THE TIMES | Top Ten Books

Teenagers  |  Rock 'n' Roll  | 45rpm + LPs  |  Pop Culture 

'How does it feel to be…

                        one of the beautiful people?' 


Books well worth the read if you want to find out more about the times The Beatles lived through and why they and their music had such a huge effect on the world's emerging youth culture…and still do.


Revolution In The Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties — Ian MacDonald 

A masterpiece—'sans pareil'. Astonishing. One of the very best books on The Beatles and their music—and their Times—no question about it. Read it once, you'll read it twice, and then read it again and again for the sheer pleasure of it.  A 'Topper-most'.



Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America — Jonathan Gould 

Essential reading. Hugely insightful views into The Beatles’ music, as well as a very nuanced appreciation of the group’s extraordinary influence and affect on postwar society in both the UK and US. Another book to read and read again for the pleasure of Mr Gould's wonderfully wise and witty observations. Another 'Topper-most'.



Revolt Into Style. The Pop Arts In Britain 

— George Melly

One of Liverpool's finest. Jazz singer, TV celebrity, raconteur, columnist. Melly was one of the first to take 'Pop' seriously enough to write about it in book length. From the early part of the decade—but no less perceptive for that—even though he didn't always get The Beatles right, he got a lot right about the 'swirling movements in the stream' that helped give rise to the Fab Four and all the other beat groups.



Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom — Nik Cohn 

The inimitable Nik Cohn. The first real rebel of rock journalism and his early thoughts and pronouncement on Rock 'n' Roll et al still need to be reckoned with—even after all these years. His collection of essays on Britain: 'Yes We Have No' is another wonderful read. Great stuff.



In The Sixties. The Writing That Captured A Decade — Edited by Ray Connolly

Ray Connolly—Liverpool born but one of London's best ever pop culture journalists—shows his sharp eye in this wonderful collection of articles from newspapers and magazines of the time that perfectly capture The Sixties. Ray Connolly long a hero for his slim yet cogent biography 'John Lennon 1940-1980' and for his screenplay for the superb That'll Be The Day. The David Puttnam produced film—starring David Essex—that led to Ringo Starr's best ever screen performance outside A Hard Day's Night. Arguably, the defining portrayal of a 1960s British rocker.


Stardust Memories. Talking About My Generation  — Ray Connolly

Ray Connolly also wrote the screenplay for Stardust the award-winning follow up to That'll Be The Day that helps frame the title of the book. Another collection of newspaper articles—but this time all his own—and a lot of fun it is, too. Ringo is there. As are John and Paul. And Yoko. But so, too are pop luminaries Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger, Dusty Springfield, and Joni Mitchell. Although it was Connolly's pieces on the likes of James Baldwin, Ken Kesey, Spike Milligan, David Storey, Don McCullen, David Bailey, Alan Parker, David Puttnam, and Ned Sherrin that really helped take this reader back to the unique magic of The Times. Top notch.



Beat Merchants. The Origins, History, Impact and Rock Legacy of the 1960s British Pop Groups 

— Alan Clayson

Alan Clayson takes you from the first pre-war stirrings of pop all the way through to sounds of The Sixties and all who made them—or tried to. He not only tells of the artists who went on to become world famous, but also—the many others—from all over the country—who came and went out with a whimper. As a former musician himself during those heady times, he very definitely knows about whom and what he speaks. 

    Alan Clayson and Peter Frame (next) are in a class by themselves when it keeps to the detailed accounting of British pop, rock 'n' roll, and R&B groups. Frame has the draughtsman’s keen and objective eye. Clayson gives you the feeling he was at every single gig by every band that ever played, anywhere in the UK—and is very generous with his memories.

    Tremendous work from both authors.



The Beatles and Some Other Guys—Peter Frame

An un-ending delight. You follow the lines between musicians and the formation of groups. It's seemingly never ending. And such fun.



Rock Odyssey. A Chronicle of The Sixties. 

— Ian Whitcomb

Rock 'n' roll from inside the whirlwind. Ian Whitcomb had a rockin' hit—'You Turn Me On'—that got into the Top Ten charts in 1965—but turned out to be a proverbial 'one hit wonder'. A year later—and someone had turned off the sound system and the amps, let alone all the lights. And so Whitcomb took to writing about it all. An engrossing history of Sixties' rock 'n' roll. Takes the lids off both the London and West Coast music scenes—and isn't at all shy about crashing them together. (Symbolism, anyone?) A heads-up—Ian can get quite worked up at times—and good for him. Always a fun read, though. And very perceptive. His take on the Liverpool sound—very incisive.



Meet The Beatles: A Cultural History of The Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and The World

—Steven D. Stark 

The following four books are all by US authors and all of them well worth the read. This one from 2005 by 'a voice' I knew from listening to National Public Radio. Again the interest for me—the all important question Steven Stark set for himself: To explore and explain the impact The Beatles had on popular culture—and to show how their music as well as their personal lives were inextricably entwined with revolutions in thought, spirituality, and social awareness. And all very engagingly done. My only complaint—that with the more than hundred interviews Mr Stark undertook for the book—many of them in Liverpool—he failed to find and talk to Sam Leach or, for that matter, mention the Iron Door Club or The Tower at New Brighton. Just sayin'



The Sound Of The City: The Rise of Rock and Roll—Charlie Gillett 

These last three books verge more on the academic—this one a particular favourite. When I read on the back cover what Ray Coleman (Melody Maker) had said about Gillett's book—That it could well be 'the definitive document on the social revolution that was rock'—it was enough for me to buy it right then and there. Glad I did, too. As a history of rock 'n' roll—US and UK—it really can't be beat. Gillett's analysis of rock song lyrics is an on-going revelation as to the Times—as they were a'changing. Another book that rewards repeated reading.



Flowers In The DustbinThe Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947 -1977—James Miller

Another history of rock 'n' roll. Nicely written—and his often somewhat disenchanted points of view, very persuasively argued—by a cultural historian and veteran music journalist. All of which is to say—he knows where most all of the bodies are buried and in which dustbins of history they have been consigned to. You can tell he still loves real rock 'n' roll.



Please, Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out—Gordon Thompson

Written by an Ethnomusicologist—who knew? But Gordon Thompson certainly has the wit and wherewithal to delve into the British music scene of The Sixties with a passion and perception that perhaps can only ever come from an outsider looking in. The social, economic, and political influences that shaped so much of postwar Britain are all given their proper due—to give background and context to those that never had to live through them. But everything's drawn in lightly and so the book never goes too far off track—and keeps to its appointed course of being a history seen through the eyes of the songwriters, musicians, A&R men, and record producers of the time—the pop music industry itself. As opposed to rounding up the more usual suspects—the PR stories and ghosted autobiographies of the 'pop stars' themselves. A behind-the-scenes pop history—seen as much from the studios, as the streets, and the clubs. 

    Did it please please me? It was perspicacious in every way.

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