We can work it out

Popular and academic writing on The Beatles


  • Marcus Collins Loughborough University




The Beatles, popular music, 1960s, Britain, rock criticism, historiography


This article surveys the evolution of popular and academic research on The Beatles from the 1960s to the present. The section on popular writing identifies and critiques four strands of popular writing on The Beatles: hagiographical and sensationalist biographies, rock criticism and chronicling. The section on academic writing argues that traditionalist academics initially opposed the very idea of scholarship on The Beatles and that contemporary British historians still question the band’s significance as part of their wider revisionist critique of the 1960s as a major turning-point in modern British history. The article concludes by suggesting how academics might profitably pursue a less biographical approach and a more rigorous form of source analysis than that generally found in popular works.

Author Biography

Marcus Collins, Loughborough University

Marcus Collins is Senior Lecturer in Cultural History at Loughborough University. He is the author of Modern Love (2003) and editor of The Permissive Society and its Enemies (2007) and numerous articles on The Beatles and their contemporaries. He is currently completing a monograph on The Beatles and the culture, society and politics of 1960s Britain.


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ATV. 1969. Man of the Decade. Broadcast, 30 December.

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Baur, Michael, and Steven Baur, eds. 2005. The Beatles and Philosophy. Chicago, IL: Open Court.

BBC. 2010. ‘The Top 60 Best Selling Records of the 60s’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sknv3. Broadcast, 31 May.

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Collins, Marcus. 2007. ‘The Permissive Society and its Enemies’. In The Permissive Society and its Enemies, ed. Marcus Collins, 1–40. London: Rivers Oram.

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How to Cite

Collins, M. (2015). We can work it out: Popular and academic writing on The Beatles. Popular Music History, 9(1), 79–101. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v9i1.27619