Saturday, August 24, 2019

You say you want a Revolution? – The 1960s Exhibition at Melbourne Museum

John Lennon – Kaleidoscope Eyes – by Larry Smart 1967

Last Wednesday I finally got to the current exhibition at Melbourne Museum, titled Revolutions: Records and Rebels, which explores the period 1966 to 1970 with a vast array of iconic items from that time.

That period covers the time when I was a student at Melbourne University - my late teens and early 20s - when I was unleashed from parental control, having moved to Melbourne from the family home in Wangaratta in 1966, to experience the highs and lows of freedom and independence.

So it was like a trip down memory lane, especially as when you enter the exhibition you are given a set of headphones attached to a media player that is synced to the various galleries, and plays appropriate music for the year or theme of the display.

The exhibition is arranged in chronological order, so you start off in 1966, when the Beatles were in their heyday, and had released Revolver on 5 August (coincidently my 19th birthday) of that year.

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John Lennon’s glasses

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John  Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for Tomorrow Never Knows (Track 7, Side 2 of Revolver)

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Toy Yellow Submarine

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Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Band – released 1967 – featuring John Lennon’s suit

The above records were naturally familiar to me – we danced to Revolver and grooved to Sergeant Peppers at parties in the communal houses I lived in at the time. In fact I received Sergeant Pepper for a 20th birthday present.

Though we were not into drugs at that time, having no means to acquire them, we certainly knew about them and loved the druggy psychedelic posters of the time. There was an establishment down the road from our shared residence called The Love In which put on psychedelic light shows,  played music and films and served coffee.

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Buy Granny Takes A Trip and join the Brain Drain poster

The above poster advertises a London boutique opened in 1966 - known as the first psychedelic clothes shop.

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Feed Your Head poster – based on Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit song on Surrealistic Pillow

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Psychedelic poster

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Head Shop magazine

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Acid Test

Meanwhile the headphones were playing such hits as Cream’s Strange Brew, White Rabbit, Itchycoo Park and other such psychedelic tunes.

Also covered in the exhibition was fashion, mostly extravagant creations to match the period.

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The Twiggy dress

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Twiggy clothes hanger

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Campbell’s Soup dress

Barbarella costume from the 1968 film of the same name starring Jane Fonda

There were books, many of which I have in my personal library

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Richard Brautigan – Trout Fishing in America – a cult book in the 1960s

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Lord of The Rings

Naturally there were records as well, again many that I owned at the time, though I noticed that the record cover of Sticky Fingers did not have the physical zipper of the original issue.

The heady years of 1966 to 1967 gave way to the revolutionary years of 1968 to 1970 and covered such movements as Womens Liberation, the Vietnam War, Conscription, Black Power, the Moon Landing  etc.

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Women’s Lib

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Anti conscription poster

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Black Power

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Model of lunar command capsule for Apollo 11 moon landing

I’d forgotten that Chairman Mao Zedong was a counter cultural hero of the late 1960s and remember that I had a copy of his Little Red Book.

Strange to think of now, with China a formidable and quite scary World Power in the 21st Century.

Chairman Mao bust

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The Little Red Book

There was much to see in the Revolutions exhibition and a it was a real trip back in time for me. It was predominently American and British centric, with not many relics from Australia in the1960s, though Indiginous issues were covered with a poster from the Aboriginal Rights Referrendum of 1967.

aboriginal rights

One last object that tickled my fancy was the first computer mouse invented by Douglas C. Engelbart in 1968.

First computer mouse

I took a great many photos, but haven’t used them all in this post.

The exhibition has been extended to 6 October 2019. If you haven’t been to see it, I highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic experience, especially if you are a baby boomer. I enjoyed bopping around the exhibition to the music.  Millennials might regard it as ancient history, but would also enjoy it.

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