Beatles to Bowie: the 60s exposed

Past exhibition archive
15 October 2009 - 24 January 2010

Wolfson and Ground Floor Lerner Galleries

This major exhibition explored the leading pop music personalities who helped create 'Swinging London' in the 1960s. Over 150 photographs, together with a range of memorabilia, illustrated how the photographic image, music and performance made these popstars the leading icons of their time.

Featuring key pop cultural figures the exhibition began in 1960 with hit groups such as The Shadows and The John Barry Seven. As the decade progressed, early portraits of singers such as Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Billy Fury were followed by those of bands such as The Kinks and The Who.

Huge cultural and social changes were reflected in the styles and imagery of the pop music scene. The classic rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones was played out visually by a variety of top photographers such as David Bailey, Gered Mankowitz and Robert Whitaker, who helped create and endorse their changing images.

From pure pop, through psychedelia and the birth of progressive music, Beatles to Bowie explored the dramatic developments of pop music and culture, and their lasting impact that continues to live in the memory today.

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As Britain emerged from post-war austerity, the 1960s offered a period of unprecedented materialism and affluence. Greater disposable income and the new teenage consumers meant that pop music could develop and grow. As the decade began, Cliff Richard was Britain's most popular teenage pop star. An EP from his second film, Expresso Bongo and the single from the film A Voice in the Wilderness were both hits in January. Anthony Newley, the actor-turned-singer, had five Top 5 hits and was photographed by Tom Blau for Honey, the first quality monthly magazine 'for teens and twenties', launched in that year.

Blau also photographed Adam Faith, who had first found success with his hit, 'What Do You Want?' In 1960 he scored five further Top 10 hits, under the musical guidance of John Barry. Music papers such as New Musical Express and Melody Maker were developing British pop iconography by publishing photographs by Bill Francis and Harry Hammond.

Record sleeves for LPs (long-playing albums) and four-track EPs also included important images. For EMI's Columbia label, Angus McBean took photographs for Cliff Richard's first five albums as well as for The Shadows. In Liverpool, the group that started the year as The Quarrymen ended it as The Beatles.


The start of a jazz boom was marked by hits from Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine. Brian Duffy photographed a fashion portfolio for the 1 October issue of Vogue called 'Evening looks and all that jazz', which, in addition to featuring jazz greats of the day, included pop stars The Shadows, with model Ros Watkins.

For the 15 September issue of Vogue, David Bailey posed model Jean Shrimpton with celebrities including The Temperance Seven. Bailey, Duffy and Terence Donovan were three photographers who helped to capture and set the visual agenda for the ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960s. They redefined not only the aesthetic of photography but also the place of the photographer within the industry.

Petula Clark was photographed by Tom Blau following her first No.1 hit with Sailor, meanwhile Billy Fury scored three Top 10 hits including Halfway to Paradise. 15-year-old Helen Shapiro made a major impact with You Don't Know and Walkin' Back to Happiness, both reaching No.1. She was photographed by Angus McBean in a session that produced album covers for the following year.


The year began with The Young Ones, the title song for Cliff Richard's third film and only the fourth record in chart history to enter at No.1. When Dezo Hoffmann, who worked for the pop press including Melody Maker and Record Mirror, photographed the singer with The Shadows in 1962, the photograph was part of an on-going series used to advertise Vox amplifiers.

Town magazine marked the success of Mike Sarne's first hit 'Come Outside' with a male fashion shoot by Brian Duffy. This showed the singer in a series of double exposures, taken in and around Camden Town and the Roundhouse. Under Joe Meek's direction The Tornados became the first British group to achieve a No.1 hit in both the British and American charts with his composition inspired by the launch of the communications satellite, Telstar.

In November and December The Beatles played the last of their residencies at the Star Club in Hamburg. During one trip photographer Astrid Kirchherr took a series of portraits of the group including Ringo Starr, who had recently replaced Pete Best as drummer.


This was the year that The Beatles and the Mersey Sound conquered Britain. Many commentators point to Fiona Adams's leaping image of The Beatles as being the one that defined their early look. Adams's image became widely known for its subsequent use on the EP cover for Twist and Shout in July 1963, although it was never credited to her. Another key moment was reflected in Michael Ward's shoot when he was sent by Honey magazine to Liverpool to photograph a day in the life of The Beatles.

The first three singles by Gerry and The Pacemakers all reached No.1 in 1963. Again for Boyfriend, Adams took an action shot of the Liverpool group, one of a number signed to Brian Epstein. The impresario chose Lewis Morley to photograph him with The Fourmost outside the London Palladium.

Cliff Richard and The Shadows had started the year with their hit film and accompanying title track Summer Holiday. Cliff moved to a smart new home in Nazeing, Essex, with his family, the location for a choreographed composition by John Pratt.


In 1964 The Beatles found success overseas, particularly in America. 'I Want to Hold your Hand' had sold a million copies by 10 January, shortly before their first American tour. During their Australian tour The Beatles met Robert Whitaker, who was invited by Brian Epstein to come to Britain as the group's official photographer.

Woman's Own asked John French to shoot a fashion story combining pop groups, including The Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon and The Rolling Stones with top models such as Debbie Condon, Grace Coddington, Tania Mallet and Pattie Boyd. The Sunday Mirror brought together most of the young female singers who had pop hits that year and commissioned French to photograph the 'Million Pound Poppets'.

David Bailey took two of his most important early pop portraits this year. He photographed The Rolling Stones on 30 September, arranging the five members of the group in a square composition to fit the cover of a 12-inch square LP sleeve. Bailey’s photograph of Mick Jagger in a fur hood was taken in December and was to become the cover image of Bailey’s seminal publication Box of Pin-Ups (1965).


In 1965 Gered Mankowitz was invited by Andrew Loog Oldham to take a series of photographs of The Rolling Stones, and for the next two years would be their official photographer. The first session provided images for their American 'Satisfaction' tour programme and press advertisements for their third British album cover, Out Of Our Heads (September 1965) and their single, 'Get Off Of My Cloud' (October 1965).

Fashion permeated pop photography from the ultra-Mod clothes of The Small Faces, to Cilla Black's pleated mini-skirt and Petula Clark's full-length dress designed by Caroline Charles. Fabulous magazine (2 October 1965) ran a Carnaby Street fashion story featuring David Bowie (then Davie Jones) with model Jeanette (Jan De Souza). The Pop Art-inspired fashion of The Who was captured by Tony Frank against the tracks at Wembley Park Station.

Contemporary film and art also influenced the pop scene. Gerry Marsden appeared alone, without his Pacemakers, outside his childhood home in Liverpool, in Whitaker's film verité pose, while in London the photographer persuaded The Beatles to create auto-destructive art in a tableau built with the help of performance artist Stuart Brisley.


Some of the best photography from the 1960s was commissioned by the new colour supplements produced by Sunday newspapers. In 1966, Colin Jones, a staff photographer on the Observer, produced a colour photo-essay on The Who with a borrowed Union Jack flag for the background, which became one of the defining pop shoots.

Fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton took colour and black-and-white images of The Walker Brothers, the American trio who found fame in Britain. Gered Mankowitz constructed a study of The Spencer Davies Group, lit from below by candlelight, but took The Yardbirds out of his studio to the nearby Ormond Yard to create a graphic image comprised of a low-angle, with cross-legged triangles.

One of the great press pop photographs of the period was taken by photographer Douglas Eatwell, who was covering Bob Dylan's press conference in London during his British tour. The official tour photographer, Barry Feinstein, who had created the famous cover portrait for Dylan's album The Times They Are A-Changin', captured Dylan trying on designer shoes in a Carnaby Street shop whose walls were decked out with pop photography.


The year was a time of rebellion and experimentation. It began with The Rolling Stones releasing 'Let's Spend the Night Together' on 13 January followed by their album Between the Buttons with Gered Mankowitz's deliberately fogged cover image of the group. The Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its intricate cover on which Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth collaborated.

Pink Floyd released their first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, for which Vic Singh used the newly introduced prism lens to create its classic cover. Fiona Adams watched Jimi Hendrix perform at the Bag O'Nails Club in January 1967 and later took several portraits for Fabulous, while Bruce Fleming captured the Jimi Hendrix Experience for the group’s first album, Are You Experienced, released in May.

Tom Jones topped the charts at the start of the year with The Green, Green Grass of Home and Engelbert Humperdinck had two No.1 hits with his singles Release Me and The Last Waltz.


Television brought into people's living rooms coverage of violent events, such as the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the horrors of the Vietnam War. A pan-European wave of protest and dissent was particularly violently expressed in France, while in London the 'Battle of Grosvenor Square' accompanied a protest march to the American Embassy. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones both reacted with songs that reflected world events.

The Rolling Stones' single Jumpin' Jack Flash, with David Bailey's picture sleeve, released on 24 May, put the group back at No.1 in the charts for the first time since 'Paint It Black' in May 1966. The group ended the year with the release of the much delayed Beggar's Banquet album, its inside gatefold depicting a scene of high decadence, photographed by Michael Joseph.

The Beatles spent much of the year recording a double album of thirty tracks, now known as the 'White Album'. In the middle of recording they spent a summer afternoon being photographed by noted war photographer Don McCullin, amongst others, at seven pre-arranged London venues, including Notting Hill Gate, Old Street, Highgate and McCartney's house in St John's Wood.


Longer hair, sex and nudity, and marriage were key elements that helped define aspects of pop in 1969. In March David Bailey shot a naked portrait of Jane Birkin. She topped the charts with her lover Serge Gainsbourg in October with the duet 'Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus'. But the sixties turned sour with the drug-related death of Brian Jones, a murder at The Rolling Stones concert at Altamont, California and the continuing death toll of the Vietnam War.

The Beatles bowed out with their last recorded album Abbey Road. The sleeve image by Iain Macmillan showed them walking away from the studios where so much of their career had been forged. Meanwhile Pink Floyd continued to build on their growing success with an album of progressive, electronic music entitled Ummagumma, its cover designed by photographer Storm Thorgerson.

The successful Apollo 11 moon landing in July inspired David Bowie's first Top 10 hit in September, 'Space Oddity'. He was pictured in music press advertisements, extolling the Stylophone beat box, and in his spacesuit in the London flat of kinetic sculptor Dante Leonelli by David Bebbington.