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

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70

It’s got to the stage where if I don’t write something about the V&A’s big new exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70, it’ll be bloody over (jokes, you’ve got until Feb next year, but still).

So I’ma just blurt out my thoughts as they pop into my head, instead of the meticulously crafted exhibition walk-through I seem to have planned in my head.

I’m undergoing a huge transformational period rn. I’m trying to overcome ongoing health issues, created primarily through stress overload and burn-out, but I’m also facing a change of direction career-wise.

As part of that, I’m trying to tap into the creativity which used to flow freely in my youth. The 60s were a huge source of inspiration for me when I was studying art and therefore I find myself turning to those same inspirations now. That therefore made the show a must-see for me and so I made it my Artist Date (read more about that here) for the opening week.

Funnily enough, the last time I left an art exhibition feeling super PUMPED (no but seriously) and inspired was after a press preview of the David Bowie Is…, also at the V&A, back in 2013 – and this show has been put together by the very same team.

Designed to be as immersive as the David Bowie show, the theme is (obviously) revolution: How the late 1960s marked an era-defining significance and impact upon life and culture, expressed through some of the greatest music and performances of the 20th century alongside fashion, film, design and political activism.

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

You’re given an audio-guide and make your way through six sections, starting with London’s Carnaby Street, going into a club, the Paris protests, consumerism, the moonlandings, Woodstock, early computing, which help you to really reflect on the spirit of the 60s

There were loads of cool, original items on display, including:

  • A dress from Twiggy’s boutique.
  • A moon rock on loan from NASA alongside the space suit from the epic Apollo 8 mission.
  • A rare Apple 1 computer.
  • An Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger.
  • Handwritten lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles.

For some reason, seeing the original satin suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band made me feel really emotional – I guess about the fact that true great talents are no longer with us, and that their bodies once occupied those suits (this is why I have to meditate daily, as my internal monologue can be a bit much at times…).

I scribbled loads of notes and references as I went around, and as ever, was massively inspired by the design work – especially by the illustrative posters:

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

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

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

Predictably, my favourite section was the room dedicated to the original Woodstock festival, playing footage of The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Sly Stone and John Sebastian performances on massive multi-screens.

With astro-turf and bean-bags on the floor, I spent ages studying and sketching the mannequins around the perimeter, displaying original outfits worn to the event, from a native American-style suit worn by The Who’s Roger Daltry at Woodstock, through to Mama Cass’ kaftan and seriously stylish outfits worn by legendary drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Jimi Hendrix’s smashed-up guitar was also on display.

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

You leave the exhibit serenaded by John Lennon’s Imagine and see the brown velvet jacket he wore in the promo film for the album.

Somewhat ironically, despite recently being enlightened by the section about marketing and consumerism, you’re immediately deposited into a rather brilliant shop full of accompanying merch, where you literally want to buy ALL the things. I “limited” myself to a few patches, badges (see main pic0. Oh and a plectrum that I paid for but somehow left behind. OK, and some slightly overpriced tarot cards *ahem*

I left feeling very inspired. Not only in terms of creativity but also in the revolutionary sense. Inspired by the fact that so much changed in such a short space of time.

I also made a note to further investigate something calledThe Whole Earth Catalog. It’s something Steve Jobs once described as “…sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.” Not only am I intrigued by the impression it left on Steve Jobs, I’m also fascinated by the concept for some of my own creative endeavours…

From shifts in global civil rights, consumerism and multiculturalism, 1966-70 really was a revolutionary time in the truest sense, and the V&A have down well to condense the main themes down into a manageable exhibition. They can’t include anything and I like the fact I was left with more questions than perhaps answers to encourage a rediscovery of an imaginative optimism to envisage a new and better tomorrow.

They’ve started a revolution inside my head.

You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 runs from September 10 to February 26 at the V&A, Cromwell Road, SW7. Admission £16.
vam.ac.uk/revolution | #RecordsandRebels

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