Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 2017

Rock And Roll Mecca Worth the Trip

Destination Cleveland: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

I recently decided to escape the sweltering summer heat of Orlando for… well, the sweltering summer heat of Cleveland and made my first pilgrimage to the mecca of rock music, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Museum. What an amazing journey…

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See additional photos from my visit here: Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Photos

The excitement and energy starts as soon as the museum comes into view. Noted architect I.M. Pei designed the magnificent and ultra-modern vision; a glass and steel pyramid structure that fits perfectly as the home to this fantastic collection of rock ‘n roll history.

The museum sits just past the lapping shoreline of Lake Erie and boasts six floors of amazing musical memories. Traveling with my wife and teenage son, we had allotted 3 hours to tour the shrine, and as it turns out, we rushed to get through within that time-frame. We started on the first floor, by far the largest assembly of collections, and were consumed by the compelling displays.

Neil Young's hand-written lyrics to "Heart Of Gold"
Neil Young’s hand-written lyrics to “Heart Of Gold”

Our first destination was the exhibit honoring the 2015 inductees: Ringo Starr, The 5 Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bill Withers, and Lou Reed who was previously inducted along with Velvet Underground. As you can see from the artists included, the Rock Hall honors every generation and genre of rock music – a beautiful thing and a fitting tribute for the many amazing artists who have graced our ears with their collective genius over our lifetimes.

Highlights from the inductee exhibit included Paul Butterfield’s legendary Hohner harmonica, handwritten “I Hate Myself For Loving You” lyrics from Joan Jett, a torched drum kit from Tre Cool, and an impossibly small polyester jump suit from Starr’s earlier days. Just four items from this huge eclectic collection, but every piece an intriguing story all its own, and a microcosm of the cool history to lie ahead. There were more than a dozen distinctive and captivating exhibits on the first floor alone, and countless exciting memories around every corner.

Other first floor highlights included an Early Influencers section which included peeks at rock roots reaching back many glorious decades to Blues, Country, Folk, Gospel, Bluegrass and R&B. The forefathers (and sisters) of rock dominated the first few exhibits we toured, but just as quickly, we’d stumble into a display featuring current artist memorabilia – artists like current RARA’s Farm favorites The Black Keys, Silversun Pickups and Fitz And The Tantrums.

There was an intriguing display on rock ‘n roll cities, including a nice tribute to our host city of Cleveland, a killer Elvis section boasting enthralling live concert footage (which was my wife’s favorite exhibit), and an area where you could look-up the key influences of every major rock artist. Did you know Nirvana was influenced by the Pixies and Melvins?

The drum heads, guitars and other musical instruments adorning the walls just dripped with rock ‘n roll history, and there were some instruments which were amazingly artistic, as well. If you visit, you need to check out Rod Argent’s long lost pianet and custom hand carved guitars from Bo Diddley and John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service).

I was shocked to see that we’d already chewed up 90 minutes exploring the treasure of artifacts on the first floor, as it seemed we had just arrived. From there, we picked up the pace and covered the next few floors a bit more quickly.

Other featured artists that caught my attention were Jimi Hendrix (with a handful of his famously restrung guitars), U2, Genesis and a huge tribute to Paul Simon which included first-person commentary, and nearly 100 different artifacts from his storied past, both with and without Garfunkel. This exhibit runs through September, so get there quick if you’re a Simon fan.

Signatures from the members of Queen at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Signatures from the members of Queen at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

I found myself captivated by the original hand-written lyrics to dozens of cionic tracks, the words taking on more meaning in the writer’s own pen, at the time the words were envisioned. An unexpected highlight was the tour up to the fourth floor through a stunning hallway, adorned with the signature of every inductee into the hall. Atop the climbing staircase was a touching tribute to members of the rock ‘n roll family who we lost in the past year, including two names I had missed on the news, The Faces’ Ian McClagan and local Florida legend Bob Burns, the original drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Across the lobby from the third floor cafe was a sweet collection of items from Pink Floyd’s legendary The Wall, including a 30 foot inflatable Teacher draped atop the wall, and Pink’s living room scene straight from The Wall Tour. The wall itself featured intriguing hand-written notes from Roger Waters explaining his thought process for creating his opus. This timeless exhibit was my son’s favorite.

The Teacher from Pink Floyd's The Wall Tour
The Teacher from Pink Floyd’s The Wall Tour

I wrapped up my journey by entering the visually delightful tribute to iconic photographer Herb Ritts. If you owned an album – any album – featuring an 80’s or 90’s musical icon on the cover, you are likely already familiar with Ritts’ work. The late photographer was an absolute artist, and there was tremendous evidence of his genius on display. David Bowie, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Prince, Elton John, Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, Sinead O’Connor, yeah you get it – everybody… It was a priceless and unique experience.

We returned downstairs to hit the gift shop before we departed where we stocked up on a few souvenirs from the many incredibly creative items on sale. As a note of interest, you can shop the Rock Hall without paying admission and along the way still see some very cool displays, as the Zoo TV cars and the huge Phish hot dog are suspended overhead, and Joan Jett’s and Janis Joplin’s rides sit in the lobby surrounded by iconic guitars.

Simply put, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Museum is an amazing collection that would delight any rock music fanatic. The three hours didn’t do the Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame justice, as I know I missed the Alt-Press celebration of 30 years of coverage, The Beatles exhibit, the tribute to One-hit Wonders and many of the films in the acoustically perfect theaters, as well as countless other items tucked in every nook and cranny of this special place.

If you are a true rock ‘n roll fan, this place needs to be on your bucket list, and do it right, and assure you have damn near a full day to explore everything the museum has to offer.

See additional photos from my visit here: Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Photos

“It’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it…”

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