A Long-Overdue Trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Part of the original set from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" tour in 1979-80
While it's true that my Bucket List could be contained in a fairly small bucket, a big one got checked off recently when I was able to finally stroll into that big ass glass pyramid on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland: I had arrived at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Though it was established in 1983 and began inducting members shortly thereafter, the physical building did not open until 1995. The Museum's six levels host thousands of artifacts, interactive displays, video screens and jukeboxes, two theaters, and enough nooks and crannies to keep even the most casual music fan occupied for hours.

I was there for five, and could have easily spent five more. Or just move in there for a week or so. Though I think security might question a guy with a sleeping bag at the foot of Howlin' Wolf's guitar.

Other photos by Bob Ruggiero and those in his tour group
The author in front of Beatles memorabilia from their Sgt. Pepper's period
But the Hall of Fame is far more than a collection of memorabilia (a piece of Otis Redding' death plane!), musician's items (Warren Zevon's handwritten lyrics to "Play It All Night Long!") or stage costumes (Michael Jackson was tiny!).

And that's not mentioning the café and extensive gift shop, the latter of which was pleasantly surprising for its huge offerings of music alone, including imports I've never seen before.

Without gushing (OK, if it's OK to gush at one thing I guess...) it's a place where the entirety of music for the last nearly century -- from country, blues, rockabilly, and soul to folk, psychedelia punk, thrash, and rap -- come together in one narrative. And it all makes sense.

Yeah, I've got problems - big problems -- with the list of inductees to date in terms of who is in there that shouldn't and who should be in there that's not (Deep Purple -- this has to be your year!).

But all that seem to fall by the wayside as I explored the incredibly well laid-out exhibits - both permanent and temporary - throughout. Here were some of my favorite permanent highlights.

Photo courtesy of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
The platform boots of Peter Criss, original drummer for 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees KISS
Mystery Train film
The first stop for most museum-goers, this 12-minute, narrator-free film uses the metaphor of a train for the unstoppable approach of rock and roll music. A locomotive that travels through antecedents of older music with effective black and white footage of both performers and society from the '20s through the '50s.

Legends of Rock and Roll
These artist-specific exhibits focus on the Big Guns including Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and U2. Even diehard fans will learn something new, and the sheer amount of stuff with a direct relation to the artist is astounding, from famous stage costumes to bits of lyrics written on hotel stationary to personal items. And who knew a young Hendrix made so many crayon and pencil drawing of sports scenes?

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As long as the so-called "Hall of Fame" ignores Chicago, it has zero credibility. More like the Hall of Shame.


@juliakosatka There are plenty of acts about whom one could say that, too many to list. I have always loathed Journey, but I believe they deserve to be enshrined. So far, not even a nomination. The HoF has certain standards for induction; dozens of multi-platinum-selling bands and solo acts do not meet those standards; therefore, just being a household word is no guarantee of induction.

However, even acts that might never be inducted make appearances in exhibits at the Museum. The place is incredibly and mindfully curated. It's a powerful sensory and emotional experience for true fans of modern popular music. On a visit in 2001, seeing a telegram from Redd Foxx to Jackie Wilson after the latter's accident made me weep; John Lennon's eyeglasses just about made me faint. The Inductees Film reminds us all why those particular artists were worthy of a place in the Hall, even the ones we don't much care for.

Bob R.: Don't forget that "stationary" means not moving, but "stationery" is paper.


@dbcsez @juliakosatka Good points, though I'd argue that Chicago's contribution to prog rock in the 60s and 70s more than warrants their inclusion. 

On another note, though related to Chicago, have you heard about the film the late, great Terry Kath's daughter, Michelle Kath Sinclair, is making about her father? Talk about an under appreciated talent - Terry Kath was one of the finest rock guitarists around. Insanely talented. Damn shame we lost him so young.

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