Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out

Sixties British rock and pop changed music history.  While American popular music dominated the record industry in the late fifties and early sixties, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, and numerous other groups soon invaded the world at large and put Britain at the center of the modern musical map. Please Please Me offers an insider's view of the British pop-music recording industry during the seminal period of 1956 to 1968, based on personal recollections, contemporary accounts, and all relevant data that situate this scene in the economic, political, and social context of postwar Britain.
Author Gordon Thompson weaves issues of class, age, professional status, gender, and ethnicity into his narrative, beginning with the rise of British beat groups and the emergence of teenagers as consumers in postwar Britain, and moving into the competition between performers and the recording industry for control over the music. He interviews session musicians who recorded anonymously with the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, and the Kinks, professional musicians who toured with British bands promoting records or providing dance music, songwriters, music directors, and producers and engineers who worked with the best-known performers of the era.
The consequences of World War Two for pop music in the late fifties and early sixties form the backdrop for discussion of recording equipment, musical instruments, and new jet-age transportation, all contributors to the rise of British pop-music alongside the personalities that more famously made entertainment news.  And these famous personalities traverse the pages of Please Please Me as well: performing songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Ray Davies, and Pete Townshend took center stage while the production teams and session musicians created the art of recording behind the doors of London’s studios.  Drawing his interpretation of the processes at work during this musical revolution into a wider context, Thompson unravels the musical change and innovation of the time with an eye on understanding what traces individuals leave in the musical and recording process.
Opening up important new historical and musical understandings in a repertoire that is at the core of rock music's history, Please Please Me will appeal to all students, scholars, and fans of popular music.
Oxford University Press, Fall 2008
Addenda et Errata

Gordon Thompson's Please Please Me is authoritative, comprehensive, and thoroughly engaging. With lots of information gathered from interviews with the creators themselves and not available elsewhere, Thompson contextualizes his topic with just the right amount of historical and cultural history. Please Please Me will be valuable for all those interested in twentieth-century popular music, music technology, and the British Invasion.
Walter Everett, University of Michigan
Where other chroniclers have dug deep into the popular music world of the 1960s, Gordon Thompson has tunneled his way to the center of the earth. His observations coupled with his ability to identify with the artists, musicians, musical directors and producers of that era make for an enlightening, entertaining and educational book. Thompson has caught the camaraderie, excitement, stress, along with the expertise and experimentation that made the '60s a very special time.
Vic Flick, Session Guitarist
The stories, the personalities, the attitudes, the secrets, the blunders are all here, exactly as they happened. Not only has the author elevated the history of '60s British Pop to an unprecedented level of excellence, but I have been reminded of just how bloody lucky we were to be part of it.
Mitch Murray, Songwriter
I would describe your book as the antidote to pop-rock journalism. Journalists go out looking for people to populate the stories they or their editors have already decided they need. You went to find the people of the sixties British pop music scene and discovered their lives in that world.
     You write about the synergy and creative strains between the song writers and the musicians, the producers and the engineers, getting the balance right and in my view reminding people how the musicians, session as well as known names, were the often publicly underestimated core of the phenomenon. I like the choice of photos.
     For me it is also a great trip down memory lane and things and people I had long forgotten, like Johnny Worth and a late night session recording material for his musical that never happened: "Berlin!".  I remember a great song from that: "Ten per cent of my love" was the title. Could have been a winner.
     I think this is a valuable book for a lot of people, Gordon, as well as a proper history of the phenomena and the times.
James Baring, Regent Sound Studios
Most comprehensive, Gordon. You really have shed light on many aspects of the business and the people involved that are missing from other publications, e.g., revealing peoples' personalities. When I'm reading the book I'm right back there again, re-living the joy, the boredom, the rip offs, the nuts, but essentially remembering the many people I knew so well. We were like a big family actually.
     This is my new reading material at night. Your book will require a number of readings, and that's a joy, it shows it has depth to it. Nothing trite or flippant.
     Again, my sincere congratulations on a work that reflects your diligence, thoroughness, and which illustrates beautifully how you managed to get "below the surface" of the info which you had available to you.
Joe Moretti, Session Guitarist ("Shakin' All Over")
Just finished your book. The accuracy was spot on and I was transported back to the sixties. The memories were as if it was yesterday.
—Margo Quantrell (The Breakaways)

ExpressMilwaukee. "...Please Please Me defines British pop in ways sparklingly accurate and brilliantly insightful. The author gets it all in order with quality writing and an endless quantity of resource material. Thompson does more for this music than anyone has yet to achieve. His study is the best of history and theory combined. In fact, no other book on this subject comes close."
— Martin Jack Rosenblum
PopMatters. "...Thompson’s exhaustive research and expertise make Please Please Me one of the most thorough, as well as one of the most entertaining and engaging, treatises on the topic yet written."
— Christel Loar
Blogcritics Magazine. "...a rich and surprisingly nuanced portrait, a vivid fly-on-the-wall view of how those iconic records of the 1960s got made.... [Thompson] gets to the heart of pop music’s collaborative nature, something that’s just as true today as it was during the British beat revolution. For all of us boomers who still harbor dreams of becoming rock stars ('fess up, now), Please Please Me is just the ticket.
— Holly Hughes
Shindig!"...wildly enjoyable."
— Brian Greene
Goldmine. "Sneak an insider's peak at the British pop music recording industry from 1956-1968 with author Gordon Thompson who provides personal recollections, contemporary accounts and information about the economic, political, and social contexts of postwar Britain."
— Susan Sliwicki (24 April 2009)
Journal of Popular Music Studies. "Please Please Me is a well-informed, thoughtful commentary on the cultural factors and human relationships responsible for the worldwide prominence of British rock; I would recommend it to all scholars and students of the repertoire."
— Christopher Doll, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Harvard Business History Review (Winter 2009, Issue 4). "His carefully crafted study, grounded in a wide range of interviews..., provides a marvelously elegant construction of the process by which music was made, packaged, and sold."
— Richard Coopey, Aberystwyth University and London School of Economics, UK
Journal of Contemporary British History (Volume 23, Issue 3, 2009). "...a genuine and important contribution to the cannon of 1960s musical literature..., the book offers a highly readable and clearly conveyed account of how the pop industry worked in its most fertile and experimental decade."
— Paul Martin, Ruskin College, UK
The Beat magazine. "...this meaty paperback is an academic, but thoroughly engrossing study of the UK recording industry in the 60s... His text blends facts, personal recollections, and period flavour, with enlightening first-hand quotes woven throughout its pages helping to capture the special atmosphere."
— Russell Newmark
Popular Music History. "Key shifts in music history are less often examined through changes in fundamental material practices such as those that occur in recording studios. This is what Gordon Thompson has done for the rise of the new British pop of the early 1960s..., [providing] a fascinating account of what happened when self-sufficient groups replaced solo singers plus orchestras as the primary source of hit records.... [T]his work is highly original and adds significantly to our knowledge of the 1960s.
—David Laing, University of Liverpool
Howard Massey (The Great British Recording Studios, 2015). "Authoritative."

Academic Detritus   |   Return to Thompson Homepage

31 May, 2018