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Swinging back to the Sixties

PUBLISHED: 17:29 30 April 2010 | UPDATED: 10:07 02 July 2010

The Kinks. Above: The Beatles. Below: David Bowie.

The Kinks. Above: The Beatles. Below: David Bowie.

Ian Collins

Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed features 150 striking photographs of the swinging decade's most important cultural icons. IAN COLLINS offers a glimpse of the collection and looks back to his teenage days.

Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed features 150 striking photographs of the swinging decade's most important cultural icons. IAN COLLINS offers a glimpse of the collection and looks back to his teenage days.

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Teenagerdom began for me when the 1960s ended - as the Beatles were scuttling off in different directions and David Jones was still growing into David Bowie.

To tell the truth I was more concerned, back in 1970, that Diana Ross had broken with The Supremes and Lou Reed had surfaced from the Velvet Underground. Even then, Detroit and New York seemed more swinging than London.

And at the end of the decade after the pioneering era of pop, I was a cub reporter in Lowestoft trying to clear out an old desk crammed with promo photos of chart stars from the 1960s. I couldn't work for laughing.

Nothing is more dated than lately discarded fashion. Secretly flashing images - of the 14-year-old Glaswegian street fighter then reborn as Lulu, or Liverpool's no-longer Priscilla White, or Dagenham's Sandra Goodrich who gave up her shoes and name for fame - I reduced an entire room to hysterics.

In the end, an angry editor ordered that hundreds of shots - of the Beatles and Bowie and the Stones and scores of lesser pop pebbles on that Sandy Shaw of recent musical history - were binned. (I later rescued Leonard Cohen.)

Now, of course, I could scream and shout at the loss of a priceless collection, since what was out of fashion has long since passed into enduring style. The looks and the sounds of the 1960s are now endlessly recycled and amplified, though the greatest loss to popular culture is the shrinkage of artful imagery from big LP covers to tiny CDs.

If you didn't sneak a preview of the fab exhibition Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed at the National Portrait Gallery, there's a terrific treat in store. The collection arrives this week at Norwich Castle Museum.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the onset of the 1960s, the musical decade is being mapped out in 150 photos (more than 100 of them now exhibited for the first time) and a similar mass of record sleeves, illustrated sheet music and magazines.

Together they reveal how image, music, fashion and performance combined to make musicians the leading icons of their time and London the world's most important cultural capital.

Although that stellar era famously started to swing as late as 1963, it opened with Joe Meek's Telstar and ended with David Bowie's Space Oddity - both pop classics referencing huge leaps in science and culture shadowed by the fear of nuclear calamity.

Via year-by-year displays we are soon reunited with the John Barry Seven whose signature tune Hit or Miss provided the introductory theme to Juke Box Jury, one of many TV programmes bringing pop to a wider public.

Just as Pop Art was paralleling the musical revolution - with Peter Blake set to design the album cover for Sergeant Pepper, and Norwich's Colin Self later to design a sleeve for The Who - so bright new stars were coming out in the field of photography.

The formal grandeur of the likes of Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson from the 1950s was being eclipsed by the more casual poses of snappers such as Fiona Adams and Philip Townsend. Although bravo for the Beatles for working with veteran Suffolk Surrealist Angus McBean.

Magazines were also changing radically, thanks to titles such as Fabulous and Rave and Town - the last of these featured in the exhibition via a Don McCullin photo essay on a Mod by the name of Marc Bolan before he hit the big time by riding a white swan on a wave of Glam Rock.

But Norman Parkinson was attempting to adapt to times on the point of changing, in 1962, as we can see from his Queen magazine spread on a young singer named Adam Faith - shown demonstrating the Madison dance with top models of the moment.

Once the Beatles had conquered America there was a mini-invasion of US talents moving to England to accelerate their careers here - including the trouser-splitting P.J. Proby, the Walker Brothers and later, Jimi Hendrix.

What fun to chart the chasm even then between Cliff and Keith Richard (the latter sometimes Richards) - though the alleged similarity between the former and Elvis Presley still looks like a marketing ploy involving more tripe than hype.

And what joy to be reunited with the likes of Billy Fury and Gerry and the Pacemakers - the latter almost as big in the Mersey Sound at one point as the Fab Four, though the name of the group may now invite a certain snigger.

Because the whole point of the 1960s pop revolution was that it put youth on record and in the picture. Even those who were more than one hit wonders could sing about hoping they died before they got old (with the door to geriatrica opening at around 29).But so many of these shooting stars are still in orbit - with Sir Paul McCartney set for an umpteenth world tour even though the Rolling Stonehenges are temporarily resting.

Lulu is still belting out Shout, her first and best hit, Sandy Shaw has evolved from fashion designer to psychotherapist and Cilla Black is doubtless only pausing in the career as a TV presenter where she has made the biggest noise.

The Sixties have a habit of bouncing back and amazing us. Only the other day on a car radio I was transfixed - before being able to reach for the 'off' button - by the huge production number that was You're My World.

Good grief. For a brief spell in that golden decade our Cilla could actually sing.

t Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed is at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery from May 8 until September 5. Exhibition admission £3.30 (£2.80 cons), child £2.40. Open until June 27 Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm/Sun 1pm-4.30pm, then daily until 5pm from June 28.

t Re-living The Swinging Sixties

From pure pop, through psychedelia and the birth of progressive music, Beatles to Bowie, curated by the National Portrait Gallery's curator of photographs, Terence Pepper, explores the dramatic developments of pop music and culture, and their lasting impact.

It's arrival in Norwich will be marked by a whole season of events looking back to the leading pop personalities, designers, photographers and filmmakers who helped create Swinging London in the 1960s.

Museum exhibitions officer Heather Guthrie will be hosting Thank Your Lucky Stars, a guided introduction to Beatles to Bowie, on May 18.

While on May 25, Nick Little, community librarian, will be the host of Chasin' that Devil Music, looking at the huge influence of black music on the 60s generation of musicians, from the Beatles earliest rock'n'roll covers to the Rolling Stones.

On June 22, Take Three Girls Three will see women sharing their memories of the 1960s; on June 29, UEA art historian Dr Simon Dell will look back at 60s photography; while on July 20, Dr Francesca Vanke, curator of decorative arts, will be taking about the 1960s and fashion.

All the events take place at 12.30pm, museum admission prices only.

t 1960s Film Season

Cinema City is to host a season of films from or looking back to the 1960s, all showing at 8.30pm on Mondays (£6 (£4.50 cons). The season starts on June 7 with Performance, Nicholas Roeg's cult film looking into the 1960s netherworld of gangsters, sadomasochism and a reclusive rockstar, played by Mick Jagger.

Sam Taylor Wood's recent debut feature film, Nowhere Boy about the early life of John Lennon, will be shown on June 14.

Widely considered one of the seminal films of the 1960s, Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up will be screened on June 21, starring David Hemmings as a nihilistic, wealthy fashion photographer in mod Swinging London.

Getting a rare big screen showing on June 28 will be Tonite Let's All Make Love In London, a cool and interesting audio-visual montage on the then-happening pop, art, protest and fashion scenes, featuring rare concert footage and music by Pink Floyd, the Animals and the Stones.

Telstar, Nick Moran's film about the troubled life of seminal pop producer Joe Meek is on July 5.

While a two-part collective of archive footage of Norwich in the 1960s will be shown on July 12.

More details: www.picturehouses.co.uk

t Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Among the activities will two events looking back at the fashion of the period.

On July 15 (11am-2pm) all dedicated followers of fashion are being urged to dig out their groovy outfits to add to museum collections.

Take along outfits, photos and stories and enjoy free admission.

While July 18 (1pm-4pm) will be Groovy Sunday, with the chance to dress up in period clothes, enjoy a 60s style makeover by vintage hair and beauty stylists, try out groovy dance moves to 60s sounds and have a fab photo shoot.

Other special events will see Terence Pepper and Jon Savage, writer and co- contributor, discussing the Beatles to Bowie exhibition on June 5 (2-3pm; £6 (£5.50 cons). While their will be a short talk on 60s pop every Thursday from 2pm. More details on all events at 01603 493625, www.museums.gov.uk

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