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Records And Rebels: The V&A's Brilliant New Exhibition, Reviewed

You Say You Want A Revolution? V&A ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 9 months ago

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Records And Rebels: The V&A's Brilliant New Exhibition, Reviewed You Say You Want A Revolution? V&A 5
Bright colours and fashion take centre stage in the swinging sixties section. The giant eyes instead of heads are a great surreal touch. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The late 1960s was a revolutionary time for music as well as politics. The V&A's new blockbuster covers the fast-changing period from 1966-1970. It feels like the right time to re-visit it, as most visitors won't have been alive at the time or aren't old enough to remember it clearly.

But covering off The Beatles, Martin Luther King, the Vietnam war and the rise of consumerism in one exhibition is a big ask.

You can't talk 1960s without the Beatles. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Thankfully the V&A are up to it and they've put on a spectacular show, filled with music and fashion. Record covers adorn the wall and mannequins are fashionably attired with giant eyes in place of heads in a wonderfully surreal display.

We get Twiggy, The Rolling Stones, a Campbell's soup can dress and the photographs and chair from that photo shoot with Christine Keeler, the model who rose to fame thanks to the Profumo affair.

These psychedelic heads appropriately pop up in the Woodstock section.

But what elevates this exhibition from good to great is the fantastic production values and attention to detail. A section on Woodstock is filled with artificial grass; we lie on a bean bag to watch the elevated screening of clips from the festival. It's a nice touch and serves as the perfect midway point to lie back and take a break. (Even if, judging from photos of Woodstock, any grass had soon disappeared.)

Even the smallest touches are noticeable. The swinging sixties section has bright orange coloured walls, protest is a claustrophobic black, and consumerism brings on clean white walls.

It's all bright and white in the Consumerism section. Campbell's saw Warhol's work and it inspired their own soup can dress. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The coup de grace is the audio. We're given a headset and don't have to do a thing, as the music changes depending on where we are in the exhibition. Visitors to the V&A's Bowie exhibition will have experienced this, but it's been improved on since then.

It's spine tingling to stand in front of a psychedelic poster while listening to Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, or step into the protest section with Creedence Clearwater Revival singing in our ear that they "ain't no senator's son".

The walls and the subject matter takes a dark turn in the protest and anti-war section.

The show ends perfectly with a look forward to the future — computing and environmentalism at the fore — as we listen to John Lennon's Imagine and head to the exit filled with optimism.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is on at V&A until 26 February 2017. Tickets are £16 for adults, concessions available.

We also took a tour of the 1960s West End to tie in with this exhibition.

Last Updated 12 September 2016