The V&A last week launched a brand new exhibition celebrating the long hair, flagrant nudity and massive tunes of 1960s counterculture.
You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is a sprawling, wonderful thing, the highlight of which comes near to the end, after you weave your way past a couple of The Beatles’ St Pepper costumes, copies of the brilliantly rude underground magazine Oz and a dusty chunk of moon rock to the soundtrack of the cult Radio 1 DJ John Peel’s record collection.
You enter a spacious room complete with cosy beanbags straight out of the 6th form common room. Said beanbags are scattered across a luscious, fake grass floor next to Keith Moon from The Who’s drumkit and above it all, the Woodstock concert film plays out on loads and loads of massive screens. It is an utterly majestic moment, and I’m not just saying that because I downed three cocktails in 15 minutes on the press preview night.
But it wasn’t the footage of the legendary artists who graced the epic American festival – Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone etc – that made me want to somehow travel back to 1969. No, it was the sight of a bunch of naked hippies frolicking in a lake on the fringes of the site. Sure, they were utterly and totally nude, but it wasn’t sensational and it wasn’t showy – it was just a group of people having a lovely time splashing about in some pretty grim looking water. Stomach bugs and Weil’s disease not withstanding, it looked like the kind of thing that all stressed millennials should do every now and again. Unlike today there was nobody telling them they were too fat, too thin or too hairy, it was body-positive without even knowing what the hell body-positivity was.
And before you think I’m obsessed with naked hippies, because I’m not – well, no more than the next guy – it wasn’t just the nudity that seemed delightful. It was the lack of possessions, the lack of unessential crap that everyone in the Woodstock crowd shots seemed to have. There were no backpacks full of antibacterial gel bottles and canisters of dry shampoo – just a couple of daisies draped here and there.
It made me think of how much rubbish I cart around with me on a day-to-day basis, my decade strong eBay obsession and the sheer amount of tat littering my house. It made long for the clothes-shy flower children’s lack of materialism. So I made sure I bought loads of stuff from the museum shop straight after so I would never forget their inspirational ways.