Shall we take a trip? The positive impact of LSD on youth culture will be examined in a new exhibition at the V&A which promises to recreate the psychedelic atmosphere of Pink Floyd’s 60s “happenings”.
You Say You Want a Revolution? will explore how a flourishing counterculture of rebellion, expressed through music, fashion, art and political protest, challenged existing power structures in the late 60s.
Opening in September, the exhibition will feature the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, shards from a Jimi Hendrix guitar and copies of the underground magazines Oz and International Times.
1966 is the starting point for the exhibition, when LSD was still legal. Incorporating “3D sound installations” created by audio specialist Sennheiser, the show will give visitors a taste of the disorienting experience enjoyed by those who attended the UFO Club on Tottenham Court Road, where Pink Floyd played to a backdrop of dazzling lights and avant-garde films.
Victoria Broackes, co-curator, said: “The exhibition will cover the revolution in the head. The UFO was a short-lived and very influential underground club. We will represent John Hopkins’ light show, the psychedelic posters and a playlist including Eight Miles High by The Byrds.”
Visitors will be blasted by music, including Hendrix’s solo performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, played through Sennheiser headsets. The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, a multimedia happening headlined by Pink Floyd at Alexandra Palace in 1967, will also feature.
Five brilliant bands who formed at university
Five brilliant bands who formed at university
Farrokh Bulsara (AKA Freddie Mercury), an art and design student at Ealing Art College, met graphics and drawing student Tim Staffell, during the late 1960s. Brian May, an astrophysics PhD student at Imperial College London, and Roger Taylor, a dentistry undergraduate at the London Hospital Medical College, were in a band with Staffell named Smile. Freddie Mercury joined the band in 1970 to become their lead singer, changing its name to Queen and also putting his artistic background to use by designing its logo himself. Staffell left and John Deacon, who achieved a First Class Honours Degree in electronics at Chelsea College, now part of King’s College London, joined the band’s line-up. Queen went on to become very successful, with anthemic hits such as “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions”. You might have heard some of them. (Photo: Douglas Puddifoot)
Founding members Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland formed a band in 1996 while studying at University College London (UCL), after they met during orientation week. It was also at UCL that they met future band members Will Champion and Guy Berryman. Coldplay have achieved worldwide success with songs such as “Fix You”, “The Scientist”, “Speed of Sound”, “Viva la Vida” and “Paradise” and their sixth studio album, Ghost Stories, is to be released in May 2014. (Photo: Phil Harvey)
3/5 Alt-J (∆)
Alt-J (∆) formed in 2007 when Gwil Sainsbury, Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green met at Leeds University. Unger-Hamilton studied English, while the others were art students. Their debut album, An Awesome Wave, was released in May 2012 and contains popular songs like “Fitzpleasure”, “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate”. The band’s music embodies a unique blend of genres including dub-pop, alternative rock and layered folk.
4/5 Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd formed in 1965 when its members – most of them architecture students – met at London Polytechnic, today’s University of Westminster. The band went on to pave a psychedelic and progressive musical path which has seen them inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Their most popular hits include “Comfortably Numb”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall”.
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden formed the band during their first year studying at Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts college in Connecticut, USA. The name is an abbreviation of "management". The duo have achieved success with songs such as “Kids” and “Time to Pretend”. (Photo: Danny Clinch)
Two hundred albums from John Peel’s personal collection have been leant to the organisers, reflecting the crucial role the broadcaster played popularising progressive and psychedelic music through his late-night Perfumed Garden pirate radio show.
Ms Broackes added: “This was a time when exposure to drugs wasn’t for purely recreational purposes. They were used to push boundaries and open the doors of perception. We’ll look at the impact of those discoveries after the trip was over – people began exploring Eastern spirituality.”
Steve Jobs, who said taking LSD was one of the most important experiences of his life, is represented as an important countercultural figure.
The V&A has secured the temporary loan of a rare 1976 Apple 1 computer, and the exhibition shows how the inspiration for the home computer revolution and the development of the internet can be traced back to the drug-fuelled, utopian idealism which flowed through the West Coast of America.
Key figures from the period including Yoko Ono, Stewart Brand, the environmental activist who campaigned for NASA to release an image of the whole Earth in space, and the model Twiggy have given video interviews for the show.
Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, has donated correspondence between the Beatle and a Cambridge professor about his search for a higher spiritual path and a diary written during the recording of Sgt. Pepper.
The exhibition, which builds on the audio and visual innovations of the V&A’s blockbuster David Bowie Is retrospective in 2013, will also show how the optimism, innocence and street-fighting rebellion of the late 60s curdled in the decades which followed.
Martin Roth, Director of the V&A, said: “This ambitious framing of late 1960s counterculture shows the incredible importance of that revolutionary period to our lives today. This seminal exhibition will shed new light on the wide-reaching social, cultural and intellectual changes of the late 1960s which followed the austerity of the post-war years, not just in the UK but throughout the Western world.”
Other exhibits in the show include a shopping list written behind barricades during the 1968 Paris student riots, original works by Pop Art pioneer Richard Hamilton and Pete Townshend’s shattered guitar from the Woodstock festival.
You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels, 1966 – 70. 10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017.Tickets £16 vam.ac.uk/revolution
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