Tag Archives: Darlene Love

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!

Rock Docs: Pussy Riot, Love and Death

25 Jun

Just in time for the hot weather, there is more than one good reason to stay in the air-conditioned indoors. Three amazing rock documentaries are on TV, online and in major theaters this month. In a way, each one of these films poses the same big question – “What is being a rock musician worth to you?” – then answers on very unique and personal terms.

Free Pussy Riot PosterPussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (HBO)

There is nothing complacent about punk. It’s noisy, raw, provocative and unapologetic. Done poorly, punk music merely sneers at the world. Done well, it changes it.

The Pussy Riot Collective, a group of young feminist oppositional artists, formed when Vladimir Putin was elected to a third term as Russian President amid allegations of fraud. Dressed in their subversive uniform of “masks, dresses and musical instruments,” their songs challenged Putin and his repressive social policies. After several brief, goofy performances,  including one in a cosmetics store and another in front of a Russian prison, they staged a protest in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, playing for 40 seconds at the altar before being hauled away. Their goal was to expose the cozy relationship between church and state as well as the breathtaking patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

As a result, three members of Pussy Riot were arrested and found guilty of trespassing and religious hatred. As this remarkable documentary makes clear, they were also convicted for being outspoken and female. After being on display in glass cells in the Russian courtroom throughout their trial, all three were sentenced to two years in a prison camp. One is now out after an appeal (and back in the Collective); the others are still in Siberia.

Watching this film, I marveled at how fiercely brilliant these women are and how their commitment to their art and ideals leaves most Americans in the dust. Catch it while you can.

A Band Called Death (available as video on demand now and in theaters starting June 28)

Why have I never heard of this band until now? I can’t be the only one asking that after hearing songs by Death, a band formed in 1973 by three African-American brothers in Detroit who wanted to play rock and ended up creating punk:

I can’t wait to catch the documentary when it opens this weekend. With Alice Cooper as a featured interview, it’s gotta be good.

20 Feet from Stardom (now playing in major cities and going into wider release)

I adore Darlene Love. I know her best from the Phil Spector Christmas album and look forward to her gig on the David Letterman show every December to sing “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).” I also love the gals with the big voices backing up Joe Cocker in “A Little Help From My Friends,” wailing on Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” and blowing the roof off  “Gimme Shelter.” When those songs come up on my playlist, I sign along with them, not Joe or Mick or David Gilmour.

Pity is, none of them – not even Ms. Love, who’s rightfully a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – is a household name. Many of them sang better than the stars they supported yet for one reason or another, they never became famous in their own right. They are literally and figuratively in the background. Given how much press this film is getting, that may change.

Let me know which musicians you’re watching this summer on the big screen … and whether you’re a Junior Mints or M&Ms kind of movie-goer.

See you on the flip side …

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