25 Jun, 2009

Beatles to Bowie show celebrates 60s pop icons

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

National Portrait Gallery’s autumn show promises promises rare or unseen glimpses of iconic 60s artists
See some of the images from the exhibition

They were that year’s “million-dollar poppets” and “Britain’s top thrushes” brought together by the Daily Mirror because girls were back in musical fashion. It was 1964 and the likes of Cilla Black, Lulu, Susan Maughan (with her poodle Bobby), Marianne Faithfull and Julie Rogers were selling singles – or platters – by the lorryload.

A group photograph of 10 of the year’s best-selling female performers, taken by the fashion photographer John French, will be one of more than 100 pictures from the 60s to be exhibited for the first time in the National Portrait Gallery’s big autumn show, details of which were announced today. Organisers promised rare or unseen glimpses of bands from the Beatles to the Kinks and singers from Cliff Richard to Billy Fury.

“This exhibition’s central message is about how music changed the world,” said the gallery’s director, Sandy Nairne. “The cultural shifts from the late 50s to the end of the 60s see fantastically important shifts in our society and in politics and at the centre of that were images and ideas through music that changed expectations, opportunities and possibilities.”

The exhibition’s curator, Terence Pepper, has clearly enjoyed the months of sifting through thousands of negatives, magazines and archives to create the show Beatles to Bowie: the 60s Exposed.

At the show’s launch, he brought along the original colour poster of the Beatles that he got, aged 15, from a 1964 edition of the News of the World and a flyer for the Larry Parnes stable of boy singers, all of whom were given new names by the impresario: Billy Fury, Terry Dene, Vince Eager, Duffy Power, Dickie Piper and Johnny Gentle (or Johnny Gentle and his backing band The Beatles, as they were, incredibly, on a tour of northern Scotland in 1960).

Pepper said he hoped the show would raise the profile of the 60s photographers, not least that of one of the “unsung heroines” of the decade, Fiona Adams, who was the previously uncredited creator of one of the decade’s most memorable images – the Beatles leaping in to the air, which went on the front of the Twist and Shout EP.

She is now retired and living in the Channel Islands. “It is one of the defining images of 20th-century culture yet it is only in the past two or three years that we’ve known who took the photograph,” said Pepper.

Another Adams image in the show is a fashion photograph of a model known only as Jeanette – “if anyone knows who Jeanette is, we’d love to know,” said Pepper. Next to her is a second, male model, thought to be Jeanette’s boyfriend. The skinny, pretty young man was called David Jones, unknown in 1965 but rather better known four years later when he released Space Oddity under the name David Bowie.

Other unseen pictures in the show include a camp-as-Christmas shot of Johnny Kidd by Angus McBean in 1960. Kidd, who with the Pirates released arguably the first genuine British rock and roll classic, Shakin’ All Over, is seen in his pirate gear looking almost Adam Ant-ish.

There will also be works by better-known photographers such as Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Scott Walker and pictures from the trio whom Beaton called the Terrible Three: Terence Donovan, David Bailey and Brian Duffy.

The show will run from October – the 40th anniversary of Space Oddity’s release – to January and will have in total 150 photographs and 150 items of ephemera, including pop magazines such as Fabulous and Rave.

Nairne said the gallery had never been busier after a record year with just over 1.8m visits. “This is a wider message about why people really do want to take advantage of cultural facilities at this somewhat difficult and rather complex time. The fact that people want to explore ideas, images, history and the contemporary is a message we all understand.”

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