Recently I took my first ever trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I perused the displays one after another until I got to one displaying artifacts from Nirvana, Pearl Jam & Alice and Chains. It was just about that time that Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black insidiously popped into my head. I couldn’t help but think that maybe… just maybe, Rock and Roll is dead.
Don’t get me wrong, Lady Gaga’s music is catchy – even if she does intentionally wear garbage for clothes and was hatched from an egg. Justin Bieber – he seems like a really nice kid when he’s not walking into glass doors. And Rebecca Black… well aside from having the most annoying song since Barney’s “I Love You” – she is supposed to be an honor student so – good for her. But all pleasantries aside, if the new generation of Rock music is embodied by artists like Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus or Brittney Spears then I think that Rock and Roll fanatics have some things to worry about – mainly that teeny bopper Pop music will soon overtake places like the Rock Hall.
What is a Rock Star?
Currently, I think that the Rock Hall has some pretty cool stuff in it. They have a Grammy of Elvis’, some artwork by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin’s famed Porsche and ZZ Top’s Eliminator. There is a huge tribute to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Division Bell albums and a bunch of famous rocker’s instruments, clothes, history, and stories. Yet at the same time, while I was walking around I also noticed that they had some stuff that I wasn’t so sure why it was there. For instance, they have Michael Jackson’s Thriller Mask and Red Leather Jacket there. Is the “King of Pop” really a Rock Star or is he a Pop Star? Is there a difference? I couldn’t help but twitch a little when George Michael’s Faith video came up on one of the screens. Is he a rock star? Or what about Madonna? Her picture is all over the Rock Hall. If Michael, GM, and Madonna are all Rock Stars (Michael and Madonna have actually been inducted) then where are all of the tributes to Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and Richard Marx? I mean they’re all “right here waiting for you” too, but no-one has given them the Rock nod yet.
Where the Rock Hall Misses the Mark.
For me, while much of what is on display there is impressive, I still think that the Rock Hall is missing the mark in seven main ways.
1.) First off, it the people who are currently running the Hall need to clearly state what they believe constitutes “Rock” music. Maybe I missed that part of the museum but, as I have already noted, there was plenty of displays in the museum that would indicate that this hasn’t been articulated clearly enough.
2.) Secondly, I am a huge Pink Floyd fan but when bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are so overshadowed in the exhibits – one has to wonder what gives.
3.) Third, the use of technology for the exhibits is mediocre at best.
4.) Fourth, the gift shop is a bomb.
5.) Fifth, people are forbidden to take pictures. This is like taking away everyone’s lighters when Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing Freebird. It makes no sense.
6.) Sixth, the building needs much more space.
7.) Seventh, the museum that is founded on musical creativity lacks an interactive essence.
How to make the Rock Hall – ROCK.
1.) Of course musical genres and stylistic approaches overlap – that’s bound to happen. It’s the reason that Elvis was a country singer, a rock star, a pop star, and a gospel and blue’s singer. That being said, if one is going to include artists who cross such boundaries into the Rock Hall – then at least specify why exactly they are being included and how their inclusion relates to Rock Music. Or if you want to have a Pop-Wing to the museum then please put all of your boy bands over there – but please don’t taint the Rockers. Better yet, let someone else build a Pop Music Hall of Fame somewhere in Cheeseville, USA.
2.) A lot of key iconic aspects of rock music are blatantly missing or could be improved upon significantly. The Beatles presence is obviously missing. Such an exhibit could feature the different stages of the group’s musical development. Also, go buy a Zeppelin and hang it from the ceiling. Get a life-size replica of Jim Morrison’s Tombstone. Have one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar’s perpetually enflamed. The possibilities are endless yet much iconic imagery is still missing.
3.) Everything in the history of Rock and Roll has just about got a video. The Rock Hall needs more multimedia at every turn. Where are all of the stage lights and the fog machines? The walls should be covered in glitter or glowing or something. I mean this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Every inch of that place should be spectacular – even the bathrooms. Where are the Red Velvet curtains and the pyrotechnics? Think Times Square Time a billion…
4.) Completely revamp the gift shop. Currently there are a few lame T-Shirts and a ton of CD’s. Really CD’s? Who buys CD’s anymore? The gift shop desperately needs some original items. Where are the Elvis and George Clinton wigs? Where are the matchbox ZZ Top Eliminators, Joplin Porsches, and mini-zeppelins? Where are the Steven Tyler wax lips or the Jimi Hendrix inflatable guitars? Where are the Rock Hall paperweights or the classic rock T-shirts? Where are the Pink Floyd Lego walls, the desktop size-Metallica scales of justice, or the replica Slash top hats from GNR? And If you are going to have Michael Jackson and Madonna in the Rock Hall then for crying out loud sell Thriller masks, red and black leather Jackets, MJ replica gloves, and Madonna lace gloves. Again the options for the gift store are almost limitless but the current stockpile is lame.
5.) Forbidding people from taking pictures just shows how unoriginal the Rock Hall currently is. A person pays 20 some $’s to visit a museum and they can’t snap a photo next to their favorite artists’ guitar? How Lame. Museums should just as much be about the experience of being there. Because the current Hall fails to create that atmosphere they have effectively made the museum a mausoleum. Not so fun – we want to at least be the Grateful Dead.
6.) While the Rock Hall’s architecture is admittedly pretty cool – they are definitely in need more space soon. Why not get sponsors from record labels to construct approved showcases of artists they have produced over the years who have been inducted?
7.) Finally, the interactive essence of the museum should be where Rock and Roll comes to life. Currently, they do have room with giant movie screens playing some concerts – but that’s not really interactive. What about a Karaoke room of rock songs – How many people wouldn’t want to try to belt out Areosmith’s Dream on? Or how about getting MTV and EA Games to build a Rock Band video game room where people can watch other museum visitor perform? Then they could sell all of the versions of Rock Band in the gift shop. Can anyone envision a Guitar Hero room where people get to play out rock legends songs? Of course you can. Or where was all of the live music? Cleveland is full of cover bands. Actually, I am pretty sure that bands would travel from all over the world to put the Rock Hall live music gig on their resume. And how about a interactive percussion room. Or a recording studio where visitors can watch and hear artists developing new songs? Or, how about, instead of having all of the induction ceremonies in LA or NYC they build a performance hall on to the Rock Hall and have the ceremonies in Cleveland? That’s a novel idea.
Surely Rock and Roll isn’t dead…just yet. But it is in dire need of a comeback and the Rock Hall has a roll, dare I say even a responsibility, to make sure that future of Rock and Roll doesn’t end up being the cast of Glee.