Sunday, November 7, 2010

If there’s a Rock and Roll Heaven….

Shane and Beth CBGB2 Not only do they have a helluva band, I was there yesterday!

I mentioned that a small group of family was heading out on Friday on a road trip to Cleveland, where we'd pay a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Me, Shane, and Matt rode over together (thanks for driving, Shane!), and my sisters Diana and Sue (this was Sue's birthday), Di's husband Tom, and my niece Jana (Sue's daughter) rode in another car. When we saw their vehicle pass us, then encountered them a couple more times on the highway, I of course had to make the joke, "Looks like we got ourselves a convoy." Shane, Matt, and I are children of the seventies...what can I say?

No problem on the drive over, and we all made great time...almost exactly four hours to get there. We met up at a restaurant I found online, just about a quarter of a mile from the Hall. Nothing fancy, but plenty of decent food and quiet enough that we could all talk without shouting. At one point, there was a lively discussion about this year's nominees for induction. I said Alice Cooper needs to be in, also the J. Geils Band...Diana said "And Donna Summer." I said, "What? That's not rock and roll. That's disco." I'll cop to listening and dancing to some of that shit once in a while now (I still think "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor is a great song), but I really don't think you can consider Donna Summer "rock and roll." I believe it was Matt who said that it has electric guitar in it, so it qualifies. We were all laughing by this point! Again, children of the '70s...I still remember the whole "disco sucks" sentiment then, when it was a battle between punk and disco. I'll take punk any day.

After lunch, we made our way over to the Hall. I was so excited by this time that I could hardly contain myself. The building is a beautiful piece of architecture, designed by I. M. Pei. (He's the guy who did the pyramid at the Louvre.) But I was there for the rock stuff, man!

I'm afraid that photos and videos are not allowed in the exhibit areas, so was able to take some only in the vestibule. They did have some fun stuff there. One of the first things we looked at was a display case of various guitars...and the first one we saw was from the B-52s' Ricky Wilson. Shane, Matt, and I got verklempt. Ricky died of AIDS some years ago, and is still missed. In the same case was Johnny Cash's guitar. Then there was a Ted Nugent guitar, which we did not exclaim over, and in fact, completely ignored. I did not take a picture in protest. Kind of silly, I know. But I parted ways with Ted when he praised Sarah Palin's "herculean work ethic." I guess he missed that whole part where she fucking quit. Herculean work ethic, my ass. Well, she's good at shoveling shit, so I guess you could describe that as Herculean, since that was one of his tasks. Hmph.

I had to get a picture of Shane in front of Joan Jett's Jaguar, because Shane's car is a VW Jetta, which he named Joan. Get it? Joan Jetta? I just love that. I also got pictures of us in front of the CBGB marquee. That was the club that was probably identified with the punk/new wave movement more than any other, at least in the States. Artists like Blondie, the Police, the Ramones, Talking Heads, and the Sex Pistols all played there. It was the mecca of punk. I got pictures of the ZZ Top Eliminator car, and my favorite picture from the day is me, Matt, and Shane doing the ZZ Top finger point in front of the car. Shane wondered how many people per day do that shot! I don't care if we didn't think of it makes me grin every time I see it!

When we headed into the exhibit hall, we kind of split into the groups we had in the two cars. Not surprising, because we're sort of different eras when it comes to music. I actually wandered off by myself for a while, but hooked up with Shane and Matt again pretty quickly.

Here are some of the highlights for me:

  • I thought the Jim Morrison section was fantastic. My friend Tony in Cleveland told me to be sure to look for Morrison's report cards, and I found them. What an incredibly bright young man! Anyone who thinks he was just a dumb rock star is very mistaken. I also enjoyed the correspondence between Morrison's father, a Navy admiral, and the chief of police in Miami concerning Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure. Shane, Matt, and I found it interesting and rather touching that although the elder Morrison didn't support Jim's rock career, and they became estranged, the Admiral told the chief of police that Jim was basically a good kid and did not intend to cause trouble. It was some interesting insight into was what obviously a difficult family relationship.
  • I had meant to bring an Ian Hunter CD with me so that we could play "Cleveland Rocks" in the car, but I forgot. So it made me smile to see Ian Hunter's piano on display, the one on which he composed that song! Apparently it's the unofficial theme song of Cleveland.
  • I loved the stage costumes, and they had a ton of them. Everyone from the Who to Bowie to Queen to P-Funk (as you can imagine, the P-Funk clothing was quite entertaining) to Stevie Nicks. Seeing her flowing dresses and platform boots prompted Matt to give a dead-on impersonation of her stomping on a treadmill in the video of "Stand Back." (Go to the 1:49 mark to see that, if you don't remember it.) I think I snorted with laughter when he did that! I remember seeing pictures and video of so many of my favorite artists wearing those very same clothes.
  • We watched a 12-minute video! When MTV began, it was truly the golden age of music videos, and for anyone my age, I know that it had to shape our listening habits. Shane said he has about 20 videotapes full of videos...I think we need to make sure those get transferred to DVD, because can you imagine how much fun those would be to watch? Anyway, the three of us sat there and watched the video, a rapid fire montage of images throughout the years. We called out the artists names as we recognized them, and it was fun to see how many we remembered! We came by that area again later, and there was no one else there, so we acted out some of the video clips, including..."Vogue." Yes. Oh man, I was cracking up, and I snorted again!
  • I was interested to see the original cover of the Beatles' "Yesterday and Today," the one that is referred to as the butcher cover. In this shot, you can see the smiling lads are surrounded by dismembered dolls and pieces of meat. I think I recall reading about that before, but didn't remember much about it. Very edgy for its time, and after complaints, the cover was yanked and replaced. The original cover is one of the most highly-prized pieces of Beatles memorabilia.

Beatles butcher album cover

  • One of the temporary exhibits was about Bruce Springsteen. I've never been that much into Bruce. Calm down, calm down...I like him just fine and think he's an amazing artist. But for whatever reason, I just never became a rabid fan. What I thought was neat was seeing how many scrapbooks he kept. There were several there that he himself had created. I could just imagine a young Bruce cutting out articles about himself, and pasting them into his scrapbooks. I thought it was a charming, personal aspect to one of the biggest stars ever in rock music.
  • My personal favorite was the Rolling Stones section. They were playing Stones footage on a few monitors, so the music was there as I looked at the displays. I loved seeing the stage outfits from several of their tours, including Mick's football outfit, and his American/British flag cape, which he is wearing in this short video that shows just how fucking awesome Keith Richards is...still one of my favorite video clips! (By the way, congratulations to Keef for having the #1 nonfiction book in the country...beating that little girl Glenn Beck who is at #2. That makes me happy...which makes me think of the Stones song "Happy," sung by Keith. But I digress.) They also had lighting fixtures from the Steel Wheels tour, which was really cool for me because that's the tour that Shane and I saw them on, in Indianapolis in 1989!

It was a fantastic experience for me, and I feel like I only scratched the surface. We didn't have time to read everything in depth, so I just tried to hit the things that were nearest and dearest to me. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more punk memorabilia, but I think they rotate things out, and I know they have temporary exhibits. I also didn't see a lot of Kinks memorabilia, although they did have one of Dave Davies' guitars. They are inductees now, but still not as well known as they should be. An amazing band.

45 rpm mousepad After a stop in ye olde gift shoppe (check out my new 45 rpm awesome is that?), we said our goodbyes to family and headed out into a cold, rainy day. We eventually left the rain behind, and had an enjoyable ride back that included lots of fun talk and discussion. It was a bummer to get back close to home and find snow on the ground. I had to brush about two inches off of my car, and although most of the highway was fine, when I got to my exit, it was a sheet of ice. I had slowed way down because there were cop cars there, and that was because there were a few cars that had slid off. It was scary slick. Of course, this week, it's supposed to get up close to 70°. Go figure.

Anyway, it was an amazing place, and I'm so glad that I got to see it with Shane. We've been music buddies for decades now, and it was wonderful to share that with him. If you've been there, share your favorite parts. If you haven't, and you love rock and roll as much as I do, plan a trip. I guarantee that you will love it as much as I did!

Rock on, citizens.

Matt, Beth, Shane with ZZ Top car