Jun 21, 2017

Roaming through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

When you work on the road as much as this commoner does, sometimes you just feel compelled to be a tourist when the opportunity arises.  So, when I was working last year in Cleveland, my coworkers and I made it a point to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  

Yes, it was touristy.  Yes, it was cheesy.  Yes, it was more commercial than it should have been.  In other words, it was in many ways the opposite of everything rock music once supposedly stood for.  But in spite of it all, it was absolutely worth it.

Located on the shore of Lake Erie as part of Cleveland’s revitalized North Shore Harbor, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site is still relatively new -- even newer than the actual “hall” itself.  The giant triangle has only been a part of the Cleveland landscape since 1995.  But honestly, you really can’t miss it if you’re looking for it.   

The building features seven levels of various attractions, shops, theaters, conference rooms and meeting spaces.  For what I consider to be a great value of under $25, you’ll be able to see most of the permanent displays and many timely, temporary exhibits (the new class of inductees is typically featured prominently).  

As you’d expect, many of the “heavyweights” have permanent exhibits devoted to them, so you’ll have an opportunity to see some iconic pieces of rock history, such as Ringo Starr’s drum kit with the Beatles ...

… and Elvis Presley’s stylin’ gold suit from his 1968 Comeback Special.  

The museum also features several noteworthy exhibits devoted to the musical culture of various cities that helped shape the foundations of rock.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m partial to Memphis’ musical history, so I was especially happy to see a little of it on display.

The museum also touches on the history of other musical genres that influenced many rock and roll hall of famers.

I'm always looking for that one-way ticket to midnight.
Moving past the precursors to rock, I was pleased to see a fair number of exhibits devoted to some more “contemporary” genres of rock and roll (i.e., bands I grew up listening to).  For instance, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit or Michael Anthony’s Jack Daniel’s guitar if you spent your youth banging your head to the hard rock of the 1980s.  

And yes, I admit to being pleased that the Eagles -- a guilty pleasure of mine -- was well represented with their own display ... .  

I'm beginning to see why they call him the Space Cowboy ...
… as well as class of 2016 inductee Steve Miller Band, even though Steve Miller himself may still be pretty jaded toward the industry, which reportedly made for a rather awkward ceremony.

Another thing I appreciated about the museum was the fact that you don’t have to be a hall of famer -- or even a long-time performer -- to be recognized for your influence on music and pop culture.  

Where's the flying pig?
Then there’s perhaps the most unusual display I encountered -- and maybe the most prominent at the museum.  As you take the escalator to the building’s higher levels, you’re greeted by the hall of fame’s tribute to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.      

The sheer size of it is impressive, but I couldn’t help but be amused by how out of place and overly commercial it seemed to see a cafeteria style dinner being catered to some corporate outing on the other side of the wall.  

Elsewhere in the museum you’ll find a pretty interesting exhibit on the evolution of radio, how it helped shape rock music, why Cleveland deserves to be recognized as the birthplace of rock and roll, and how listening to music has changed dramatically since the dawn of the 20th Century.  There’s also a gift shop that includes, as one would hope, a vast selection of music to purchase.  

I think it’s safe to say there’s something for every musical taste at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is fitting when you consider the wide spectrum of styles that encompasses what is  generally considered rock music today.  Plus, with ever-changing exhibits, the museum is always worth a return trip to see what’s new or topical.  It’s certainly one attraction by the lake that won’t be a mistake to check out when you’re in downtown Cleveland.  

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