‘Everybody was saying there are more people here than came to see the Queen. Well, she didn’t have any hit records.’ (George Harrison)
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s most famous band’s tour of Australia and Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is celebrating their visit with a Beatles in Australia exhibition. The exhibition travels back in time and is an attempt to recreate the flavour of the sights and sounds of the total mayhem that was Beatlemania:- The screaming fans at the concerts…The press conferences and interviews…
Enticing and exciting this is a rather small exhibition that is jam packed with fascinating facts, memorabilia, newsreel footage and trivia, Did you know that Paul McCartney plays the guitar left handed? That Jimmie Nicol filled in for Ringo in Sydney as the drummer because Ringo had tonsillitis?
The exhibition is on Level 2 of the Powerhouse, well laid out and designed in the now retro style of the era.. We are back in the 1960’s, in June 1964 to be precise, and Beatlemania has hit Australia with a vengeance. The group was here in Australia for thirteen days and it was a whirlwind of mob insanity. Nothing had ever been seen like it as 300,000 screaming Adelaide fans would testify.
The Sydney arrival of the Fab Four was wet and windy but TV crews were there.
What is interesting is how the visit is put into context with the growth of ‘the teenager ‘, and a reminder of who else was high in the musical charts at the time, such as Lonnie Donnegan and Winifred Atwell plus bands like the Easybeats and the Twilights, and a group of ex-Brits in Brisbane called the Bee Gees who were also starting out. The exhibition also makes reference to the Beatles tour to New Zealand.
There is a marvellous collection of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings and a map of the tour. And there is a rare glimpse into the detailed planning that took place in the days and weeks leading up to The Beatles’ arrival in Australia.
Pick up a klunky old black telephone of the era and listen to interviews from a page boy who worked at one of the motels where the group stayed…an air hostess who worked with them…Johnny Chester who toured Australia with them …There are also interviews with Ken Brodziak their promoter and screenings of the TV interviews .
There are stamps, plastic figurines, posters, record covers , tea sets , tea caddies, writing pads, curtain, wigs , combs, buttons/badges .. you name it! As well as letters documenting the establishment of the Australian Beatles fan club.
A suit worn by John Lennon, on loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is a focus of the exhibition and links in with the examination of how fashions changed at the time,– men’s hair suddenly came forward, rather than sweeping back, and women’s hair came down, as they abandoned the bouffant styles of the previous decade. Shoes now became pointed, trousers became tighter, and the mod look – neat suits – almost became a uniform for young men.
There is a wonderful section in the glitzy Kings Cinema where you can watch umpteen newsreels of the screaming crowds. And there is another section outside, with comfy cushions and headsets, where there is black and white footage of performances continually screening. Another section is arranged like an ice cream parlour of the period with a Beatles jukebox playing their hits. Towards the end of the exhibition there is a section where you can leave your impressions/memories of the tour and the Beatles.
Curated by Paul Cox , The Beatles in Australia exhibition will be at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney until 16 February 2014 and then moves to Melbourne’s Art Centre from 8 March until 1 July 2014. For more information visit, – http://www.powerhousemuseum.com