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Come on see the noise: Top Of The Pops photo exhibition ~ V&A Museum

May 20, 2010

Glam champions: the legendary Slade, regulars from the golden era of Top Of The Pops, in an image on show at the V&A exhibition

If you go down to the V&A today, you’ll be sure of something of a surprise. For the world famous London museum, known for its huge collection of decorative art objects from times past, is currently playing host to a free exhibition of photos taken especially for the Beeb’s classic midweek chart music-themed magaine show Top Of The Pops.

Specifically displaying the work of Harry Goodwin, the programme’s resident photographer from its very first show broadcast on New Year’s Day 1964 right through to 1973, the exhibition features images of the major figures from the Merseybeat, ‘British invasion’, psychedelic rock, Motown and glam rock eras; among them The Fabs, The Stones, The Kinks, Ike and Tina Turner, Pink Floyd, Elton John and Marc Bolan.

Snap happy: Harry Goodwin (left), TOTP’s resident photographer for the first nine years of the show’s existence; and his image of Jimi Hendrix from 1967 (right), simulating the star playing his guitar with his teeth, as he would go on to do on that night’s show

Admittedly, this isn’t a huge exhibit, covering three walls of just one room of the enormous museum’s Theatre and Performance collection, and the majorty of the images are familiar, face-on portrait-style snaps. Yet, accompanied by top ’60s and ’70s pop/ rock tunes as it is, the display makes for a cosy and diverting way to spend half-an-hour or 45 minutes, as well as throwing up one or two interesting tid-bits (TOTP effectively invented glam rock thanks to early ’70s guests wearing increasingly outrageous costumes to stand out from each other).

It’ll surely bringing a smile to almost any visitor’s face too. This is British TV history in front of you – very accessible TV that had no agenda aside from providing universal entertainment and dads with the occasional eye-candy that was delectable dance troupe Pan’s People (they too get a look-in here with a satisfyingly big image).

One man arm-band: a post-Beatles John Lennon snapped on his own from the 1970s

For his part, Manchester-born Goodwin started out as a photographer following the Second World War and, thanks to his success as Top Of The Pops‘ in-house snapper, became a freelance shooter for major bands as well as football and boxing stars. Now 85, more of his images can be poured over in the coffee table book My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock – Photographs by Harry Goodwin, on sale both in the V&A shop and here.

All in all then, I certainly recommend this exhibition; it’s ideal if you happen to find yourself in the Smoke and are in a whimsical, nostalgic mood. Plus, on the way out you can examine the remains of a guitar owned by The Who‘s Pete Townshend, broken on stage during a performance as he had a wont to do – talk about my generation; well, the generation before mine, if you’re being precise.

‘Harry Goodwin: The Glory Years of British Rock 1964-73’ runs free of charge at the V&A Museum until August 30 and will then transfer to the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, from November 20 – January 8 2011

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