Exploring the British Music Experience

Located in London’s O2 Arena (which those of a certain age -myself included- will always think of as The Millennium Dome) is Britain’s Museum of Popular Music, known as the British Music Experience or more acronym-tastically as the BME. I’ve heard the O2 complex described as a Temple to Mammon, and at £13.00 for an adult ticket, the museum is no exception to the general area.

But here’s a money saving tip for you; if you’re going to a concert you get in for FREE.

BME's escalator
BME’s escalator

Armed with a ticket to see P!nk (or is it Pink?)   I ascended the heavily branded escalator to discover what I could about British Pop Music. So, without further ado, on with the adventure!

I was looking forward to this visit, after being wow-ied by Bowie at the V&A I was intrigued to see how a whole museum dedicated to music would deal with such an interesting, and quite tricky subject matter. I mean, popular music isn’t just lyrics, music or objects; it’s all tangled up with all sorts of things.

Perhaps I set my expectations too high, but the whole experience echoed the worst bits of the music it represented: it was all about the style and very little substance. You can find more meaning in a B*Witched b-side. Yes, all the shiny interactive bits are very nice, at least they would be if they worked. Hell, it would be nice if the objects they referred to were all on display!

One thing did stand out for me, and that was a costume worn by Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury's costume
Freddie Mercury’s costume

Sorry for the poor quality picture, but still…is it just me or does it look a bit odd on the mannequin? Like it doesn’t really fit? Does it need Freddie’s kind of magic to bring it back to life? Surely the museum would try and make sure that the magic stays in the object somehow, rather than let it hand on a cheap shop dummy?

But that wasn’t my biggest gripe. Britain has a strong history of female vocalists, yet the songstresses and chanteuses we know and love seem overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. From the displays, it seems like women didn’t really start making music until the 90s, with the coming of the Spice Girls. Even the divinely bonkers Kate Bush had been reduced to a pair of shoes, despite her impact not just on British music, but the world over. Hell, she invented the head-side microphone!

This theme continues in the interactive map in the middle room – it allows you to discover which famous acts, if any, come from your home town. Being a proud Essex lad, I train the zoom on my home county, and AGAIN the lack of female singers speaks volumes. Where’s Alison Moyet? Where’s Cheryl Baker?

I could continue, but it’s just getting me wound up.


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