It was Christmas 1965 when my parents moved us to the western suburbs. For me this was a major transition as I left catholic grade school in north Minneapolis for a suburban junior high. The change in the academic atmosphere was significant; but the cultural impact was even greater.
One Sunday evening a long, long time ago we’d finished dinner at my grandparents house and were preparing to watch Ed Sullivan. There had been news that Ed was hosting a new band. The adults in my family had ignored the news. My cousins and siblings had staked out the floor in front of the TV. That evening, like the rest of America, we watched the Beatles perform two songs and the world was changed forever.
Public school — from now on I could freely listen Rock and Roll to KDWB and WDGY. Everyone had a transistor radio (some made them in shop class) tuned to Rob Sherwood, “True Don Bleu” among others. Music was a means of escape. Listening to Rock tweaked parents and suggested the end of civilization as we knew it. My Dad was a jazz musician and he hated Rock which made me love it even more.
All this was running through my brain as I entered the “hallowed” halls of the ROCK and ROLL HALL OF FAME — ohhhhh, yeah!
Located in Cleveland, OH on the shores of Lake Erie (frozen today) the R&R Hall of Fame makes an immediate impression. Sure the building is unique — it rises like an Egyptian pyramid out of the street. What is so very cool is music constantly playing everywhere — on the plaza, in the vestibule, in rest rooms, in every hall and every exhibit. The cacophony of sound reminds me of junior high and high school. No matter where we were during those years we were all playing the radio, or records of our favorite groups — often at the same moment in time. The overlap didn’t faze me then and it sure didn’t faze now.
Once inside the building a blue wrist-band was wrapped on my forearm. Passage anywhere in the building was now possible. (True confession — I still have it on!)
We arrived on Wednesday which enabled us to take advantage of extended hours — we stayed for nearly seven hours. As this is a Hall of Fame only the creme de la creme are installed each year; although interestingly many groups do achieve some notice. In fact there is a section on one hit wonders that was fun to explore.
But if you are anything like me you really want to see some of what I experienced so without further adieu here are photos from the “inside”.
One begins with the mother of it all — the blues. Scores of musicians were named founders, practioners and the inspiration for what we call Rock and Roll. Did you know that the term rock and roll originally referred to the act of sex — what Elton calls “rolling like thunder under the covers.” Exhibits flow forward from the blues to country, bluegrass, folk and gospel.
Eventually this leads to the “British Invasion”, the development of the LA– country rock and San Fransisco –psychedelic genres. Key artists are highlighted and artifacts including the original clothing, instruments, photos, letters, contracts, sheets of music and lyrics for each genre are presented. All the while music is playing — soon its possible to differentiate melodies which unlocked the inspiration that influenced all future rockers.
The first major artist discussed was Elvis–TV screens played concerts and photos of his army days were on display. He crossed over the rock, soul and folk genres thus setting the stage for the future. His gyrations caused him to be called “Elvis the pelvis”. His star power was evident — women were commenting about how “cute” he was in his younger years.
Once past Elvis the exhibits reveal star after star that fell into a couple of genres:
Rev. Al Green
The Beatles garnered significant space as both a group and as individuals. They represented the British Invasion:
The following documented the end of the Beatles;
John and Yoko
Near the Beatles is the presentation of the Anti-Beatles aka The Rolling Stones:
Since they’ve never broken up there exhibits are all about the group:
As with Beatles the artifacts include clothes, artwork, music etc.
Other bands that were part of the British Invastion included:
Eric Burden and the Animals, Billy Joe Kramer, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five and Peter and Gordon
Bands represented from this genre included The Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Janis Joplin:
The LA sound was more rock folk and included Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, Linda Ronstad, Buffalo Springfield, The Eagles, The Doors, Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys.
Other significant Hall of Famers are Madonna, U-2, Michael Jackson, Nirava and Alice Cooper;
Paul Simon recently donated Simon and Garfunkel artifacts to the Hall:
The vast collections on display also discussed the controversy of rock music–many forget how much our parents and others feared the influence of the music. Rockers like Frank Zappa testified before Congress to defend it. It was religious and political powers that damned rock music fearing for the minds of the young:
Lest I forget this a Hall of Fame so inductions are an annual ritural. The 2015 induction will be on April 18th.
Even the press gets a chair at the table — Rolling Stone magazine is mentioned often:
I haven’t mentioned a slew of artists who’ve been inducted in the Hall of Fame– they are there — promise. Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, The Beastie Boys, Areosmith and so on and so on…nor have I touched on topics like the “one hit wonders”.
You’re need to make the pilgrimage yourself. Be sure to give yourself a whole day. It’s well worth it!
Now if you will excuse me my see my I-pod is fully charged so I’ll be on my way.
Sorry, can’t hear you…