IT’S BEEN A LONG, FUN TRIP, a four day adventure with my son, just him and I, to go visit the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. On Thursday we got in our rental car (a terrific Ford Fusion) and made it to Chicago, then Friday we got to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Two six-hour driving segments, having a lot of laughs, listening to music, stand-up comedy, podcasts, and my son’s various comments on things he was seeing on Snapchat (that app being omni-present the entire trip. Sometimes you just don’t fight it).
Its still a little odd that there is such a thing – a giant edifice to rock and roll – but I suppose the best and most influential artists and moments from the single most impactful, cultural, societal and artistic movement should be glorified and put on display in an attempt to makes sense of it all. It is important that the cultural shifts the country has gone thru thanks to music is documented. It is important that the censorship efforts are documented and explained. Most important of all, it’s important that the source of all of Rock n’ Roll – the Blues, and the great Blues artists – are permanently given space for all to see where it really all began. To that end, the museum didn’t disappoint.
It certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to artifacts, either. The massive amount of outfits and instruments are impressive. Seeing one of Ringo Starr’s drumsets – thinking of what songs were played on it, wow! The oddities – Elvis Presley’s garish motor-tricycle, Al Hendrix’s living room couch, also very cool to see. I can’t help but wonder if the historical significance of these artifacts is now lost on most folks: I wondered, and heard a few people wonder outloud, how much some of the items were worth.
Currently, there’s a featured film running, The Power of Rock, which showcases the great performances at the induction ceremonies over the years, culminating with the greatest ever, Prince, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and others doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” There’s also a huge celebration of Rolling Stone magazine, which given the magazine’s relationship to the hall, seemed a bit self-serving, and like one big giant advertisement, at first. Upon closer examination, it gave a great overview to the history of the magazine, it’s impact on media and culture, and there’s a great display of many of the iconic covers. In addition, there’s a huge retrospective on John Mellencamp’s career.
Visually, and, of course, aurally exciting, the whole thing remains a bit antiseptic and safe. What’s definitely a disappointment is the treatment of everyone in the Hall that wasn’t a life-shattering, impactful band – like 99% of the Hal members. If you’re not one of the the biggest stars, haven’t recently died, or not in the current year’s induction class, you won’t be found. Why can’t there be little displays for every band, along with an audio-visual tour of their music, and footage of their induction ceremony?
All that said, it was cool to take my son to the museum. He’s really starting to discover music now and to have him take in the history of rock and roll (and rap, too – in which he asked the inevitable question, “why is rap in a rock n’ roll museum?”), and talk about and show him things that were such a huge part of my life (and still is), enabled us to share one more thing together. Which is always a great thing.