Popular Music History, Vol 10, No 3 (2015)




Michael Brocken, The Twenty-First-Century Legacy of The Beatles: Liverpool and Popular Music Heritage Tourism. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2015. 224 pp. £70. ISBN 978-1-47243-399-2 (hbk).

Reviewed by: Marlie Centawer, Lecturer, Department of Visual Arts, Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, Brock University, Ontario, Canada


Keywords: popular music studies; The Beatles; popular music tourism

This book offers an in-depth analysis of The Beatles’ legacy on the cultural and tourist industries of their hometown of Liverpool. As noted on the book jacket, Brocken is a Liverpudlian by birth; after three decades of playing and listening to music, he was awarded one of the first doctorates to emerge from the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool in the mid to late 1990s. Currently a Senior Lecturer in Popular Music Studies at Liverpool Hope University, he is also the Head of its Masters of Arts in Beatle studies, the only programme of its kind in the world. Brocken provides a refreshing academic look at the legacy of The Beatles in their hometown, one that has seen change and revitalization since the post-war period, and as the Culture of Capital for 2008, Liverpool has experienced a regeneration in and re-evaluation of its culture and tourist industries.

The book is a detailed and fascinating read, divided into the following chapters: Introduction: ‘We Can Work it Out’—Ideas, Places, Spaces; ’No Reply’: Ideas and Identities—a ’Rocky’ Context for Popular Music Tourism in 1970s Liverpool; ’I’ll Follow The Sun’: The Cunard Yanks Narrative and the Beginnings of 1970s Beatles Tourism; ’Day Trippers’: Confronting Issues around Popular Music Tourism in 1980s Liverpool; ’Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes’—Case Studies: The National Trust, Beatle Streets; ’Is there anybody going to listen to my story?’—Guiding, Cavern City Tours, the Replica Cavern and Horizons.

Brocken also looks to other examples of Beatles popular music tourism, both within Liverpool and outside (‘Dallas and beyond’), including but not limited to: travel, tourism, Liverpool and the Beatles, popular music tourism in Liverpool in the 1970s, the development of The Beatles Story museum located at the Albert Dock, The National Trust’s acquisition of John Lennon’s childhood home ‘Mendips’, the naming of Beatle streets, Cavern City Tours, the replica Cavern, and the future of The Beatles as a tourist industry in Liverpool.

In terms of methodology, Brocken draws on his personal experiences of visiting particular Beatle sites in Liverpool, which are then reframed using aspects of autoethnography combined with spatial theory derived from the writings of Edward Soja. Brocken notes: ‘fans of The Beatles are myriad, each aging equally countless stories to tell about their love of the group. One might actually argue that perhaps of greatest significance to the lovers of Beatles music visiting the city of their birth are the spaces and places of the imagination whereby a tourist or fan might invoke an imagined third place’ (3). This ‘third place’ of social spatiality adds an additional way of experiencing particular places related to the group. Brocken is also interested in how discourses have led us to the present-day representations surrounding The Beatles in Liverpool, and how assertions woven into popular music narratives and canonic authenticities related to how the Beatles should be perceived and perhaps displayed within a changing city. One of the challenges of Brocken’s text, however, is the lack of a closer look at issues of gender in relation to space and place, as Doreen Massey noted in her critical review of Soja’s work in Space, Place, and Gender (1994). Fortunately, Brocken’s Other Voices: Hidden Histories of Liverpool’s Popular Music Scenes 1930s–1970s (2010), another text published as part of Ashgate’s Popular and Folk Music Series, touches on issues of gender, which, in this reviewer’s view, is imperative in a discussion of the experience of music, space and place, and The Beatles, in Liverpool.

For a scholar well-versed in popular music studies, Brocken’s study helps to inform ongoing investigations of The Beatles’ cultural legacy as it intertwines with popular music tourism, The Beatles, and the cultural histories of Liverpool. His analysis provides a starting point in which to investigate issues of spatiality within the changing cityscape that Liverpool provides and has perhaps been encumbered with since the 1940s. Also, his particular brand of auto-ethnography combined with a review of the past and future potentials of Beatles tourism in Liverpool is well-executed and enhances the role of the researcher in the experience of places under consideration within a popular music studies context. His words and approach create a basis in which to reconsider Liverpool as a city whose canvas has shifted consistently from the time The Beatles started to play together in its dark alleys and caverns to the present era.


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