***(Skip down to the yellow car if you ain’t here on business baby, and only here for fun: the Bruce Springsteen stuff)
A few days prior to my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum trip, I started thinking about why I wanted to go and about my musical history. What were my first exposures to and memories of music? I think probably it was my grandmother and mother singing me lullabies, most of them with some Appalachian mountain flair. I graduated to the old folk standards, Jimmy Crack Corn and Old Dan Tucker, as sung by my Dad—and I thought he was the one who made these songs up for the longest time.
A little later, weekends were filled with wafting tunes from the old floor model stereo. Mom’s choices: Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. I hated it then and still am not a traditional country fan. I tolerated it though, and enjoyed laughing with my mom at her singing and dancing around the living room.
The old RCA looked like this:
I even dabbled with playing the french horn for a while (this sentence just doesn’t fit anyplace, but I wanted in here, doggone it. There were also very, very short stints with cello and guitar. Strings don’t like me.) I always liked listening to the radio and early on had a rinky-dink record player. My early likes were the Osmond Brothers and the Partridge Family. Yes, I’m brave enough to admit that. I think my very first concert-like experience was Herman’s Hermits at Coney Island, Cincinnati. I know my mouth literally dropped open when I heard that full band sound come from that stage. My first “real” concert was Kiss in 1977-Riverfront Coliseum. Yes, I’m brave enough to admit that too. I think I was wise enough to know, though, that this was not the really good stuff so I kept listening and searching.
In 1978, during one of my first two hour trips to college I heard these lyrics on the radio,
Badlands you gotta live it every day, Let the broken hearts stand as the price you’ve gotta pay, We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood, and these badlands start treating us good.
That’s a great song with great words, I thought, but as usual, I couldn’t catch, or they didn’t say who sang it. A little while after I got to the dorm, I mentioned the lyrics to my roommates. “Oh, that’s Bruce Springsteen. I just saw him in Louisville. You have to see him live.”
I didn’t get to see him until about two years later, but it was worth the wait…and so began my 32 years and counting Bruce Springsteen fling. Which sort of led me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio on Labor Day Weekend.
Now I know serious musicphiles and critics probably have some major gripes about the place; the nominating process, the biases and thekitschiness, but I love everything about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I love the way it sits on Lake Erie. I love when you approach it, you see the concrete sign that says “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard.” I love the way it looks; like a glass pyramid with this extended round side piece, that, if you ask me, looks like 45s raised on a turntable- ready to drop.
I love that you see Johnny Cash’s “JC Unit 1, The House of Cash” silver tour bus sitting there.
I love the way the displays are 3D. The little push pin placards pop out in the glass cases to showcase the personal postcards and such. I love the way it sounds; every room has the most awesome audio system. They even have the music piped outside. I love the way it smells; like old vinyl and musty, vintage, hippie clothes. I love the way it feels; like you just stepped into your swirliest rock and roll dream. I love the way it tastes; like, well, wait, maybe not how it tastes. Your plain jane ham sandwich: $6.95. But you get the idea. I love this place.
My husband, fortunately, likes music a lot too. Unfortunately, he hung out on the first floor way too long for me. You can only look at Elvis’ purple Lincoln Continental Mark IV for so long. You see, there was a battered Fender Esquire neck, Telecaster body instrument calling my name from the 6th floor. I did enjoy perusing the artifacts on that floor, though. I noticed that the clothes Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler wore are so tiny. Michael Jackson’s sparkly glove was, well, sparkly. I noticed how so many wonderfully talented musicians were so very young and that many of their lives ended so tragically. I was enthralled reading the sign detailing Jimi Hendrix’s career, but the last words: “Jimi died at the age of 27 at the Samarkand Hotel in London. The cause of death was suffocation in his own vomit, caused from barbiturate intoxication” seemed to end with an abrupt concrete wall period.
I learned a lot. I didn’t know Patti Smith was a journalist and reviewed Janis Joplin…and who knew there was a Patti Smith doll?! Patti wrote postcards home to her family in Ohio just like any other touring kiddo, and John Lennon, postcards to Julian. James Taylor’s brother painted his guitar blue, ruined it, but James kept it and gave it to the RRHOF.
The Austin City Limits room was a treat - eyeful and earful. The U2 3D movie was incredible. I’m not a big fan, but you actually wanted to fist pump and hoot. It looked like the people in front of you were raising their arms.
I noticed a funny thing that kept happening while looking at the displays. A lot of the visitors had on the standard issue rock n roll black. Some areas were a bit dark, so when you became enamored with analyzing a display, then turn to move or scoot down, you’d bump right into someone next to you or behind you. A lot of times, they’d be oblivious because they were so interested in say, the ZZ Top furry drum set.
*** Down on the lower floor I spotted Bruce’s first car:
I finally meandered my way up to the fifth floor. Appearing on levels 5 and 6: “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen”
You had to take two escalators and then this little staircase. At the top of the stairs, is a pulled back black, velvety curtain, just like you’re entering a circus sideshow or something. In that room are the older things. I enjoyed the personal photos and the scrapbooks. Bruce is very lucky that he, and/or his acquaintances kept so much stuff, even from early on. Clarence’s saxophone, Stevie’s crazy zebra striped guitar, and particularly Danny’s shiny accordion were a feast for my eyes.
Of special interest was the old video playing. There’s footage from the Houston show that will be on the upcoming The Promise: Darkness on the Edge of Town box set. There’s also “Sandy” from 1973 Nassau Community College and “Kitty” from 1975 Carlton Theater, Redbank, NJ. I stood stone-like there for a long time.
There’s a corner playing excerpts from Wings for Wheels: the making of Born to Run. The labor intensive notebook that Bruce wrote Born to Run in is displayed there. I tried my best to see what color it was, but couldn’t. He has a huge variety of notebooks, not seeming to prefer any type or color, other than spiral. There’s also THE leather jacket that he wore on the cover of the Born to Run album. It is quite small. I have only about two complaints of the whole Rock Hall shebang. One of them is that they didn’t put that jacket next to the album cover and notebook. It is isolated on another wall, and the first day trying to see everything quickly, I didn’t realize that it was the cover jacket.
I decided to head on up to the top floor to make sure that I had time to see the things there. I’d held off just about as long as I could to see the guitar. There is a small spiral staircase that has white walls with a scripted font that starts out: “The screen door slams”, and you read the lyrics to Thunder Road on the way up. Literally, a great lead up. When you reach the top, almost right in front of you is THE guitar. It’s hard to describe this exhibit the right way. If you are a big, long time Springsteen fan, it is such a feast. There were times when hardly any news or information was available about him or the band. It’s all just laid out here. It’s like the glossiest, juiciest magazine and/or album that you could have. The clothes from the cover of the River and Born in the USA albums are showcased here. .
"Let’s see what’s on the back of this thing?"
…and Oh the NOTEBOOKS. It’s very interesting to see the lyric changes. I’m sure glad he changed “sweet shop graduate” to “jukebox graduate”. “The Fuse” did not come easy to him. It was one of the most marked up songs that I saw.
Note to self: Fix the back of your hair a little better if your husband is going to take sneaky pictures.
The loud Bon Jovi music just adds to the fabulousness. No, of course it’s Bruce and there is a huge video screen. A great place to showcase the E Street Band, right? Well, here’s my second complaint. They play the MTV Unplugged video! I kept thinking it was an excerpt and would change but it didn’t. NO E Street Band.
I closed the place down that night:
I originally thought I’d go for one day but decided to go back for another. I completely missed this little elevator alcove the first day. There are some fan posters from the shows which means Bruce saved them!
They have a great gift shop with lots of cds. One special treat was meeting up for just a few minutes with my friend Deena and her sister Maleena here. They coincidentally were visiting the Rock Hall at the same time. I originally met Deena through a Bruce Springsteen internet board. See Mom, I told you that Deena, my internet friend, is not an ax murderer.
I spent two days there, and still didn’t get to see everything. I know it’s only rock’n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do.More photos from the Rock Hall website here: photos from Rock Hall website
A few added notes: Just when I didn’t think the weekend could get any better, we figured out we could go by the house where “A Christmas Story” was filmed.
You’ll shoot your eye out!
There was a great air show going on near the Rock Hall that weekend: