The Unpublished Writings of Dr. Mike Brocken

From Something to Something - One Syllable at a Time

Mike Brocken became one of the first few Doctoral students to emerge in the 1990s, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Popular Music. He has spent more than a quarter of a century teaching, supervising, and external examining the academic study of popular music. Whilst at Liverpool Hope University he created and taught the world’s first (and thus far only) MA degree concerning the Beatles: The Beatles, Popular Music and Society.

During this time, he was also able to re-launch one of Liverpool’s oldest independent labels (Mayfield) and to begin a radio career on BBC Radio Merseyside. After initially leaving the BBC in 2007, Mike was invited to return in 2014 to present their flagship programme Folkscene: the longest-running specialist music show in British broadcasting history (which he continues to do to this day). As a member of the BBC Radio Merseyside team he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2017.

Dr Brocken has been published widely on a variety of popular music topics, ranging from the British folk revival to biographies of Burt Bacharach and Joe Flannery to Beatles tourism in Liverpool; however he is perhaps best known for his ground-breaking book concerning previously ‘hidden’ popular music scenes in post-WWII Liverpool: Other Voices (Ashgate, Routledge). His latest text (co-written with Jeff Daniels, 2018) concerns another of Liverpool’s ‘partially hidden’ histories: that of Black Liverpudlian jazz pioneer Gordon Stretton (Lexington Press).

A Liverpudlian by birth, Mike is married to Chris and lives in Chester.


Following the mid-1990s publication of my MA thesis concerning cover versions played and recorded by the Beatles (a small independent monograph published as a limited edition with the assistance of Natasha Gay at the Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool) and its later re-publication in the US academic journal Popular Music & Society, I tended to follow two particular research strands of interest, one of which was related to my doctoral studies: the varying histories of UK folk and traditional music scenes, and the other (the one which led to the aforementioned MA dissertation) partially-hidden histories of popular music in Liverpool. By the turn of the century I was pleased to discover that my interests were shared, not only by other popular music academics but also by leading academic editors for UK publishing houses.

For example, soon after conferment of my PhD in 1998 I was approached by Professor Ian Inglis for a piece concerning the gay Liverpool popular music entrepreneur Joe Flannery for Ian’s Beatles reader The Beatles, Popular Music & Society to be published by MacMillan. Professor Michael Talbot requested a chapter concerning the British folk music media and industry for his edited volume for Liverpool University Press: The Business of Music, and Heidi Bishop of Ashgate Books asked me for an entire volume based upon my PhD research of the British Folk Revival. In the latter case, I had already allowed parts of the PhD to be electronically ‘published’ by Rod Stradling’s Musical Traditions website, but Rod kindly removed the work from the site so that editing and publishing with Ashgate might begin.

By early 2003 Ashgate had published The British Folk Revival. This text appeared the same year as my work for Chrome Dreams concerning the life and times of one of my musical heroes Burt Bacharach: effectively the first biography of Burt ever to be published. Both texts received mostly positive reviews, and both sold quite well (indeed, I think the Ashgate volume has remained in print ever since – although it is now in serious need of an update!).

Certain elements of my PhD were edited out of the Ashgate volume because it was an extremely long thesis and chapters had to be merged for publication. I had also included the world’s first discography of Topic Records and Heidi informed me that they wanted this to be included in the published text – an early experience for me of hard editing and the peer review process. Frustratingly, although paper copies do still exist of the original thesis (for example, I have two), electronic copies do not (even if they had, they would exist on floppy disk).

So, following what was for me quite a momentous year, self-confidence grew, and my two primary research strands continued. From 2004 to the present day I have continued to write from within these chosen spheres of research concerning:

a. The city of Liverpool’s odd relationship with popular music (e.g. the sounds of slavery, hidden popular music scenes from pre-and post-WWII Liverpool, Joe Flannery, Percy Phillips, and most recently alongside Jeff Daniels, the Black Liverpudlian ‘Jazzer’ Gordon Stretton …

b. Folk and traditional music issues and figures such as Rolf Gardiner, the song ‘Rock Island Line’, folk broadcaster Geoff Speed’s radio archive (since Geoff’s sad passing in 2019 now in the hands of a sound archivist, I’m very pleased to say), Cliff Hall of the Spinners, and more recently gender issues within the British Folk Revival …

Additionally in more recent years I have also concerned myself with Liverpool’s built environment and its relationship with popular music ‘scenes’, the, at times, tortuous history of Beatles tourism (which has helped to re-energise Liverpool socially and economically), together with an article or two concerning the Master of Arts degree programme ‘The Beatles, Popular Music & Society’, which I instigated, ran and taught with great success at Liverpool Hope University between 2007 and 2019, creating, in the process, almost 100 Masters graduates. I even found time to research the ‘partly hidden’ history of Liverpool City rugby league football club (which was great fun) and this work was published in 2008.

Throughout this long and (it is fair to say) prolific period of writing, certain chapters, essays, and reviews etc. did not, as suggested previously, make ‘the final cut’. Therefore my friend and former colleague at Liverpool Hope University Ian Percy thought that it might be interesting to launch an ‘Unpublished Brocken’ section on his excellent website, a place where one might peruse, for example, a chapter that was not published owing to its subject matter not quite matching a ‘parent’ book’s theme, or an article written for an online journal that might now be defunct; perhaps even a chapter from a short-run series, which has now sold-out and/or will not be re-published, etc.

Alongside Ian’s superb music and the work from the other artists, academics and researchers mentioned on this site, perhaps we might offer further evidence that (as one of my texts was entitled) ‘Other Voices’ are always at work in and around the city of Liverpool.

Dr Mike Brocken


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This research is made available for public access and peer review, but Dr Mike Brocken retains full ownership of any and all intellectual property, media resources and text, and should be formally accredited for any references to, or use of, these materials.

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