Eric Musgrave

Since 1980, menswear & fashion retail commentator, opinionated thought-leader,
event host & all-round top bloke. Contact me to discuss working together.

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You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 at the V&A

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

A visit to the latest lavish V&A exhibition is highly recommended.

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You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is an extensive overview of just five frantic years, covering music, fashion, social change, politics, science, product design and more besides. I loved it because I lived it, being aged between 10 and 15 years  in the period. I am confident younger punters will enjoy it too because so many influences are still being felt today.

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Ah, the disappearing art of the LP sleeve – a sad loss in this era of the digital download. There are dozens of sleeves dotted around the exhibition.

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It is fascinating to recall the change in The Beatles from the 1964 appearance with Ed Sullivan to the amazing cover of Sgt Pepper’s. I can remember my sister Sue bringing home a copy on the day of its release, 1 June 1967. The cover is recreated in part at the V&A. The show’s title is, of course, taken from Revolution, a track on the Fab Four’s The White Album from 1968.

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There is lots of great fashion on show, including this Mary Quant suit and a paper dress that was given away by the Campbell Soup Company in exchange for two coupons from labels of vegetable soup cans.20160907_11322120160907_113326

This tableau is particularly effective (although the second row is hard to see and even harder to photograph!). The jumpsuit on the far right is by Ossie Clark for Mick Jagger.

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As we now expect from the V&A, the exhibition is multi-media. It is interesting to see the ad for Polaroid cameras, which have just been updated by the Impossible Project.

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Levi’s is the main sponsor, while the “sound experience” comes courtesy of Sennheiser. The compelling and evocative soundtrack plays automatically as one walks round the show.

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The Black Power movement is recalled in a section with images including Huey P Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.

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The US influence on popular culture is celebrated in all manner of exhibits, but for people of my age just a few lines prove to be so evocative. The movie Easy Rider was amazingly exotic to me when I sneaked in, under age, to see it in Leeds in 1970 or thereabouts. Consider also that Janis Joplin died just three days after recording Mercedes Benz on 1 October 1970.

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The largest room in the show is devoted to the rock festivals of the period, especially Woodstock (15-18 August 1969). Massive screens show the familiar footage (here Country Joe & The Fish) but so many of the performances are still exhilarating, including that of The Who; half of the band did die before they got old.

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As well as Levi’s and Sennheiser, the V&A was supported by the Grow Annenberg Foundation, Fenwick and Sassoon. The exhibition was organised by Geoffrey Marsh, director of the V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance, and Victoria Broackes, a curator in the V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance and head of Performance Exhibitions.

You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 runs from 10 September 2016 until 26 February 2017.

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