Records & Rebels

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Friday 29th April 2016

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 is an exhibition taking place at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, running from 10th September 2016 - 26th February 2017.

The major exhibition is designed into 6 sections, each with highly immersive and atmospheric environments that will incorporate elements from music, fashion, film, design and politics. These are then examined to investigate the many facets of cultural change that happened throughout those revolutionary years in the late 1960s. 

The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, 'Revolution' 1968 by Alan Aldridge
© Iconic Images, Alan Aldridge

The exhibition begins with a recreation of Carnaby Street, exploring revolution in youth identity in 1966. This was the year Time magazine dubbed London ‘The Swinging City,’ reflecting its sensational rise as a cultural centre for fashion, music, art and photography. Clothing from Mary Quant and Mr Fish will be accompanied with photographs by the likes of David Bailey & Terry O'Neill, alongside images of Michael Caine and Twiggy, all backed with songs by The Kinks, Beach Boys and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. Films including Blow Up (1966) and Alfie (1966) will be shown.

Blow Up, 1966
© MGM / The Kobal Collection

The second section focuses on clubs and counterculture and will explore forms of experimentation, alternative lifestyles and the idea of revolution in the head through displays relating to drugs, psychedelia, the occult, underground literature and pirate radio. It will centre on an immersive evocation of London’s UFO club, an experimental venue known for combining live music with light shows and avant-garde film, where Pink Floyd were the house band and the UK’s first macrobiotic food was on sale. Audio-visual material including Roger Corman’s film about LSD The Trip (1967) and examples of pioneering liquid light shows will be presented against a backdrop of psychedelic music from Cream, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd.

The unprecedented influence of The Beatles is explored throughout, with an area dedicated to the ground-breaking band’s momentous release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967, including handwritten lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, original illustrations by Alan Aldridge and George Harrison’s sitar and 1967 diary.

The Acid Test poster designed by Wes Wilson 1966
printed by contact printing co.

Courtesy of Steward Brand

The third section will explore revolution on the street, showing how youth solidarity crossed causes and continents into politics, leading to physical protest during the late 1960s. It will centre on the 1968 Paris student riots, a volatile period of civil unrest. Atelier Populaire posters pasted on walls during the protests will be shown alongside newsreel footage and music relating to the dramatic demonstrations.

The period was also marked by widespread opposition to the war in Vietnam; propaganda material collected by an American soldier in Vietnam and puppets used in theatrical anti-Vietnam demonstrations in San Francisco will be on display. A wall of protest posters will indicate the range of causes and calls for solidarity, featuring revolutionary figures from Chairman Mao to Che Guevara and Martin Luther King - all icons of the counterculture.

Anti-Vietnam demonstrators at the Pentagon Building 1967
Photo by Bernie Boston The Washington Post via Getty Images

Slogans, adverts and jingles will introduce the fourth exhibition environment which explores revolution in consumerism, fed by a rapid increase in personal wealth and the arrival of the credit card. The 1967 Montreal and 1970 Osaka World Expos offered views of a consumer-led future and welcomed tens of millions of visitors to a vast showcase of mass design and technology products.

This section will also reference the rise in television ownership which brought real-time news coverage of the Vietnam War and moon landings into people’s homes and the space suit worn by William Anders, who took the defining ‘Earthrise’ photograph on the Apollo 8 mission, will be on display alongside a moon rock on loan from NASA.

Postcard from the Montreal World Expo 1967
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The fifth exhibition environment will focus on festivals and revolutions in gatherings, showing how record-breaking crowds gathered to listen to music, often driven by a utopian vision of living together. Instruments, costumes and ephemera will be shown against a dramatic backdrop of large screens playing early festival footage from Monterey, Woodstock, Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight and Newport Jazz Festival within a climactic double height gallery space.

The focal point will be Woodstock in 1969, which saw more than 400,000 people converge for four days of peace and music, and live tracks recorded at the event will play throughout. Performers’ costumes on display will include a kaftan worn by American rock diva Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, a native American style suit worn by The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltry and a jacket and guitar belonging to Jimi Hendrix.

John Sebastian performing at Woodstock, 1969
© Henry Diltz Corbis

The sixth and final exhibition environment will look at alternative communities living on the USA’s West Coast during the period as the birthplace of a revolution in communications. Communities in California and elsewhere were grounded in psychedelic rock, sexual liberation, rejection of institutions and a ‘back to the land’ philosophy.

A soundtrack evoking the spirit of communal living will include California Dreamin by The Mamas & The Papas and The 5th Dimension’s Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In, combined with footage from films including Easy Rider (1969).

On display will be a replica of the first ever computer mouse designed by Douglas Engelbart and a rare Apple 1 computer.

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