Day tripping at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

8 Jan

Propeller Head Jesus

Propeller Head Jesus

I am a museum geek. Give me admission, and I’ll tool around the galleries until the lights dim. This is enormous fun for me but not so much for my companions. Years ago when my partner and I went to Florence – a city with 72 museums – she humored this behavior for about three days, at which point she put her foot down. “If I have to go to one more museum and see one more painting of Jesus with a propeller on his head, you’re walking back by yourself. To San Francisco.”

It’s a lot like me and rock music. Just mentioning a musician turns on a spigot of trivia, unbidden and unstoppable: “Oh, you like the Black Keys? They’re from Akron, Ohio, you know, the birthplace of Chrissie Hynde, the Waitresses and Devo. You know, Devo was actually a seriously subversive band. The name is short for “de-evolution” reflecting their disillusion with the direction of society. Mark Mothersbaugh, you know, has scored a bunch of Wes Anderson films, and just did The Lego Movie, and … wait, why are you leaving?”

Put rock and roll together with a museum, and it’s my idea of heaven on earth. However, asking others to come with me would usher them into a bowge of hell. So, on the second day of 2015, I drove myself from Detroit to Cleveland to revisit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on my own.

R&R Hall of Fame

Cue the angels singing and the doves flying: at the front door of the Temple of Rock & Roll

The last time I went there was 2011, with my son and younger daughter (then nine years old) in tow. They were great sports, but ultimately they got their fill just as I was getting started. This time, I wanted to be there from open to close, giving myself permission to wallow in whatever I fancied.

As much as I carp about their induction choices, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is well curated, beautifully laid out and engagingly interactive. They make the most of video and audio to augment the collection of instruments, costumes, posters and paraphernalia on display. For instance, the Early Influences listening station near the front of the main gallery features the forefathers and foremothers of the genre, coming from blues, gospel, country and jazz, providing brief biographies, photos and choice examples of their songs.

I got to know a few of these folks better during my visit, including Louis Jordan, who certainly gave Little Richard some ideas …

… and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, whose Texas swing inspired Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” with this song:

After a couple of hours tooling around the exhibition hall in the lower level, I grabbed a sandwich then got comfortable in the Hall of Fame theater showing the video highlighting each year’s inductees through 2013. Given there are more than 304 inductees in the past 29 years, this takes a while, even as they gloss over some of the greats to keep things moving. In my opinion, 2011 was their best year for showcasing artists who run the gamut of what rock music can be. My particular favorites from that year:

Dr. John, who you can see here doing “Iko Iko” in concert with Ringo Starr and some of the best side men of the 1970s: Clarence Clemons, Nils Lofgren, Joe Walsh, 2/5 of The Band, Billy Preston … boo howdy!

Tom Waits, who knew he was an acquired taste from early on, as spoofed in his appearance in 1977 on Fernwood 2 Night:

Leon Russell, who played elegantly powerful piano for everyone from Frank Sinatra to George Harrison without losing his Okie weirdness, which is on full display in his Homewood Sessions:

Sorry … the trivia spigot just went full blast again.

More than six hours after I arrived, I was back on the road home, sated after gorging on music all day. And the thing is, if someone would offer to go with me, I’d be back on 75 South to 80 East in a second, to see what more I could explore.

Let me know when you’re up for a road trip. I’ll pay the tolls on the turnpike … although I’ll control the stereo.

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Need even more evidence of how great the Class of 2011 was? Tune in at 12:47 in this clip from the 2011 induction broadcast to see Alice Cooper – bloody tux and all – trade verses with Darlene Love on “Da Doo Ron Ron.” How I adore rock and roll!


9 Responses to “Day tripping at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame”

  1. Every Record Tells A Story January 8, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    I would love to pay this museum a visit. One of the disadvantages of living across the Atlantic is that I suspect I never shall!

    • lpon45 January 8, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

      Perhaps you should lobby for them to do a traveling exhibit to a museum near you! They did bring “Women Who Rock” to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan … which is a few miles closer to Cleveland than you are and not across an ocean, but still it can be done.

      • Every Record Tells A Story January 9, 2015 at 3:24 am #

        That’s a good idea – after all, the Bowie exhibition is on tour more than Bowie

  2. Pam Houghton January 8, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    This is one museum my husband would love to visit! Sounds like you had a fun time. All by yourself. 🙂 Your partner’s comment to you in Italy is funny.

    • lpon45 January 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

      I am all for spouses taking separate vacations once in a while, even for a day: it’s always a gift to each other, whether you’re the one traveling or staying home. Let me know if your husband wants tips on what to see if he goes to Cleveland.

  3. Defending Axl Rose January 9, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    No Zevon = RnR Hall of Fame is a Joke.

    • lpon45 January 9, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

      Jason, I feel your ire and agree with you. (Also, I continue to wonder how John Mellencamp got in while the Shangri-Las and New York Dolls sit on the sidelines.)

      If it makes you feel better, they know WZ exists: his handwritten lyrics to “Play It All Night Long” are on display with some explication on why it was a great song; it was next to “God Only Knows” by Brian Wilson, so it’s in good company.

      Perhaps 2016 will be “the year,” especially since Randy Newman has paved the way.

  4. jen January 9, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I love this entry for so many reasons. I have never been. Let’s plan a revisit in the spring!?

    • lpon45 January 9, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

      You name the time, my dear!

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