Life From the Bottom – Day 11

With our show so close to the city of Cleveland, it only made sense to stop by the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. As a band, they let us in for free, provided we produced some content for them. We forked over a CD, and some stickers in exchange for some VIP passes into the museum. Not a bad trade, considering tickets are like $45 + tax.

We camped out somewhere outside the Cleveland city limits, with every intention of getting up early and heading downtown to the Hall of Fame. By early I mean 10am, because any later and it gets too hot to sleep in our van. We got our coffees and a little breakfast, and headed into town. We parked on the pier behind the museum, paid the parking tab and headed towards the front door. We had three hours. I’ve been to the museum before, and was excited to be back, but the other dudes hadn’t been yet. I had a few things I wanted to pay particular attention to this time around, as the last time I was there the entire upstairs was closed for construction. Its such a big place, you can easily get lost in all the details. I also went equipped with a fully charged phone to take pictures, which now they’re cool with, apparently.

When we entered the building I was surprised to see the whole layout was different. Everything, including the escalators had been rotated 90 degrees from their previous spots. The gift shop was now twice as big, there was a full food court now, and all the major displays were switched over to newer inductees. I remember going down the escalators past the large stone faces featured on Pink Floyd’s “The Division” album art, and the supporting tour’s stage props. Seven years later, the difference was striking. Gone were the stone monoliths, replaced instead by displays from PHISH (gross), and one of their tours. Fittingly they did have a giant hotdog (with headlights) hanging from the ceiling, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to get a picture with it. Its as if they knew American Dischord were coming to town, our intestines still aching from the Detroit coneys we had overindulged on the day prior.

As you hop on the escalator down into the true hall of fame, you can’t miss the original awning to CBGBs, which was hand painted by Hilly Krystal himself. They only had the awning on display, but had used a three dimensional wall display to recreate the the entrance with photography. I took a second to imagine Hilly up on a ladder carefully painting the letters “CBGB OMFUG” onto the blank canvas. You could still see the pollution and weather stains on the awning its self. From there you are greeted by the main entrance of the HOF, complete with neon blue catwalks you must cross to enter the threshold. The first room you come to pays tribute to this years inductees. I took time to avoid this section of the museum, as it was mostly Pearl Jam memorabilia, and Journey.

WARNING: I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here, but whatever, fight me! Pearl Jam may be the worst band on the planet. That’s just my opinion, but if you disagree, you’d probably be wrong. I’m not saying Eddie Vedder is responsible for Creed, but you certainly wouldn’t have them without Vedder. You can draw a direct line from all the shit music that was dumped on our chests in the 1990’s and 2000’s to Pearl Jam’s influence, and all their wankery. I’m looking at you Nickleback and Puddle of Mudd. This is science, people! I’m sure Eddie Vedder is a nice dude, but holy shit his music sucks. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, we can move on.

With the disembodied gurgling of Eddie Vedder’s croon assailing my ears like tinnitus, I opted to skip the legion of new inductees. Sorry ELO, I’m sure your guitars were cool. A little further in, they have displays honoring the beginning of Rock n Roll, including some of the innovators in Rhythm and Blues, Country, Gospel, and Bluegrass. The instruments from Johnny Otis and Howlin’ Wolf punctuate each display along side lyric sheets, songbooks, and other memobillia. Personally, my favorite items tended to be the outfits and stage costumes along side the instruments. Its so easy to imagine the performers actually standing there to greet you. You can feel the energy, and I think the HOF went to great lengths to try showcase that.

Around another bend and you walk into Graceland. Not literally, because that’s in Memphis, but that’s what the curators were going for. A big neon sign reading “ELVIS” greets you like a drive-thru wedding chapel on the Vegas strip. They have costumes and outfits on the walls from the various stages of The King’s career ranging from his famous leather jacket, to the Rhinestone Cowboy. They have one of his Cadillacs in the middle of the room, an old jukebox they pulled out of his Graceland estate (its full of Elvis tunes).

A little further down you start seeing the beginning of the punk movement, including outfits from The New York Dolls, handwritten lyrics, and postcards from Television, and even the Dick Manatoba jacket from The Dictator’s album “Go Girl Crazy” album! There’s a nice section dedicated to the Talking Heads. Joey Ramone’s leather jacket hangs next to Jerry Only’s stage costume, Iggy Pop’s famous jacket flanks the left, along with Joe Strummer’s guitar, Sid Vicious’s ripped up shirt; FEAR even make an appearance with Black Flag. Its pretty crazy to see things from bands I didn’t even know were in there — like The Jam. There’s a whole slew of posters from The Whiskey Tango and CBGBs, all hand illustrated and photocopied to oblivion. I snapped a picture of a poster featuring The Abandoned, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, the Minutemen, and Overkill on one bill. It has always struck me a little odd to have a punk section in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, not because any of these bands aren’t deserving of the recognition, or whatever you’d call it. Rather, I find it strange that an institution, backed by record labels and corporations, took great pains to gather and assemble bits and pieces of bands who spent most of their careers flipping their middle fingers at those same institutions. Also Alice Cooper still isn’t in there!

Continuing on, they had a whole wall dedicated to Otis Redding including wreckage from the plane crash that took his life. I didn’t realize he died in Wisconsin, and in hindsight, I wish we had taken time to go to the crash site when we were out there. I’ll put it on the list for next time! Eventually I was surrounded by the metal takeover, and had knee high boots, and puffy jackets assaulting my fashion sense. Displays for Judah’s Priest, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath were all pretty cool. I particularly liked the hand-written sheet music and lyrics from Rob Halford. They also had Angus Young’s guitar and his school outfit. Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure he still wears that outfit, it makes me wonder how many of these things are recreations, and how much is actually original.

I hung the corner and into the hall of Beatles, and right in the middle was Ringo’s 1964 Ludwig kit! I walked around Ringo’s kit probably 40 times, judging by the number of pictures I took. These were the drums on “yesterday,” and “Today,” “Beatles For Sale,” “Help!,” “Rubber Soul,” “Sgt. Peppers…” and the White Album.  They had the original drum heads on there that Ringo played for the Beatles last show. It was really crazy to be able to see the stick marks and patterns he left stained on the heads. The guy was light handed. They had studio notes from the recording of “Hey Jude,” and outfits from their various tours. This was a section I really enjoyed last time, but I’m not sure they had a lot of this stuff on display. I certainly don’t remember Ringo’s kit. On the other side they had the Rolling Stones section, including a pinball machine they got from Keith Richards’ house. I was surprised how many bands had their own Pinball games. 

It was about this point I realized I had no fucking clue where my band mates were. I stopped to check out the small Prince section, 90’s hip-hop stars, Jimmy Hendrix stage outfits and guitars, wound my way up the cat walks, past a bunch of other paraphernalia, and ended up back where I started. For the sake of keeping this concise, I’m skipping over a bunch of stuff. I was a little disappointed they didn’t have any memorials for the musicians 2016 claimed. No David Bowie or Prince memorials that I could find.

We headed upstairs to see what they had, and aside from the control room from SUNN studios, and the history of the electric guitar, and radio, there weren’t too many artists featured up there. John Cash had expensive taste in furniture, judging from his desk they had entombed there. I’m glad we had time to come back to the Hall of Fame. I’m also glad I wasn’t on the hook for the $45 admission. If you find yourself in Cleveland, it’s certainly worth it to swing through downtown, and his the museum. Hell, if you do it right, you might even be able to catch an Indians game afterwords.