Book Reviews

Please click on the above image for a link to go through to the British Beatles Fan Club website, where the full version of the following review by Peter Sims first appeared.

Thursday, 13th May 2021

"With probably well over 2000 books published about The Beatles since 1962 (not even allowing for those published in other languages) do we need yet another book about them?  Maybe, maybe not.  But Rivals Of The Beatles is not the story of The Beatles as such.  It is the story of some of the other groups who were affected by them along the way.  All these acts in one way or another were influenced by, or owed a debt to, The Beatles.

Rivals Of The Beatles is an excellent piece of work, and would be a worthwhile addition to the libraries of Beatles fans.  It is interesting and well written and, although it contains a lot of information, Rivals Of The Beatles is a highly entertaining read."

Reviewed by Peter Sims For The British Beatles Fan Club
Peter is a contributor and moderator at www.45worlds.com as JPGR&B and is currently creating an online bibliography of The Beatles.

Monday, 7th February 2022

"I've been enjoying your book immensely.  Very interesting and very well written.  Well done.  Your knowledge is incredible - so much detail, and insight into the recording process of the different artists.  And I like the references to The Beatles and what they were doing at the same time. 

You asked me to let you know what I think of the Cliff Richard and the Shadows chapter.  Well I think it's great, particularly because you describe the Pop scene as it was before the Beatles, in the very early sixties and the late fifties, with great acts like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and many more. All of these influenced Cliff Richard and then The Beatles and The Stones etc.  This is all very interesting to me and my age group who remember it well. But it's also good for younger readers, and readers in the future, to know the evolution of music and understand those early times and how different and great they were - and how they changed music forever."

Reviewed by Andrew Rose of Twice As Much

Friday, 31st December 2021

"Hello Martin,

My son Ben, whom I believe you know, gave me your book as a birthday present a few months ago. It is a wonderful book to dip into from time to time and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I started off by reading the preface which set the scene and then followed up by reading about some of my favourite groups of the sixties e.g. The Kinks, Billy J. Kramer, Gerry and the Pacemakers. However, the best group of that era in my opinion was always The Rolling Stones, and I have several of their early LPs including the second album with the infamous cover notes by Andrew Loog Oldham. I thought your coverage of their career was exceptional.

Your research and information was so extensive, and I learnt so much I did not know about the group. I had not appreciated how corrosive the atmosphere was between Brian Jones and Mick & Keith, and how Brian's creativity was thwarted by them. I know he brought a lot of it on himself but what a waste of talent. Something else I did not realise was how the record companies and producers often decided how the albums were compiled and which songs were included, leaving the artists with little or no say.

I picked up lots of little gems like how The Animals came to record The House Of The Rising Sun just by chance because there was a spare half hour of studio time left. Brilliant!

In short, it is a very interesting and exhaustively researched book which reads very well, and you should be congratulated.

Best wishes,"

Stephen Ennis, Surrey

Friday, 18th June 2021 

"Hi Martin, I have just finished reading Rivals Of The Beatles. Wow, what a wonderful book; it brought back so many memories. I am tempted to go back and read a few chapters again so that I can take it all in. There is so much detail. You must be very pleased with it.

Would it be possible to buy another copy? We have someone  in mind who is a big music fan, especially of The Stones. We're sure he would enjoy it."

Martin Curran, Hertfordshire

Monday, 13th September 2021

“If you are into 60s music then this book is worth acquiring. It features 20 bands, including the likes of The Dave Clark 5, The Yardbirds, The Stones, The Beach Boys etc, so in a way it is like 20 biogs in one. (So good value). It’s extremely well written, complete with some added humour. It’s also very informative and leaves few stones unturned regarding how each band did. There were a few acts in it I hadn't heard of so even I learnt something, but that's because these bands were bigger in America.

Because of my extensive knowledge in music history and having been a former DJ and record shop manager, I knew quite a lot already about many others. However, I like to read interesting journey type stories and found the one on Pete Best, the former Beatles drummer, very interesting because one assumed after missing out he just gave up. He was devastated for a while and he didn't get any help from his ex-band mates, but he did indeed plough on for many years and so it was good to read about his struggle for success. Although major success still eluded him he did finally get a pay off from Paul McCartney for the Beatles Anthology album for early Beatles tracks and as result became a millionaire. So at least he has been able to enjoy his old age.

P.F. Sloan was another interesting character that turned up in the book. He was ripped off and treated extremely shoddily by labels despite writing scores of hit records.

In some way this book was more a reflection of how the record industry was run back in the sixties (mostly incompetently), which in fact carried on in the following decades. It also came across loud and clear how important good original songs were, because those who didn't write their own didn't last so long. Also it begged the question how important were many bands themselves as a substantial number didn't even play on the records, with a lot of their recordings done by session players. So sometimes only the vocalist was essential for recording. The likes of Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore all started as session players.

To conclude, if you like music history and the 60s then this is a great book to get.”

Russell C. Brennan, owner of Future Legend Records.
Author and record producer of hit acts. Listed in the top 20 most innovative record producers of all time on some websites. Editor of ‘Dedicated Follower’ music fanzine.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021

"As someone of a certain age and a passionate muso, I was very interested to hear about Martin’s book, Rivals Of The Beatles. When I say ‘Book’, I mean Magnum Opus, as anyone taking on the challenge of reading it from cover to cover (as I did) will end up with sore arms if they try to read it in the bath. At over 800 pages this could never be described as light reading!

That said, Rivals Of The Beatles is a wonderful, rich cornucopia of facts and anecdotes about those early days of rock music. I pride myself on knowing a bit about the genre, but I was constantly astonished at Martin’s depth and breadth of knowledge about a subject clearly dear to his heart.

Anyone who loves music and The Beatles should read this book – just not in the bath."

Mark Coffer, Hertfordshire.

Monday, 7th June 2021

"I still have a pile of LPs, which I cannot bring myself to dispose of. I recall my brother once went to a party and there, I think, is where my fabulous Beatles singles were lost to me.

All of Martin Orkin's in-depth knowledge of that era had to find an audience. Martin could have chosen Mastermind, the television show, where there is little doubt he would have excelled in the specialist round. Instead he has produced an eight hundred page book: Rivals of the Beatles. Physically it is a beauteous item to hold. Clear, good size print – for we who have the most interest have progressed in years!

Rivals Of The Beatles sets out to establish what made The Beatles the world champions, and why other groups were unable to achieve the same success. It is packed with incredible details, many of which will be unknown to most people until they read this work. It is a fascinating journey of comparison and contrast which may, in years to come, form the basis of a college course on the history of popular music. Already some universities apparently offer courses on studying The Beatles, so why not their Rivals as well? In the meantime, this book provides a super journey back into the days when music really was music."

Stephen from Scotland.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021

"Reading Rivals Of The Beatles, I feel like I am in a time machine taking me back to a time when I was growing up and listening to all that wonderful music in a Golden Age!!! This book perfectly captures the synergistic relationship between the Beatles and many of their contemporaries/rivals! They influenced, learned, and benefited from each other's talents. The world could use that chemistry once again!

A wonderful book, Martin!!!
Congratulations!!!"

John Bezzini, USA.
Administrator of 'The Beatles In Print - Together And Solo' Facebook group."

[John Bezzini's Facebook group is US based and is comprised of Beatles and similar music-related fans. His group has 3,300 members!]

Tuesday, 27th April 2021

"Oh my gosh! What a book! How come you know so much detail? Amazing!

OK. I've had a chance to look at your book, Rivals Of The Beatles...

The first thing which strikes me is that although it has so much detail, you write in a folksy way. For example: "And how long would that last for? One year?" So it is easy to read. Also it is a personal story – "They were a sugar pop confection "; “A dreadful cover"; "He couldn't stand Dylan". I am sure those comments will help sell the book, as people recognise that they come from someone who is very knowledgeable, and entitled to make those judgments.

Some particular points:

1. I love the layout in separate paragraphs.
2. Star appraisal of each song is fab.
3. 20 rivals to choose from.
4. Beautiful production and pages don't flick close.
5. Font style ✅
6. Size of font ✅
7. Good price!
8. Detail is phenomenal.
9. Humour ✅
10. Reviews section... very clever, dear boy.

All in all.... ✅✅✅.

Well done! You should feel so proud you have been able to write this from scratch, and there is so much information in it. You put the whole thing together on your own, without an editor and with no errors. There is a lot there, and of course that was your intention, so that is great. A real legacy for you, your family and the whole music industry. I really do hope it is a commercial success. It deserves to be one."

David Futerman, London.

Saturday, 7th November 2020

“It’s been 50 years since The Beatles split up. One would think that everything that could be said about The Beatles, would have been said by now. But wait. Along comes a book written from a new perspective that provides fresh insight into the genius of The Beatles while confirming yet again how utterly magical and imperious they were. We can say this of course based not only on their musical output and legacy, but also from the tales of the 20 groups whose differing fates are outlined in this superb narrative.

To be successful in the pop world requires so many different elements that need to work hand in hand. Factors such as musical ability, songwriting talent, looks, charisma, supportive management, record company backing, opportunity, good luck and so on. Some groups had a majority of these advantages but failed to make an impact; some had very few and yet were very successful indeed. It’s the stories of these groups and their interplay with chance and fate that makes this book so fascinating for anyone interested in the music of The Beatles’ era.”

Pete from Indianapolis, USA. 

Saturday, 11th September 2021

"Martin Orkin knows and loves the 60s, and if he uses the title of his hefty encyclopaedic tome as a catch-all way of debating everyone from The Yardbirds to Twice As Much, that's fine by me. His is a highly readable, uncluttered facts-'n'-information narrative style perfectly suited to discussing twenty varied products of the 60s rock phenomenon, while arguing their relevance within the framework of Beatlesdom. Rivals Of The Beatles is a compulsive page-turner."

Reviewed by Andrew Darlington for RNR Magazine

Wednesday, 15th September 2021

"Hi Martin, I really enjoyed your book – even though I grew up in the 60's, studied music (clarinet and saxophone), and I enjoyed listening to the groups that came to the area, I was not a collector of records, nor a discerning listener of the music that came on the radio.  Your book was an amazingly fun and informative description that I never got tired of delving into each day as I moved from group to group.  The ending of the book was yet another delightful surprise, a prequel almost for the Beatles era that was the major subject matter for the rest of the book.  I felt like I had been given a privileged insider view of a world I was only vaguely aware of before.  It was astounding how much I didn't know, even as I enjoyed my limited connection to it. 

What I didn't realize and your book brought home to me is that not just the performers change, but the whole of the way music is generated, performed, listened to and enjoyed that has a generational aspect to it.   Like the entertainment business in general, performers did what they could to maximize their share of the profits as the landscape grew and changed, and the ethics of their methods ran the gamut, as you made clear in your book.   

As I read through your book I found myself not just enjoying my memories of each of the groups mentioned but also enjoying learning much more about each one than I ever was aware of before.  Congratulations – I really enjoyed myself, and really am happy you took the time and energy to share with those of us who are very much less knowledgeable, the depth and breadth of your clear passion for the subject.   

I hope that more people are seeing the value of your book and that you soon sell out your initial printing (if you haven't already!) "

Andy Joseph, USA

Copyright © 2020 Martin Orkin. All rights reserved.