The British Music Experience

Friday 13th August 2010
The O2 Arena, London

The British Music Experience does exactly what it says on the tin, it takes you on a journey of music genres, artists and the different types of transmissions from 1945 – 2010.

Upon entering you are shown a short video of what to expect inside and what you can do to get interactive. Not only does the ticket you purchased gain you entrance but it also gives you something to take away. Your ticket is also a smart ticket so as you go round the experience you can swipe your ticket on as many of the 50 smart points that you like and the content is automatically stored, so when you head home and log onto the website you can enter your ticket number and collect your content which is yours to keep.

Heading in to the experience you are faced with a large round area that has lots of interactive things to do in the centre, including a ‘Where It’s At’ large map that you can control and pin point different areas within the UK and find out information about the different music venues and it’s history along with artists that have played there. There’s a mini dome called ‘Dance The Decades’ where you can enter and create your own dance moves to a song, which is then recorded for you to play back and watch. If you are interested in the history of transmission then there is an interesting section of old TV’s and radios, which follow on to the history of playback, including the record, cassette, mini disks and right up to the iPod generation. As well as all of this there are also stations where you can put on headphones and listen to the history of transmission from 1945 – 2010, selecting the years of interest.

There are 7 different edge zones around the outside of the experience which you can enter in any order that you like, although it makes sense to start from 1945 heading through to 2009 as it gives you great in depth information on how music has changed through the era’s and how we have ended up where we are today.

The first edge zone is a Gibson interactive room. Inside you will find different instruments hooked up to earphones that you can sit and play and only you will be able to hear, including guitars and drum sets. There is also a vocal sound booth if you fancy testing out your singing voice. You will also find lots of history along the walls, including history of Gibson and their instruments.

Moving on you then start to head through the different era’s starting with 1945 – 1962. Inside you will find lots of information and memorabilia behind glass from lots of different artists of the era. This era focuses on artists such as Joe Brown, Johnny Kidd, Billy Fury, Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde. It also focuses highly on skiffle, which was known as the start of British rock music. More artists include Chas McDevitt, Ken Coyler’s Jazzmen, Lonnie Donegan and The City Ramblers Skiffle Group. As you view the memorabilia there is also an interactive piano at the front of each of the glass areas where you can put on the headphones and use the piano keys to select the different numbered pieces of memorabilia and listen to information and history about each of the items. You can do this in each of the different edge areas, not forgetting to scan your smart ticket to take the information home with you. As well as this, at the back of each of the edge zones there is an interactive album selection that is viewed on a large screen, and you can select different albums from the different years of that era and listen to tracks and artist history.

1962 – 1966 – Moving onto a favourable era of when we are introduced to The Beatles. There are lots of fantastic pieces of memorabilia including records, clothing, old tickets, authentic wigs and the MB board game called Flip Your Wig. Carrying on you can read information about what was known as the Atlantic crossing, which involves British and American artists and the roots of today’s music. There is also a section about a new breed of girl singers and successful British female artists, which includes Dusty Springfield and dresses owned and worn by her, Lulu, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Petula Clark. Before leaving there is also memorabilia from The Who, Georgie Fame, The Animals, The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds.

1967 was known as the summer of love so as you head in to the 1966 – 1970 zone you are also heading in to the psychedelic era. Artists include The Kinks, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Jethro Hull. Memorabilia includes copies of the International Times, which was an underground newspaper that you couldn’t buy in shops. There is also the jumpsuit that was designed by Ossie Clark and worn by Mick Jaggar and the bass guitar that was played by Bill Wyman. To sum up this zone I would quote “Greater instrumental virtuosity and imprecision became the order of the day – the mid 60’s transformed world music styles” which you can read about along with other information within this era.

1970 – 1976 starts off with lots of great pieces about David Bowie, including the outfit worn in the Diamond Dogs North American tour and his thin white duke outfit. There is also the fringed suit worn by Roger Daultry and the famous white jacket and trouser suit worn by Freddie Mercury on the 1986 Magic Tour. It then moves in to what was known as the glam era with Spade, T.Rex and The Sweet.

The punk era 1976 – 1985 of course has to be started off with the Sex Pistols. There is lots of information about what the band achieved in that era and you can also see the iconic tartan suit that was worn by Johnny Rotten. The Damned, Sham 69, Buzzcocks and The Slits are also included. On the opposite side you can see the newspaper suit that was worn by Madness on the (Waiting for the) Ghost Train video. There is also the Yamagata SG 2000 that was played by David Hinds and David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes Pierrot outfit. There is also an interactive section known as Rock Galaxy where you can touch the different record labels to explore the genre and music. Genres include pub rock, punk, jazz rock, stadium rock, soft rock, glam, prog rock, rockabilly and krautrock.

1985 – 1993 talks about the great divide and you can view items such as the painted Rickenbacker guitar and outfit worn by Mani from the Stone Roses. Ozzy’s Black Sabbath stage cape can also be seen.

1993 – 2009 brings us to the end of the zones and bang up-to-date with some fantastic items to be seen such as the union jack epiphany guitar that was played by Noel Gallagher. For those Spice Girls fans you can see the bustier and leather trousers worn by Victoria Beckham, green and purple track suit worn by Mel C, union jack dress worn by Geri, pink boxing robe worn by Emma and the leopard print cat suit worn by Mel B during their 2007 reunion tour.

In the centre of each of these zones there are ‘Talk Tables’ which has famous artists from those eras talking about the music styles. They include skiffle, rock n’ roll, mersybeat, RNB, 60’s clubs, rock art, reggae, ska, punk, live aid, DJ’s, dance and urban.

Overall the experience is fantastic. I personally learnt a lot about the eras and came away with a greater understanding about how music has progressed, plus there is still plenty to be seen that hasn’t been mentioned.