Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: It’s still rock ‘n roll to me
On a recent visit to Cleveland, I had to be forcibly removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Everyone else was in the van, waiting. I was still trying to see even more, and I had already been there several hours. And I'm only the teenist bit sorry about it.
The experience starts in the lobby. The piped in music, Bob Seger’s Night Moves and Simon and Garfunkel had me singing along out loud. I probably looked crazy, but then, I consoled myself “they’re probably used to it.”
A mix of changing exhibits and permanent videos and displays. The variety and depth of experiences left be gasping. The Mystery Train video “This train is bound for glory” greets you as you walk into the mini theater. It’s a musical tribute to the evolution of music, a spellbinding combination of roots of music and scenes of the life that went with those roots. Gospel, Hank Williams, Sr old fiddle bands, river music from New Orleans, Appalachia, and early country, Jimmy Rogers. Music I had forgotten existed. It’s a history at warp speed, a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. Whites Only signs, Lead Belly singing Good night Irene. Robert Nighthawk singing song snippets. Early Count Basie and Louis Armstrong. Beale St in Memphis. Sun studios and Elvis. Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry doing his strut across the stage. It was the music and the people who made it, and the culture of the times.
Then we all get up and move to the next theater so a new group can come in. And now we’re into the Beatles. Bob Dylan. Rise of another phase of R& R. Jimi Hendrex and all the rules broke and fell away. Howling moment when the audience and singer becomes one. Madonna and sexuality – gyrating to Like A Virgin. R& R becomes a journey of discovery, better to burn out than fade away. Nirvana, Springstein. Bono, all sing, jump, and gyrate across the screen.
Music becomes political. Miles Davis, Paul Simon, then rap with RunDMC, Metallica. The series ends and I’m overwhelmed.
And then, I begin to wander through the rest of the exhibits. Kiosks allow you to trace history with audio snippets. I revisit the controversy over R& R – it corrupts youth, encourages “evil feelings,” and the quotes. “By God, rescue the tender young ears of the nation from this – this rock porn ... It’s outrageous filth and we’ve got to do something about it.” Senator Earnest Hollins, Senate Commerce Committee Hearings, 1985.
Have I mentioned the memorabilia? Bruce Springsteen’s outfits, Prince’s coat, Madonna’s bustier, personal effects - handwritten lyrics to songs, and musical instruments. Exhibits such as famous cars, recreated studios. Johnny Cash Tour Bus. Exhibits on specific artists with their music filling the rooms (I’m singing again).
Videos “What I say” on song writing. The stories behind the lyrics. Shake Rattle & Roll, Joe Turner did original, Bill Hailey’s cover changed the lyrics to make them less suggestive.
Listening stations - Listen to 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.
Highlights from Induction ceremonies – The Clash, Fleetwood Mac, Jerry Lee Lewis. See Springstein thanking his mother. And just when you think you’ve seen everything, you wander up to level 4 and want to watch a movie, or up to level 5 and 6 for the special exhibits.
Then, add in time to stand there and sing along with the music.
Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – there is a rock and roll heaven