The Beatles’ Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover reconstructed with uniforms, lyrics and more. Image: Melbourne Museum.
A retro exhibition brings the Sixties back but with detail you’ve never seen before according to Museum Melbourne. They describe it as:
Don your headphones and hear the needle drop on the likes of Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Nina Simone and Joan Baez as Sennheiser’s specially-designed soundtrack responds to your surroundings in real time. Prepare yourself for “a stirring sonic experience”.
Enter Swinging London past a Vidal Sassoon hair salon, Mick Jagger’s jumpsuit and gorgeous stills from Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Behold a Jeff Banks mini-dress worn by Sandie Shaw and Bill Gibb’s sketches for Twiggy. Feel the first tremors of Beatlemania rise to a fever pitch as you stand before John Lennon’s original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band suit, his signature rounded spectacles and handwritten lyrics for ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. Witness solidarity and horror on the streets of Paris and the grounds of Kent State University. Hear voices call out from the frontlines of Vietnam and the fight for constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Peoples in the 1967 Referendum. Watch the crest of a new wave in feminism forming as the pill is introduced, The Female Eunuch is published and ponder the counterculture’s legacies of exclusion and misogyny on the frontiers of women’s liberation.
Reflect on the birth of the modern pride movement outside the Stonewall Inn as you peruse the United States’ first nationally-distributed lesbian magazine and a menu of refreshments from one of Australia’s earliest and most revered drag shows. Sink into the floor as The Who dive into “My Generation” inside the exhibition’s stunning Woodstock audiovisual experience. Outside, come face-to-face with Roger Daltrey’s original outfit, Pete Townsend’s smashed guitar and a stage costume worn by Jefferson Airplane frontwoman Grace Slick.
Fifty years on from moon landing, see handwritten reflections from Altona Primary School students beside a model Apollo lunar landing module, the Djinn lounge chair featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and an iconic space-age jumpsuit from Australian designer Prue Acton. In a moment of unprecedented challenges, Revolutions: Records and Rebels offers a vital chance to reflect on the power of collective action and cultural upheaval. Come together.
Revolutions come in many forms. Some spin at home in black vinyl while others take to the streets for riots and placards. For this exhibition based on the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) collections of costumes, posters and more, the revolution is a period of the late 1960s that made noises in London then echoed out across the world. You might think you’ve seen the Sixties before but Revolutions looks deeper.The scale of Revolutions is mind-bending with 500 objects telling the story of 1966-1970. There is plenty of baby boomer fan service: John Lennon’s glasses, The Who’s Pete Townshend’s first smashed guitar, Jane Fonda’s Barbarella costume and the scribblings of Woody Guthrie’s journals. Experiencing these actual objects still has some magic – the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper uniforms are given their own display fitted out as the in-progress album cover and the music in your headphones shifts to play the record.
Because the objects could only tell so much of the story, there’s an aural layer. The accompanying headphones play through a Sixties playlist complete with vinyl crackles between tracks. At key points the audio shifts as you enter a new zone, such as the protest section where you hear Martin Luther King addressing crowds. It’s not quite as intimate as the David Bowie Is exhibition, a previous V&A exhibition which pioneered the sound that follows you through the exhibition, but the subject is so much bigger. The better soundscape comes from taking your headphones off and watching the Woodstock immersive where the definitive Sixties concert is on three stage-style screens but writ large so every fret of Hendrix guitar is on an epic scale. Pull up a beanbag and drop out.
Grouped around key themes such as Communes and Consumerism, there is much to support the myth of Sixties as the great epoch of social change but also to document how the decade itself evolved. The Protest section nods to the easy creation of badges or posters to make social revolution possible, but this soon leads to the shock of Consumerism where those baby boomers became a market that bought up new clothing – including the original Levi jeans that were once so counter-cultural.
Where: Museum Melbourne, Rathdowne Street, Carlton
When: extended until 6 October 2019
Costs: tickets $15–$29