The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, has been around for more than a decade but has been a strong anchor for new developments on the Erie Lake front redevelopment. The Hall of Fame’s unique structural design blends in well with the waves and ships on the lake front and its use of natural light for many parts of the museum interior is far more relaxing than the stuffy interiors of your average museum.
Price: For $20 a piece, adult museum goers get a thorough review of rock and roll history, its roots, and how it has evolved over the last fifty years. It is well worth the money to see priceless rock artifacts like a Beatles board game called “Beatles Flip your Wig,” hand written journals by musicians like Pete Townshend, John Lennon, and the childhood drawings of Jimi Hendrix.
Gift Shop/Merchandising: The gift shop was certainly not disappointing from a price and supply stand point. In addition to the usual tourist fare (t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.) there was great prices on DVDs (the Tommy DVD for only $9.99), CDs for all the artists in the museum, and posters of many of the great bands in the hall. The more expensive pieces, including framed records, should wet the beak of die hard fans of particular bands.
a) 500 songs that shaped rock and roll-This exhibit, featuring 500 rock songs selected by the Hall staff, historians, and critics, features several semi-private listening stations featuring a breakdown of the songs alphabetically by group and interesting facts about the musicians and the song’s evolution. This is a great introduction to the rest of the museum and a good primer for the multimedia presentations within the hall.
B) Les Paul and the Electric Guitar- The Wizard of Waukesha has a small but strong display in the bowels of the museum. Paul’s ingenuity in dealing with sound and the creation of instruments is shown in a series of displays featuring experimental instruments and biographical information on Paul’s music career. People who enjoy rock music have maybe heard about Paul but should know about this innovator, without whom there would not have been the array of sounds created from the strum of the electric guitar.
C) Hall of Fame Inductees- Without the hundreds of inductees into the Hall of Fame, it would seem irrelevant to have the rest of the exhibits. In 2006, the Hall will induct six new members (Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynrd Skynrd, the Sex Pistols, and Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss) to its hallowed ranks. The hall of honor for these inductees is only open at certain points in the day, which is understandable in order to protect the sanctity of the materials within but is frustrating because of the amount of exhibit material that can be seen in the time needed to wait for the gates to open.
The current special exhibit at the museum is “Tommy: The Amazing Journey.” The exhibit features all of the promotional materials, concert posters, and other material surrounding the creation of the preeminent rock opera Tommy, the story of a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” who becomes a famed pinball wizard. A documentary produced by the museum interviews all of the parties involved about the evolution of Tommy from a conceptual album to a movie featuring the band to a subject of Broadway musicals and interpretive dance. In addition to the Tommy materials, there is a wealth of great Who materials in this exhibit that are rare pieces remaining from the band’s torrid past. The next exhibit will feature Bob Dylan’s music and the American journey between 1955 and 1965, starting in May 2006.
If you are in Cleveland or anywhere near Cleveland, you should check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The curators were careful to mix the wonder and raw power of rock and roll music with a consumer-friendly, multimedia approach that enables the non-musician to access the world of the musician. The price of admission is easily worth the materials within and if you are a fan of the more famous bands (i.e. the Beatles, the Who) there are huge spaces devoted to these groups. But for those who are more interested in obscure artists, there are still elements of their work throughout the various exhibits and there should be something for everyone.