An East Coast Monk In King Wenner’s Court [part the third]
[…continued from last post]
RRHOF – the exhibits
We next tried to figure out how to get from one place/level to another in the pyramid that;s the Rock + Roll Hall Of Fame Museum. It’s a bit tricky. We ended up on Level 5, where Rock on TV was the thing. This covered Soul Train, American Bandstand and smaller, regional TV shows of the 60s as well as the music video explosion of MTV. I was pleased to see some futuristic silver plastic garb featured in The Buggles clip for “Video Killed The radio Star” on display. Surely the first shot across the bow that announced that music video on TV was going to be a thing to contend with?
They had lots of material on Blondie, a band with a cool NYC sense of fashion. It was fascinating to see that sweater that Chris Stein seemed to wear for a good year or so with the hundreds of plastic triangles pinned to it. They also had an asymmetric jacket that I recall seeing Nigel Harrison wear in one of their music videos somewhere or another.
The there was one of Debbie Harry’s dresses, dating from the late 70s when she was an enthusiastic patron of Stephen Sprouse. It’s not that dress, with the décolletage peekaboo window that she was fond of wearing a lot, but it was similar enough to peg it as one of the young Sprouse’s designs. Any fashion mavens reading this, feel free to call me out with the truth, if you know it!
There was no shortage of outré rock duds on the mannequins here. Some things made Blondie look drab by comparison. Having seen him recently on his swan song tour, I marveled at what George Clinton once wore on stage. The platform boots and fur coat sure must have gotten, uh, funky, on the road in the 1970s heyday of Parliament-Funkadelic! Since I had just gotten the 12″ single of “One Nation under A Groove” the day earlier at Square Records in Akron, I appreciated the synchronicity of seeing this. Not to mention the Ohio-centricity of seeing some P-Funk love, though they were RRHOF inductees of course!
They also had some Bowie materials, but having seen the David Bowie Is show in 2014, this was less climactic that it might have been. Once you’ve seen Bowie’s coke spoon, everything else is gravy, right? But the Ziggy jumpsuit here looked like a piece that I did not remember from five years earlier.
There was also one of the expressionistic maquettes of the stage design for Bowie’s legendary Hunger City set of his brief, fully-blown Diamond Dogs tour of 1974. I saw this in the Chicago exhibit, but I never tire of contemplating it. I can’t believe that no one thought to film any of that performance since the modern era of theatrical rock show excess began there. Sorry, Alice.Elsewhere in the museum various eras of rock music got the nod. Of course, I perked up with the Punk and New Wave areas! They had one of Joey Ramone’s leather jackets.
Equally as important as The Ramones had been to the UK Punk scene, I was also happy to see that Howard Devoto was represented here with the first indie Punk 7″ single that had a multiplicity of ramifications in inspiring generations of British youth to release their music by themselves after seizing control of the means of production. Then, as we were in Ohio, I really appreciated the look at the incredibly significant local scene that was second in the country only to NYC as being the most vital and energetic thing going. New York City may have had the lock on Punk Rock’s origins, but Post-Punk really can be traced to the Cleveland/Akron axis. And I was happy to see many of these iconic bands from that zone represented in this area of the hall. Bands like Pere Ubu, The Electric Eels, Tin Huey, Rachel Sweet, you-know-who, and even the beloved Cramps, were represented here.
One day, my fan votes may yet tilt the gameboard in DEVOs favor! But until that time, various and sundry early avatars of the De-Evolution Band are already in the Rock Hall.
We watched two pieces in the film/video theaters in the Hall. One was a short film by Jonathan Demme that was basically a stitched together montage of induction performances that was a flash edit that was enhanced with varilights and fog for an epilepsy-inducing experience. [indeed, the signs outside of the theater warned epileptics of this] that was far too quickly cut for my tastes. It lasted about ten minutes, but the last two or three were of Prince’s killer ownership of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the George Harrison induction ceremony. We lost a giant of a man when he died.
The other video we saw was of the Canadian inductees and really, the highlight of this entire visit was separate video of the 20 minutes or so featuring Rush being inducted to the RRHOF! I had no idea of this, but they were inducted by Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters. Grohl and Hawkins were passionate, animated, and very funny in their high regard for Rush evident in their speech. I hear Dave Grohl’s name a lot in the wild, and not having any experience of him prior, he seemed to be an example of the “what’s not to like about this guy?” sort.
The live performance consisted of The two Foo Fighters member along with Nick Raskulinecz in Rush drag ca. 1974 [long hair, white silk kimonos, white cuban heeled boots, and white spray-on pants] performing a hot take on the “2112 Overture.” All the more impressive considering that Hawkins only had a tiny fraction of Neil Peart’s drum kit at his disposal! Then the actual Rush joined them onstage and took over the show, but it was the most hilarious spoof/homage imaginable. And then the footage of Rush accepting the honor took it into the stratopshere of rock comedy. Hawkins in a Peart wig looked uncannily like actor Peter Dinklage! Geddy Lee and Neil Peart were humbled and amazed that this had happened [Rush was notoriously dissed by Rolling Stone] and spoke their heartfelt acceptance, while Alex Lifeson [who reminded my wife of William Shatner…!] lobbed a comedy bomb into their acceptance speech that was funny, then not funny, but ultimately hilarious as he spoke for 4-5 minutes using only the words “blah, blah, blah” articulated as vividly as he could with face and voice expression and gestures his feelings at this honor. Lee has gone on record as wanting to kill him during this, but it’s a stone cold comedy classic. The practical upshot? I came home from this trip and had a run though my Rush collection [sacrilege!] and ended up wishing it was more complete than just the ’80-’91 era reviled by their synth-hating fans.
We passed on the pinball exhibit. Though I vastly prefer the pinball to video games, it was getting late in the afternoon and dinner and Mott The Hoople beckoned. But not before we saw Ian Hunter’s piano. This was part of the exhibit of Cleveland International Records that was happening the next day at the Rock Hall, but Ian’s keyboard was already there. In just a few hours, we would be seeing Ian Hunter at this ludicrously late-stage-in-the-game. I’m just glad that I finally had this chance. At 79, Hunter will have to step down, but not before Mick Jagger snatches the “oldest rocker” crown from his head as is inevitable. Probably when the Rolling Stones are celebrating their Diamond Anniversary in 2037! It was now off to dinner and hopefully, a parking spot near the Masonic Auditorium.
Next: …The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll