5 years ago today, also a Sunday, I made my first trip to Mecca... the musical one: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum on the shore of Lake Erie. I hadn't been back to Cleveland in 11 years and in that time they had constructed a palace for pop music right next to the new Cleveland Browns stadium. I went with my oldest childhood friend, Pete, who had been before and knew the layout of the place. The Rock Hall is a beautiful glass pyramid that beckons with music and flash. Towering set pieces from U2's Zoo TV tour welcomed us.
We began by watching a short film called Mystery Train which tells a brief story of how Delta Blues and Hillbilly Country music were forged together to create Rock & Roll. The curator and staff are keen to make sure that the public recognizes Rock's ancestors and it's history. This is a musuem after all, but it's not static! As you begin your tour of the Rock Hall you see the faces of important blues and country artists. Folk singers, all. And everywhere, there is music. Music coming from monitors, headsets, displays. Music to discover. Music to remember. Non-stop.
The first floor of the Rock Hall is subterranean. It's main feature is a giant array of stage costumes. From Britney Spears to Elton John, from Sly Stone to Talking Heads, from the Glove to Sgt. Pepper uniforms, the outfits cover 50 years of outrageousness & extravagance. Then there are several displays dedicated to particular groups. Artifacts from the "real lives" and working lives of the Beatles, James Brown, the Who, Rolling Stones, Ramones, Aretha, Hendrix, & the Doors are highlights. There are displays that cover various musical movements & birthplaces: blues, punk, disco, soul, new wave, Detroit, Seattle, Liverpool, etc. On the upper floors there are temporary exhibits that cover particular artists; or rock journalists & photographers; fans; technology. As you go higher in the building, you reach the Hall of Fame itself. The HOF presentation features a film (updated every year to include the latest inductees) that highlights the career of every performer & non-performer entered. It's very poignant to see artists who have passed and electrifying to watch snippets of performances rarely aired.
That first day at the Rock Hall, I barely got half of it in. I had to go back the next day to pour over the more obscure objects and soak up the atmosphere. I'm a charter member of the museum and had been paying dues for 3 years before I even got a chance to go, so I was gonna get my money's worth! I flew out of Hopkins later that July 4th afternoon still wearing my neon pink Rock Hall entry wrist band. I have barely begun to describe what you can see when you visit. It's impact on me is immeasurable. John Lennon's glasses, the side of Otis Redding's private jet, Keith Moon's detonated drum kit, Jimi Hendrix's jackets, Sam Phillips' Sun Studio recording console, hand-written lyrics to Blitzkrieg Bop, Howlin' Wolf's briefcase... Just a taste.
I've been back to Cleveland twice since and to the Rock Hall a total of 3 more times. It's ever-changing exhibits and even the permanent ones leave me awestruck. The last time we went there was a giant U2 exhibition, along with a new group display for Duran Duran and the music of Ohio. The year prior there was art by Ronnie Wood and 2 floors dedicated to John Lennon. So, if you find yourself in Northeastern Ohio anytime of year, for any reason, carve out a few hours to spend at the Rock Hall. You won't be dissappointed.
Love, Power, Peace and Rock & Roll.
p.s. Cleveland does actually rock!