Pop music, shaggy haircuts, screaming fans – all are iconically associated with The Beatles and all show up in a spangly new exhibition at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History..
With two floors full of historical photos, film and audio footage, interesting facts and figures, and intriguing memorabilia, The Beatles in Montréal exhibition is a colourful and chronological account of the music and career of the most famous pop band in history, but where the show shines brightest is in its Montreal-focused moments. It’s a thrill to see black-and-white footage of young people excitedly lined up for blocks to get tickets for The Beatles’ 1964 show at the old Montreal Forum, let alone the footage of the band’s long-awaited arrival at Dorval airport and the back-to-back evening concerts themselves, where everyone seems on the edge of happy pandemonium.
It’s the true extent of The Beatles phenomenon that is conveyed in this exhibition, beginning on the ground floor with a chronology of the band’s rise from small-town rock to stadium spectacle – juxtaposing that with larger-than-life images of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in action and Lennon’s psychedelically painted Rolls-Royce shows not only how embedded in the culture of the time The Beatles were, but how much they contributed to creating that culture.
Along with a steady soundtrack of Beatles’ tunes and some great first-hand accounts of the Montreal shows and interactions with band members themselves, comes all kinds of memorabilia, from records and merchandise (everything from tea towels to combs) to clothing and art work. And guitar enthusiasts will want to spend some time looking at – but unfortunately not touching nor playing – the many guitars on display, the same makes and models as those originally played by band members.
The band’s sound directly influenced Quebec’s 1960s “yéyé” music too, in bands like Les Baronets, Les Classels, Les Hou-Lops and Les Sultans, all of which show up in the exhibition, including on a vintage jukebox. Their music and many, many songs by The Beatles are also central to other activities related to the exhibition, including A Cultural Feast, an outdoor event happening May 25-26, and a series of expert talks on the British Invasion and its music. In quality museum form, The Beatles in Montréal exhibition manages to not get overly nostalgic about the band or the era, while still showing the profound impact The Beatles had on popular history and culture.
The Beatles in Montréal, to March 30, 2014
Pointe-à-Callière, 350 Place Royale, (514) 872-9150