You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is a hugely ambitious exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, aiming to capture the entire spirit of the Sixties (which really only began halfway through the decade) in one immersive experience.
Music is at the heart of it, the aural backdrop to every room. Famous album covers are displayed everywhere, still hauntingly familiar half a century on: Nico, Nick Drake, the Doors, the Move, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, Fairport Convention, Pentangle and many more.
Fashion as well: Twiggy stands under a Carnaby Street sign, and a Vidal Sassoon hair stylist is giving a Mary Quant trim to a live model. The Daily Mirror offered free badges reading “Save the Mini” – and they were not referring to the car.
In the Woodstock room, with beanbags on the floor, there’s Mama Cass’s kaftan, Pete Townshend’s guitar, the Who’s drum kit, Joni Mitchell’s words from “Woodstock”: “I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm … I’m going to try an’ get my soul free”.
Above all else, the Sixties were about freedom. There were earthquakes in social attitudes: racial equality, feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, communal living, new religious movements, esoteric spirituality, opposition to war…
Vietnam was the first television war, and the politicians and generals were roundly defeated by the media. The Sixties brought war and politics and protest into the forefront of our consciousness. Protests against war didn’t always end well: there’s a touching tribute to the four students gunned down by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. And on a poster showing a flower: “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”
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