The Museum has started to develop a new exhibition about the Beatles’ 1964 tour of Australia. We recently acquired an unusual object from around that time. Does anybody know where it originated?
It is a large rectangular wooden board in a metal framework, painted with the four Beatles holding their musical instruments. From left to right, Paul McCartney is holding a black guitar, George Harrison has a green guitar, Ringo Starr has a small drum and John Lennon holds a brown guitar. Each has his mouth open as if singing. Their matching dark suits are consistent with the 1964-65 period, before the Beatles’ clothing began to change in style.
The picture is quite large — 830mm wide and 900mm high. We are guessing that it was an unauthorised, amateur-made, one-off item displayed in a small, independent store to promote the sale of Beatle records, but we’re not certain. We do not know who created it or where it was displayed, although it seems reasonable to assume that it was made and used in Australia. We found it at an antique shop in Mittagong, New South Wales.
Part of the appeal is the naïve, folk art style of its illustration. The Fab Four are portrayed against a strangely incongruous background of green grass and rolling hills. We love the fact that Paul McCartney is depicted playing guitar right-handed. Today the world knows that Paul is left-handed but when the group first emerged, not everybody had noticed.
What makes this mystery object really special is that it has a mechanical action powered by an electric motor. When you plug it in, the Beatles’ heads move from side to side and an arm on each figure moves up and down to play his instrument.
The Beatles in Australia exhibition is being developed in conjunction with the Arts Centre Melbourne, and is scheduled to open at the Powerhouse Museum in October 2013. It will present the sights and sounds of Beatlemania in June 1964 — the arrivals, the receptions, the press conferences, the TV interviews, the concerts and the screaming fans. It will look at how the tour was planned and unfolded, and its lasting impact on Australian music and culture. The exhibition will be as much about the fans as the group. It will display a range of objects from museums, fans and collectors, as well as photographs and video.
If you have something special that you think we should display, please leave a comment.