Here Right Now - 35 Pivotal Dates In The History of Popular Music

Museum of Youth Culture

An exploration of British popular music from the 20th century through key dates, gigs and songs. 

Elvis' painted on to the side of a building, Robin Maddock, 1990's, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
That pop culture
Without popular music there would only be children or adults. The invention of teenagers - 'youth' - coincides with the emergence of Elvis Presley in 1956 followed soon after by The Beatles. The accompanying 'Beatlemania' crystallised the frenzied excitement a child feels as he or she realises they are approaching adulthood, but aren't there yet. It feels good, it feels awful, but it feels like something, and the songs playing on the radio or on the phone know exactly what you're feeling.It's a glorious feeling, being young and alive. Whether 'here right now' means Elvis, Bowie, or Stormzy, this exhibition illustrates 35 extraordinary moments in music from the last 100 years. You had to be there.

April 7th, 1919: The first ever jazz concert in Britain.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band put on the first ever jazz concert at the Hippodrome venue in the centre of London. The flappers of the 20s started showing the first inklings of the modern teenagers and youth movements.

September 11th, 1956: A screening of Blackboard Jungle prompts rioting.

The film was screened at the Trocadero Cinema in the Elephant & Castle, South East London. Inspired by the exuberant energy portrayed in the film, teenage movie goers ran riot in the cinema when soundtrack Rock Around the Clock came one, slashing seats with pocket knives and going on the rampage. The film was banned shortly afterwards.

"The hypnotic rhythm and the wild gestures have a maddening effect on a rhythm loving age group and the result of its impact is the relaxing of all self control."

letter published in The Times newspaper

April 22nd, 1965: The 2i's Coffee Bar opens.

The 2i's Coffee Bar is a hugely significant venue in the history of youth culture and popular music. The emergence of Britain's skiffle and rock and roll music culture started right here and several vital British stars such as Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard first performed at 2i's in the late 1950s. The venue - which was basically a tiny coffee and sandwich bar - closed in 1970 and is now a Fish and Chips shop.

The Who performing, London, 1960s., Lee Harris Archive, 1960, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

October 29th, 1965: The Who release 'My Generation'.

The modernist movement of the mid 1960s found it's anthem in this iconic single; a snarling riposte to the older generation encaspulating youthful rebellion in an almost violently aggressive three minutes and 18 seconds.

The young Rolling Stones c1964, Chris Morris, c1964, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

February 12th, 1967: The Rolling Stones' mansion is raided by the drugs squad.

The UK drug laws concerning recreational drug use were first called into question following the 1967 raid by police on the Surrey mansion of Rolling Stone Keith Richards. Richards was given a one-year jail sentence and fellow Stone Mick Jagger three months, prompting heated debate in the media; on appeal, they were both acquitted.

A man looking at camera surrounded by blurred trees and sunshine, Chris Morris, 1970, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

September 30th, 1967: Radio 1 is launched by the BBC.

Popular Music is finally given an official home, broadcast across the nation from morning through to early evening. Previously, teenagers could only hear pop music on the radio if they tuned into 'pirate' radio stations, which broadcast illegally from ships based in the seas around the country. Illegal radio broadcasting of non mainstream but in demand music continues to this day.

Barry Brain, Gavin Watson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

“And, good morning everyone, welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1.”

Tony Blackburn's first words spoken on the first ever show on Radio 1. A giant leap for pop music accessibility in the UK.

Hippies at Isle of Wight Festival, UK, 1970., Peter Francis, 1970, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

August 31st, 1968: The first Isle of Wight Festival is held.

The Isle of Wight Festival was first held in the summer of 1968 and lead to similar festivals becoming a major part of British UK summers, the most famous and successful regular festival being the Glastonbury Festival. The Isle of Wight Festival saw a breakdown in control by the authorities and the subsequent celebration of countercultural freedom and people led events in the UK.

People marching at a Civil Rights, Chris Morris, 1970, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

May 21st 1971: 'What's Going On? by Marvin Gaye is released

The 1971 album 'What's Going On?' by Marvin Gaye is perhaps the most significant release in the history of black popular music. It is significant because lyrically it spoke of protest, racism and injustice, combined with radio friendly mellow soul melodies. Prior to 'What's Going On?' black popular music, and Motown music had largely been concerned with romance and dancing.

DJ's playing at Nottinghill Carnival, Peter Anderson, 1983, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

1972 ; King Tubby releases 'King Tubby At The Controls' and creates the template for modern dance music

Osbourne Ruddock, aka King Tubby, was an engineer who experimented with echo and tape delay; he was the first studio engineer to strip a song down just to the bass pulse, enabling toasters - or DJs - to speak and rhyme freely over the top of the recorded music.

Kids at the Lady Gomm Club in Hawstone Road, SE16, which was run by the Bede Association, Tony Othen and Bede Association, 1969, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

July 7th, 1972: David Bowie performs 'Starman' on TV and invents gay pop.

A few months before 'Starman' featured on 'Top of the Pops' David Bowie had told Melody Maker he was bisexual. Homosexuality had only been made partly legal 5 years previously, so when Bowie's androgynous guitarist Mick Ronson draped his arm around the singer's shoulders, it was a seismic moment in the history of both sexual politics and sexually ambiguous pop music. The next day the conversations in schools and youth clubs across the country would concern nothing else but this brief performance.

Kids at the Lady Gomm Club in Hawstone Road, SE16, which was run by the Bede Association, Tony Othen and Bede Association, 1969, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

Top of The Pops line up
6 July 1972

The Who Join Together
Lulu Even If I Could Change
David Bowie Starman
The Sweet Little Willy
Frederick Knight I’ve Been Lonely For So Long (danced to by Pan’s People)
Love Unlimited Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love
The New Seekers Circles
Dr. Hook Sylvia’s Mother
Gary Glitter Rock And Roll (Part 2)
Donny Osmond Puppy Love
The Partridge Family Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Lorp in a Ramones t shirt. High Wycombe, Gavin Watson, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

April 23rd, 1976: Arturo Vega creates the Ramones' logo

The Ramones art director Arturo Vega created a logo for the Ramones which first appeared on their 1976 debut album. Over the next 40 years the logo became of instant symbol of rebellious youth, a transfer tattoo of shopping centre cool.

"It's the American presidential seal – anyone can use it, We share the royalties on the t-shirt and on the merchandise. A lot of the kids wearing that shirt might not even have heard of the Ramones' music. I guess if you have the shirt, your curiosity might bring you to buy the music. Whatever, it is a strange phenomenon."

Marky Ramone, The Ramones

Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of The Clash, Peter Anderson, 1981, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

November 12th, 1976: The First 'Rock Against Racism' gig

Rock Against Racism was formed as a response to rock star Eric Clapton shouting 'Keep Britain White' during a concert, as well as other deeply controversial proclamations around race and immigration.

The first RAR concert was held a few weeks later in the Princess Alice pub in Romford, Essex. Within two years of this concert, much bigger outdoor carnivals were held in conjunction with the Anti-Nazi League as a response to the rising number of racist attacks in the UK.

A sister organisation, Rock Against Sexism was founded by a group of women in response to sexism within the music industry.

Mark Goddard, Gavin Watson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

June 5th, 1977: Rod Stewart apparently keeps The Sex Pistols off the number 1 spot

The Sex Pistols had released their royal bashing, anti-establishment tune, 'God Save The Queen' in the week of The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

It had to get to number 1. It couldn't get to number one. It couldn't be the nation's favourite song on the week our glorious monarch celebrated 25 years of magnificent supremacy. So the establishment elected Rod Stewart to take the chart crown for that week and Johnny Rotten's vitriol remained muffled. Order was restored in WH Smiths at least.

Group of Disco fans drinking in a pub, London,1970s., Alex Appleby, 1970/1979, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

July 2nd, 1977: Donna Summer releases 'I Feel Love'

One of the most significant recordings in pop music history, 'I Feel Love' was the future right now, and it's influence spread like a a forest fire, from the late 70s discotheques all the way through to the clubs and raves of the 1980s and 1990s. It was purely electronic, it was sparse, it was euphoric, irresistible, beautiful and it never, ever ages.

A jogger running wearing a 'Topless Disco' T-shirt, Peter Anderson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

December 16th, 1977: Saturday Night Fever opens.

Saturday Night Fever is the film credited with bringing the 'disco' phenomenon worldwide attention. Disco is short for 'discotheque', which is what clubs for dancing were once referred to.

Disco started as a continuation of the rhythmic soul and Motown music embraced by African-American and Latino American gay men in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

By the late 1970s, disco had spread across America and Europe, accompanied by a thriving drug subculture; cocaine and Quaaludes would enhance the experience of dancing to the seductive and sophisticated disco rhythms.

Quaaludes were powerful sedative and hypnotic prescription tablets that earned the nickname "disco biscuits".

Teenagers, Mark Charnock, 1984, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

April 1st, 1979: Joy Division begin recording 'Unknown Pleasures'.

The sleeve of 'Unknown Pleasures' has perhaps become more culturally significant than the music it houses. The cover image first became strongly associated with goth gatherings in the '80s, and by 2006, skateboarding fashion label Supreme were featuring it on their clothes.


By the 2010s celebrities everywhere are rocking those radio waves, as well as characters in both the TV series 'The Carrie Diaries' (set in the '80s) and the film 'Ready Player One'.

It's cool, in all of the meanings, from cool to cold.

Peter Saville, 'Unknown Pleasures' sleeve designer.

A teenager holding his ghetto blaster on 42nd street New York, Peter Anderson, 1980, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

August 2nd, 1979: The Sugarhill Gang record 'Rapper's Delight'

Britain's youth had not heard rap music until they heard 'Rapper's Delight' by the Bronx based Sugarhill Gang. Few heard it would never hear music the same way again. It was not a test. It was American men talking in rhyme, quickly and smartly, over someone else's record ('Good Times' by Chic). It was odd, it was new, it was infectious, it was world changing. By the time the song charted around Christmas, Black youth had a new stage.

Hip hop legend Fab Five Freddy with Dave Russel Simmons (of Def Jam) and DJ Red Alert, Normski, 1990's, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

A British version of Rapper's Delight, with rewritten lyrics, was recorded for the song's 25th anniversary in 2004 by an ensemble of performers including Rodney P, Chester P, Kano, Simone, Yungun, Sway, J2K, Swiss, Baby Blue, Skibadee, Luke Skys, and MC D.

Teenage boy sitting on a scooter outside a housing estate in the East End, Phil Knott, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

November 2nd, 1979: Quadrophenia opens.

Quadrophenia was a film that is credited with reviving interest in the 'modernist' or 'mod' movement in the 1960s. 1979 was a year ripe for revivalist movements, including skinheads, rockabillies and rude boys.

Quadrophenia was a basic coming of age story set against the mods vs rockers battles on Brighton Beach tthat occured on the August Bank Holiday in 1964.

The Specials live, Clare Muller, 1980, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

July 2nd, 1981: The Specials 'Ghost Town' reaches number 1 as the youth of Britain riot.

The sticky tense summer of 1981 saw riots in over 35 locations around the increasingly less United Kingdom. Meanwhile, over on Top of The Pops is was all synthetic nostalgia, Tight Fit had 'Back To The 60s', Shakin' Stevens had his 'Green Door' and ska clowns Bad Manners were stomping all over the 'Can Can'. But floating high above all the tinsel and balloons, The Specials were number one with 'Ghost Town' a gritty wail of anger, which although not actually inspired by the urban unrest, just happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time.

The Hacienda main dancefloor, Peter Walsh, 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

May 21st, 1982: The Haçienda club opens.

The Haçienda club opened in 1982 at 11-13, Whitworth Street West in Manchester, England. It was disastrously unsuccessful at first, but towards the middle of the 1980s it embraced the then emerging rave/dance/house music culture, and became a mecca for young people keen to experience this new phenomenon, 'raving'.

MDMA or 'ecstasy' swept through the club creating something both magical but doomed to destroy itself.

The club was financially supported by the group New Order, who also channelled the electronic dance music explosion of the decade; their single 'Blue Monday' remains 'the biggest selling 12" vinyl single of all time'.

Boy George of Culture Club, Peter Anderson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

September 23rd, 1982: Culture Club replace Shakin' Stevens on 'Top Of The Pops'

Replacing an otherwise engaged Shakin' Stevens on a late September TOTP were a new group, Culture Club, who had just entered the charts at number 38. Culture Club were led by the androgynous George D'Owd, known to the London fashion scene as Boy George. The country as a whole hadn't met him yet though, and the nation gasped at one at a figure who's gender was not immediately clear. Men in make up had been seen before and would be seen again (a lot) but for George a new term - gender bender - was invented.

Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Clare Muller, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

February 18th, 1983: Frankie Goes To Hollywood perform 'Relax' on The Tube.

'Relax' was a single recorded by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a Liverpool band fronted by two openly gay men, Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford, who adopted the classic gay 'clone' look of handlebar moustache leather accessories and a cheeky twinkle. The single was advertised in the press with the phrase "ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN". The in-your-face sexuality that surrounded the song with it's ambiguously sexual lyrics slowly propelled the song up the charts, and by the time it reached number 1 it had been 'banned' by the BBC. But this 'ban' became an embarrassment to the Corporation, and was lifted by the end of 1984. Squelchy gay sex was now here to stay in the nation's living rooms and wasn't going anywhere soon.

My Bloody Valentine, Peter Anderson, c1990, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

April 1983: The first record on the Creation Records label is released.

Creation records was a record label formed in 1983 after the release of the 7" vinyl single '73 in 83' by The Legend.

Creation went on to become a near perfect template for the 'indie' sound and culture in the 1980s, signing so many of the major acts who dominated the alternative music landscape of the next 15 years.

Primal Scream and their earliest line-up, Laurence Watson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

Bands on Creation Records include Felt (avant garde post-punk), Primal Scream (80s jangly retro guitar blasts before mutating into druggy rave anthems in the 1990s), Slowdive (shoegazers extraordinaire), Oasis, (retro peddling dad rockers channelling glam rock and The Beatles), and My Bloody Valentine (experimental noise rockers).

Creation Records signed so many more bands, bands cherished to almost religious levels by both the quiet and awkward 'zine boys and girls, as well as the louder noise enthusiasts down in the moshpit.

Jesus and Mary Chain, Peter Anderson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

March 15th, 1985: A Jesus & Mary Chain concert gets violent.

In early 1985, noise popsters the Jesus and Mary Chain played a gig at the North London Polytechnic. The organisers had overbooked the venue, leaving hundreds of fans locked outside. The band kept the audience waiting for over an hour before taking the stage, leaving the stage after playing for less than twenty minutes. Members of the audience became increasingly violent, before police eventually took control. The band issued a statement afterwards saying "the audience were not smashing up the hall, they were smashing up pop music", going on to say "This is truly art as terrorism". People began attending Jesus & Mary Chain concerts for the violence rather than the music, which was sad, as the music was excellent.

Madonna, Peter Anderson, 1983, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

July 13th, 1985: The Live Aid concert.

The Live Aid concert at Wembley in the summer of 1985 changed white popular music forever. It was now all grown up, something that could not just feed the world but change the world. It was no longer 'just' about dancing, dressing up, love and sex. It was a responsible powerful force and it would never be young and innocent again. Madonna was the first post Live Aid superstar, Global domination was now an instantly feasible career move for the new music icons, and pop music entered the world of clipboards and corporate packages.

Neville in front room. Hawthorne Road, Gavin Watson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

August 1st, 1987: MTV launches in the UK

MTV had launched in America in 1981 and six years later Europe was given it's very own version. MTV was pivotal in visualising music, gelling fashion, image and the cult of personality in one TV shaped addictive package. Music was now sold a kind of ever shifting wallpaper in the background, and music videos became one of the principal elements of YouTube, launched 19 years later.

Jazzie B Soul II Soul name belt, Normski, 1988, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

June 18th, 1989: Soul II Soul reach No.1.

Soul II Soul were a collective of black British musicians, singers, designers and artists who emerged from the sound system scene, playing records at house and street parties in the mid 1980s. Aside from making records, and performing they had their own clothing label - Funki Dred.

They were uniquely black and British. Their 1989 single 'Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)' reached number one in 1989, and was seen by many as the moment the style of black, British youth went overground.

Ian Brown, Peter Walsh, 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

23 November 1989: The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays appear on the same edition of 'Top Of The Pops'.

From the late 1990s the consumption of popular music changed dramatically. The birth of the internet in lead to music being able to be directly fed into peoples homes, which ultimately led to the end of record shops on the UK high street. However, some record shops managed to save the apocalypse and vinyl is now on the rise again as the way many young people choose to listen to music.

Bez of the Happy Mondays, Peter Walsh, 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

Top of The Pops line up 23 November 1989

Big Fun Can’t Shake The Feeling
Bobby Brown Roni
Fine Young Cannibals I’m Not The Man I Used To Be
Jeff Wayne Eve Of The War (1989 club remix)
Stone Roses Fools Gold
Happy Mondays Hallelujah
Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville Don’t Know Much
New Kids On The Block You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Prince & Sheena Easton The Arms Of Orion

Clubbers queing for the Ministry of Sound, Naki, 2000s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

September 21st, 1991: Ministry of Sound night club opens.

The Ministry Of Sound nightclub opened in 1991. It took the exploding rave movement and attempted to contain most of the elements - very loud beat driven dance music, talented and renowned DJs - in a single building. That building was a former bus garage in Elephant & Castle which remains a successful nightclub to this day.

It helped give the once free counterculture of warehouse raving a newly legitimate arena, policed and regulated, the very opposite of the free flowing youth culture it borrowed heavily from.

Superstar DJ culture happened here in the early 1990s which lead to global DJs being paid exuberant fees, and the rise of corporate EDM (electronic dance music).

Protestors at the First Criminal Justice March. Trafalgar Square, Matthew Smith, 1st of May 1994, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

November 3rd, 1994: The Government Tries to Ban Partying

The Tory government passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act one grey November day in 1994, outlawing music played for groups of people.

The act defined music as including "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats."

The Act was described as a piece of legislation which was "explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party. The sections which specifically refer to parties or raves are seen as badly defined and drafted in an atmosphere of "clear moral panic" following the Castlemorton Common Festival of May 1992.

Liam Gallagher recording for Channel 4, Laurence Watson, 2006, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

August 20th, 1995: Blur fight Oasis for the number 1 slot in the Top 40.

Britpop reached its peak in the late summer of 1995 as the rivalry between the two biggest bands in the country reached a head, as Blur moved the release date of their single 'Country House' to clash with the release of the Oasis single 'Roll With It' and the war was on. Britpop was a movement in the mid-1990s which self consciously emphasised "Britishness", and the records were often jaunty and jolly, sometimes ironically, but not always. It coincided with the rise of a new brand of UK politics in the late 1990s with Tony Blair and New Labour aligning themselves with the movement.

Two teenage boys in bedroom one DJ'ing while the other listens posters Tupac in the corridor a woman ironing board pillows Lambeth Walk South London c.2000, Simon Wheatley, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

September 13th, 1996: Tupac Shakur is murdered.

Tupac Shakur and Christopher “The Notorious BIG” Wallace were killed in drive-by-shootings a mere six months apart from one another in the late 1990s. Both rappers were part of the Gangsta Rap movement espousing 'Thug Life'. The friendship between the two rappers became a feud resulting ultimately in their murders, but sealed the legacy of rap music across the globe.

Teenagers in London, Mark Charnock, 1981, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture

January 6th, 2009: The last branch of Woolworths closes.

From the late 1990s the consumption of popular music changed dramatically. The birth of the internet in lead to music being able to be directly fed into peoples homes, which ultimately led to the end of record shops on the UK high street. However, some record shops managed to save the apocalypse and vinyl is now on the rise again as the way many young people choose to listen to music.

Credits: Story

Joe Egg is a former filmmaker and DJ who has played records in some of the most iconic venues in London. He is a keen amateur freestyle dancer,   and has one of the biggest record collections in Deptford Bridge. 

The Museum of Youth Culture is a new destination dedicated to celebrating 100 years of youth culture history through photographs, ephemera and stories. Launching in 2019, the Online Museum of Youth Culture has been developed by YOUTH CLUB, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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