Music wasn’t better in your day – but Lawrence Watson’s retrospective is still a must-see

imageOne of my favourite photographers is exhibiting in London for the next two weeks. You can see work by Lawrence Watson, who has photographed rock ‘n’ roll icons and pop culture for 25 years, in a sweet little gallery at the top of Kingly Court in Soho. I went to the launch party last night (and – scream! – was lucky enough to spot the elusive Islington Twins). There’s LL Cool J performing live in front of an enormous boombox, Grace Jones looking both terrifying and beautiful, Damon Albarn’s adorable puppy dog eyes, Isaac Hayes and his weird moobs, the famous picture of Pulp and the mannequins, Morrissey contemplating using a gun, and 25,000 more.

It’s the first time I’ve thought “that was popular culture then, and this is now.” The images depicting the rise of 90s hip hop, indie and rave culture seem to be from a different world. Just as pictures of Woodstock, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles defined the immediately previous wave of popular culture, now the parent to our modern scion is Liam’s snarl and Run DMC’s swagger. It brought home how much the music industry has changed in the last decade.

Today we hear that album sales are up for the first time since 2004. This is brilliant news for artists and music-lovers depressed by the digital revolution, piracy and a seemingly screwed industry. It might be the moment teething problems assuage and the relationship between music and the internet can be get back on track. Despite the predictable nostalgia of cranky music hacks for whom everything ” was better in my day zzz”, there are artists out there innovating their socks off with exciting results.

But let’s not forget who paved the road. If you’re interested in the music that shaped the final quarter of the 20th Century, then this exhibition is for you. You can also get a seriously cool jacket designed by up-and-coming fashion house House of Billiam lined with your choice of image. I think some of my readers could pull that off…

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