Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay

By Chuck & Claire

Driving from Chicago to Cleveland, we drove through Ann Arbor. I (Chuck) had always wanted to see the campus of the University of Michigan.Two reasons: First, my stepfather was a lithographer and the company he worked for did the football programs for Stanford University. The Wolverines were one of the annual opponents of the Indians--now The Cardinal. Second, As an undergraduate in college, I had a Philosophy professor from India who got his Ph.D. from UM; but, he always referred to it as "that hell hole," presumably, that was due to the weather. I was curious and this is what we say--more than pleasant during our very brief tour of the campus.

It is a giant campus, spread over many, many blocks--if not miles--by the time you account for the athletic facilities.  It has a student body exceeding 42,000 and is regarded as one of the top 20 universities in the world.

We had a Ben & Jerry's, to celebrate finding a nearby parking spot and then walked about the campus.  The buildings are impressive, but not themed on a particular style.  I was surprised to note that they have several museums scattered about the core campus.  But, we had miles to go before we slept, and moved right along to Cleveland.

I have to say that seeing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was possibly the best museum experience of my life.  We opened the doors in the morning and stayed until the closing announcement. We vowed not to waste time eating until we left.  We had only one day to experience this and discussed how to approach it over the last few days.  We determined that we should separate, joining for the U2 3D movie and then parting until the end. It worked well; but, we did encounter each other a couple of time--the place was not that big, nor was it, thankfully, crowded.

I quickly determined that I did not care about the "stuff" in the exhibit halls.  I wanted to see the videos and hear the music.  I have always loved music, but in an informal, "I know what I like when I hear it" sort of way.  I could never tell you what year a piece was from, almost never knew the lyrics, and rarely knew the names or faces of people in a musical group.  So, today was a genuine educational experience.  In particular, I learned much about who migrated among which groups.  I also was reminded of many names I had forgotten over the years--Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker, Little Willie John, and more.

But mostly, I enjoyed the feeling of remembering people, lyrics and tunes, the desire to tap my foot, to dance again. I loved feeling an almost constant smile on my face as I recalled melodies and performers--and even people from my past that I associate with these.  I enjoyed the feeling of unity engendered by much of the music and many of the performers--and this extends far beyond the Peace and Love days of the late 60's.  I almost cried for some of the music--not sure of the reason.  Could have been the content of love, the sweetness of youth, the loss of innocence, the reminder of my mortality--or all of the above.  Doesn't matter.  In short, I heartily recommend this lovely bit of nostalgia. 

The one complaint was over the way some of the juke boxes were set up.  One kind would quit playing music when you returned to the top level of the selection tree.  Another kind forced you to select music by decade and then, several layers down, only allowed you to play numbers with a speaker icon next to them. There were precious few of these.  I finally quit in frustration--and in the growing realization that I was running out of time.

View from our hotel window. That is the R&R Hall of Fame on the left and Lake Erie in the background. 

Sculpture in the Park around the corner from the hotel, on the way to the Hall.

View up 9th Street in downtown Cleveland as we look back during our walk to the R&R Hall of Fame.

The Cleveland Browns football stadium.

Proof of payment and heirloom to be passed on to my children, thence to their children, continuing 'til the ending of the world.

Designed by I.M. Pei, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is on the shores of Lake Erie and is only a holler away from the Cleveland Browns' football stadium.  "It is a composition of bold geometric forms and dynamic cantilevered spaces that are anchored by a 162-foot tower.  The tower supports a dual-triangular-shaped glass “tent" that extends (at its base) onto a 65,000 square-foot plaza, providing a dramatic main entry facade...The building houses more than 55,000 square-feet of exhibition space."

The front of the R&R Hall of Fame building has a sculpture garden of guitars. 

This is Johnny Cash's touring bus. In 1991, he traveled on it with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings during the Highwayman Tour.

By Claire

We didn't eat, barely took bathroom breaks, and researched in advance; in short, we wanted to fit as much as we could into the 7-1/2 hours available to us.  We had originally planned on 2 days; but I woke up with a red, swollen and painful eyelid on Thursday (4 days ago).  I kept an eye on it (no pun intended) and finally decided on Saturday (of all days!) to see a doctor.  This meant finding an urgent care or emergency room.  Our hotel directed us to St. Vincent Charity Hospital, a mile away.  We found it easily, and there were only 2 people ahead of me.  But, it still took a total of 3-1/2 hours to get it all done, including picking up an antibiotic prescription.  By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was after 3 pm.  I was really bummed, but that's the way it is sometimes. I have an infection and it will eventually clear up.  I'm glad I had it checked out.  The good news is, the hospital billed Kaiser!

It started out gray and chilly as we walked the few blocks to the magnificent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Can I just mention that my face hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much?  The big exhibit at the moment is the Grateful Dead, The Long Strange Trip.

Photography is not allowed inside but I decided to risk it for this shot through the fantastic glass pyramid by I.M. Pei.  Earlier it had poured rain--what a great place to be on a day like that!  Later though, the sun was shining brightly so I couldn't resist the photo.

We started with Mystery Train, a 12 minute introductory film about the beginnings of Rock & Roll.  It was completely engaging and we were already moving to the music and getting in the mood.  From there we split up--it's really a solo experience, but great fun to share and talk afterwards.  I wandered towards the Elvis exhibit, checked out the usual outfits with capes and made my way over to a huge video screen where I sat down to watch.  Before I knew it I was seized with emotion--almost hysterical laughter and welling tears.  There is just something about Elvis.  They melded together clip after clip of Elvis movies, he with the technicolor orange pancake makeup and jet black hair, kissing girl after girl in hilarious scenes with either fireworks going off, wagons collapsing or something blowing up.  This morphed into various videos of his later "come back" shows where his face was beginning to look puffy.  But, he was amazing and I was riveted.  After awhile I decided I had seen so much of Elvis over the years, including a memorable trip to Graceland 20 years ago, that I needed to keep to my schedule.

I quickly strolled through a photography exhibit, noting Sting with The Police, looking very young.  From there I ventured into Legends of Rock and Roll featuring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, U2, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, the Who, the Supremes and others. I was touched by the art work of Jimi Hendrix from when he was in elementary school; what talent!  Loved some of David Bowie's outfits and his hairdos!  Did you know that he doesn't really have two different colored eyes?  One eye is slightly dilated which makes it look that way.  The Supremes' dresses were tiny!  I cracked up at Michael Jackson's glove, displayed in a glass jar, just like Gallileo's finger. Suddenly I ran into Chuck and we realized it was almost time for our ticketed U2 in 3D experience in a theatre on the 4th level.  Yes, there are many levels--7 to be exact.

The 85 minute U2 film was fantastic and the 3D really worked.  There were moments when I really thought I was at a concert and wanted to tell the people in front to sit down.  Then I realized it was all on screen.  What a blast! 

We split up again and I went to the American Bandstand film in another small theatre.  Talk about nostalgia!  I almost never missed that show at 4 pm every weekday after school.  Dick Clark just never seemed to age, only his hairstyle changed with the times.  Could John Travolta really have been that young?  And skinny?  How about the Bee Gees?  So much hair! 

Next I made my way up to Level 3 and the Induction Ceremony Highlights, shown on 3 television screens.  Those were fun.  I loved it when Mick Jagger, dressed in a tux, commented that they were all there on their best behavior to reward their bad behavior.  Walking into another theatre, they were showing clips of each artist or group that had been inducted, year by year.  Remember Brenda Lee?  How about Jackie Wilson doing the splits then coming up slowly and kind of dancing around from his knees, still singing, then leaping up from this position and jumping into a dance routine?  This was shown on three large screens in a medium sized theater and went from 1986 to 2012.  Again, I was rocking out with the music.

While all this was going on, I did manage to notice other people, but only in a peripheral way.  It just wasn't that crowded and I felt like I was part of a community.  The age range was interesting.  Families with kids, parents proudly educating their children about their heroes, couples in their twenties and every other combination.  I even sat behind a threesome of elderly ladies with white hair, one wearing a Chanel style jacket.  I didn't take the time to see if she was wearing pearls.

Walking out of the Inductees Film, I decided to look at all their the signatures.  Found my favorite.

LL - Lower Level really has the largest number of exhibits in one area, so I headed back that way.  By now I was getting hungry so I stealthily ate a granola bar in the shadows with my eye out for a guard (no food or drinks are allowed) while I checked out Janis Joplin's Porsche.  So cool, and to think she just drove it around and parked it on the street.  People got to know it and would leave notes for her under the wiper.  As you can see, I was becoming less and less worried about being caught with my camera.  I was discreet.

Another touching exhibit to me was the Everly Brothers.  I just loved their little custom made tap shoes that their mother bought them with shoe ration cards during WWII.  They were so little.

This was one of the best days of all.  It may be at the top of my list by the time this trip is over.  I thought it would be Taliesin or Yellowstone, but I was so thoroughly involved in this museum.  I don't think I have ever spent this much time in a museum wishing for more.

One good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain.  ~ Bob Marley