The actual entrance to the exhibits
As you enter the exhibit area on the first floor, there is a gallery of “Rolling Stone Magazine Type Photos” (in fact many are by Anne Libowitz) There are large poster sized framed B/W photos Lennon, Stones, Aretha, etc. On the opposite wall there are framed “gaudy” concert posters of R&B shows from the 1950’s.
The juxtaposition of this imagery against each other for me was startling and not quite what I expected. It was as if the idea was to depict the ongoing struggle that Rock n’ Roll has with itself between acknowledging it’s “outsider roots” and being sucked into the “mainstream”. I found it to be refreshing that they would put that kind of imagery right in your face upon entering and it clearly sets the stage for the kind of even handed treatment that the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame itself seems to be fighting to maintain in the face of it’s own need for funding from the very elements that it kinda wants to also attack?
The interactive exhibits
* Artists and their Influences – This section was most impressive, there was an audio/video terminal where you could call up each inductee. For each inductee there is a biography, some audio and a discography. That was pretty much expected. However you could also point on the screen to “influences” and up would pop up the name, image and biography of two other inductee’s that had influenced the original selection. For example on Jimi Hendrix when you selected his influences, up would pop the names and images of Curtis Mayfield and Muddy Waters. For James Brown it was Little Willie John and the 5 Royales. For Otis Redding it was Little Richard and Sam Cooke. (and so on and so forth).
This enables the viewer to see the History of Rock n’ Roll NOT as a series of relatively “unrelated periods” (ex: the Blues period, The Rockabilly Period, British Invasion Period, The Soul Period, etc) as Rolling Stone magazine would like us to view the history of Rock n’ Roll. Instead it allows us to understand that the history of the music is indeed intertwined, but NOT by some artificially designated “periods” (like a high school social studies book) but that the history of the music is a continuum, that is defined by the artists themselves, by the artists who influenced them and by the artists who they will influence in the future!
This type of analysis makes the history of Rock n’ Roll a “circular and never ending web of influences” as opposed to a “stratified linear straight line.” From my perspective, this is a far more accurate representation of the truth, than the “History According To Rolling Stone,” and it also is a perspective that holds out a brighter hope for the constant rebirth and renewal of the music
* Artist Discographies – Not just simply a listing, but instead sorta like a jukebox! For each artists that have a complete selection of all of their hit songs.
For example, I pulled up Smokey Robinson’s “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” (out of about 60 songs listed for him) and put on the headphones. As the song played I started singing the words and dancing around doing my “Miracles Imitation” (including “twirls & hand gestures”). At this point “mrs. nightrain” started to walk away from me in embarrassment until she saw that the other people in the adjoining booths were doing the same exact thing. When “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” ended, she took the headphones away and then proceeded to the same exact thing as I did, except to Santana’s “Evil Ways”
* Come See About Me – Features a biographical database of just about anyone that you could think of, including artists that are NOT inducted in the Hall of Fame. So for example there are biographies of some of my favorites like the Dells, Mandrill, Delfonics, Teddy Pendegrass and others. Since these biographies are sourced from the Rolling Stone History of Rock n’ Roll” of course there are many inaccuracies. However it’s kinda nice to know that everybody is included and not just inductees!
The Hendrix exhibition is awesome
* If you are a Jimi Hendrix fan, this alone is worth the price of admission.
* There are all kinds of artifacts from Jimi’s clothing, to rare photos from various periods of his life to guitars, to 45’s to concert reviews to huge blown up 45 sleeves and album covers to contracts, to handwritten lyrics to a time line of Jimi’s life to a replica of the Hendrix family living room and more
* There is a video interview with Al Hendrix discussing Jimi’s early life and his rise to stardom
* There is a special “Surround Sound Jimi Hendrix Movie Theatre” which plays several songs from the Isle of Wright Concert (his last) and the Dick Cavett Interview
* Of special interest to me on a personal level was a promotional poster that Jimi Hendrix did for the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. (that is the very same library where I gave my presentation on Jimi Hendrix last fall as a part of the “SUITE HENDRIX CELEBRATION)
The actual Hall of Fame itself
* For some reason, I expected an area with bronze statues of the inductees….lol
* There are no statues, instead there are the names and signatures “laminated” on a translucent semi circular wall. The signatures have an eerie glow and almost seem infused with “magic dust”
* I counted the signatures and there were sixteen members of the Soul Patrol mailing list up there!
* Even better than statues, is a film that is shown in of a theatre that is inside of the semi circle, which focuses on each one of the “inductee years”. It is a multi media/three screen extravaganza that is totally mind blowing and it ends with a video of the Flamingos singing “I Only Have Eyes For You”. It will make you remember what you thought that you had forgotten about these great artists.
There is more, much more, but I have already been long winded enough.
Three more quickies.
1. No cameras are permitted
2. If you go plan on spending at least 2 full days checking it out
3. The “gift shop” is probably the best CD store in the United States. Whatever you are looking for that has ever been released on CD is there (for example, I found 2 Timi Yuro CD’s there), bring lots of ca$h!