. Then on afterwards—to the club's closure and recent resurrection into one of the very few places in Liverpool that offers anything like the true 'ambiance' of The Beatles from way back when it was all happening. Great work—all round. The only thing left to be said: "Thanks, Mo."

 

06=

Hamburg Days — Astrid Kirchherr & Klaus Voormann

A big coffee-table book of a book that you'll probably want to keep under lock and key, it's so fab. Published by the specialist, high-end, photo-art-book publishers 'Genesis Publications'—it's but one of several of their offerings that feature The Beatles. It's also somewhat expensive—it comes in its own box—has its own edition number—but the photos and drawings and reminiscences by the extraordinarily talented Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann make this an absolute keeper. The closest thing to being back in Hamburg—back then—especially if you also add:

 

06=

The Beatles in Hamburg — Jürgen Vollmer

Another keeper. Terrific black and white photographs—all  by Jürgen Vollmer—from the early days of The Beatles in Hamburg. All abetted by a nice commentary from Jürgen himself—although the translation from the original German text can seem somewhat stilted in comparison to the undying brilliance of the photographs. It's here you'll see the origins of the famous photo of John Lennon standing inside a doorway down by the docks that was used on the cover of the 'Rock 'n' Roll' album.

 

06=

Hamburg - The Cradle Of British Rock — Alan Clayson

"People think they are listening to the Liverpool sound, but what they are actually hearing is the Hamburg sound, because this is where it was created". At least, that's the opinion of Kingsize Taylor—and he should know—he and his group The Dominoes were Liverpool and Hamburg favourites. Alan Clayson doesn't spare too many punches in his often very frank account of what really went on—with British groups—in Hamburg during the Sixties. Eye-opening—at times even eye-watering.

 

07

Beatlemania! The Real Story of The Beatles UK Tours 1963-1965 — Martin Creasy

Another winner from Omnibus—who also published 'Mersey Beat: The Beginnings of The Beatles' by Bill Harry. Beatlemania! is the perfect companion to Michael Braun's great “Love Me Do!” The Beatles’ Progress. When read together, they give a 360 degree view—inside and outside the bubble—of The Beatles on tour. Creasy's book is an absolute delight for anyone that actually witnessed those early UK tours—the memories will come flooding back. For everyone else—the two books give a wonderful sense of having been there. Yeah Yeah Yeah.

08

Liverpool - Wondrous Place: From the Cavern to the Capital of Culture – Paul Du Noyer

I'd already written The One After 9:09 when I came across this wondrous book from Paul Du Noyeran esteemed British music journalist and real live Liverpudlian​. His knowledge of the Merseyside music scene—from pre-Beatles to the turn of the millennium—is unparalleled. All I could do then was hold up his book as a mirror and hope I'd managed to capture some of the true magic and spirit of the city. Du Noyer is enlightening—never clawing or sentimental—as he explains the rise of The Beatles in the light of the city that gave birth to them. And in the end you have to agree—The Beatles couldn't have come from any other place on God's green earth. As Du Noyer says: "Liverpool is more than a place where music happens—Liverpool is the reason why it happens." It's also why you should read this terrific book. And why you should also search out his contributions to the MOJO book: The Beatles. 10 Years That Shook The World.

 

09

The Beatles' Liverpool: The Complete Guide– Ron Jones

There's a lorra books out there that promise to make your day(s) chasing around Liverpool in search of any lasting traces of The Beatles go with a swing and a bang and not a thud This one is slim enough to slip into your pocket or handbag and get you pointed in the right direction—and then some—it's loaded with great stuff: photos, maps, facts—there's even a proper index and dedicated 'Information for Visitors' pages complete with telephone numbers and addresses. All put together by a regular 'Scouser' who I first heard about in regards to The Art of The Beatles exhibition he helped put together way back when (try find a copy of the exhibition catalogue if you can—well worth the price of admission—whatever anyone's asking for it these days).  Nice one, Ron.

 

10=

The Beatles London — Piet Schreuders | Mark Lewishon | Adam Smith (Foreword by Derek Taylor)

On the cover it says: The Ultimate Guide To Over 400 Beatles Sites In And Around London. And it does just that—with maps and photographs and commentaries—helping deliver Beatles fans to all relevant postal districts. Buy two. One to peruse at home. One to carry around London. Mark Lewishon's name alone—the guarantee of authenticity.

 

10=

Abbey Road: The Recording Studio That Became A Legend — Brian Southall | Peter Vince | Allan Rouse 

This has to be on the list. It's where The Beatles first met George Martin. And the rest, as they say, is history. Our Paul says: "It's the best studio in town". It's certainly the one with most graffiti-covered walls—and a zebra-crossing outside that simply can't be beat. 

 

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