THE ROCK & ROLL
HALL OF FAME
Stepping into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or THE ROCKHALL as they call it, is akin to stepping into one’s youth. This is especially true for those of us who were born into or just before the Baby Boom generation (1942-1964). When you enter the Hall, and the music hits you, the reversion to teenager begins. Then your regression becomes complete the first time you see a mention of, or the pictures of, one of your favorite singers.
For me, the memories came swiftly—memories I hadn’t thought about for decades: Where I was and what I was doing when I heard Elvis, or the Everly Brothers, or the Beach Boys, or Chuck Berry; where I was when I heard the news of Buddy Holly, Richie Havens, and the Big Boppers’ plane crash as I walked through the ROCKHALL, seeing pictures, movies, and listening to their music.
The ROCKHALL is a sprawling, yet tightly set up museum of what they call six varying levels. Although you enter and exit on level ONE, you go down to level ZERO, which is the Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall. When you enter, you are starting at the roots of Rock & Roll. You see the history, the origins of rock music, discovering how the birth of Rock & Roll came from its parents–Southern Blues and Country music–and first became Rock-A-Billy before progressing into a musical genre all its own, and turn generations into Rock lovers.
Here at level ZERO, they first have their newest acquisitions: Today it included Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano, Notorious B.I.G.’s outfit and the guitar of Robert Lamm of Chicago,. Then you step into the next gallery where you find exhibits showing the Roots of Rock, which are Blues, Gospel, R&B, Country, Bluegrass, and Folk.
From there, you go to the only possible exhibit that shows what burst from those early roots…ELVIS! Which is both an exhibit and a quarter hour film. It is not a time waster.
Following Elvis, we went through the Fifties, the Soul Music, and then into Heavy Metal. Each one evoking specific memories of time, place, and people with whom I shared those times: Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles The Shirelles, Bob Dylan, Gene Vincent, Bill Hailey and the Comets, The Who, the Stones, Led Zep, and so many more.
Then we went through the Baker Gallery Special Exhibit, The Summer of Love Turns 50. Wow! Talk about memory makers: Photos of the groups and artists, posters of that summer at the end of the 60’s, the music, the clothing, the protests against the war in Viet Nam, all of those things came rushing back as if it were just happening.
Then came The LEGENDS OF ROCK & ROLL, which brought back to life the 60’s…the days of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Blondie, the Doors, U2, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, the Who, Guns N’ Roses and more.
Seeing the lyrics of so many songs: viewing clips and pictures of the groups playing at Monterey Pop and Woodstock: The Mommas and Pappas, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin. Oh.. Almost forgot. They have a Rock & Roll Pinball exhibit open, where you can play pinball on the old machines featuring various rock groups and artists.
Finally, there is the RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW exhibit. Which shows how the evolution of rock & roll helped to mold today’s stars. This is a look into the background and stories of today’s most popular acts, including Sia, Bruno Mars, The Arctic Monkeys, Lumineers and others.
OKAY, that was LEVEL 0. Level ONE, was the second floor, which is the entrance, the food court, and the gift shop. Wow, surprise….
ON TO LEVEL TWO
Level Two is an interactive experience, including music sound booths to hear different artists and the One Hit Wonders who helped to shape the music of the 60’s and 70’s. Level two also includes the Guitar Gallery, with exhibits of guitars played by Billie Joe Armstrong, Bobby Womack, Mike McCready, Jerry Garcia and many others.
We found the Architects of Rock and Roll on this level, featuring Les Paul, Alan Freed and Sam Phillips; and, a multi-media exhibit detailing how VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR, and finished the floor by stepping into Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Another memory rush!
LEVEL THREE was the HALL OF FAME GALLERY, which I found to be very cool, because you can vote for one of next year’s possible nominees—but just one, and after that you get a peek behind the scenes at past inductions. This was also another mind trip into the past, as you read the names of the artists, and their songs.
Then, if you are up to it, there’s a four-hour film by Jonathan Demme, playing in the Connor Theater, showing once-in-a-lifetime performances of many of the Hall’s inductees. To be honest, we watched Bruce sing for about five minutes, and moved on.
Levels Four, Five, and Six center around Rock & Roll music on radio and TV , but my timing on reaching the fifth floor, where SiriusXM keeps the Classic Vinyl channel playing in the Alan Freed Studio, was perfect, as Rachel Steele, the weekday DJ was in full stride.
I was lucky enough to grab her attention, and was able to get her to sneak out of the broadcast booth to say hello to Bonnie and me, and give her an autographed copy of my book A Better Place To Be: based on the Harry Chapin Song. We took some pictures together, and then she raced back inside as the current song was ending.
All in all, we had a great time at The ROCKHALL and in Cleveland!
If you find yourselves in the Cleveland area, and love music, do make this a MUST SEE place, and if you aren’t in the area, you should find the time go.