The Good: Informative, Fun
The Bad: A number of significant inductees not well-represented, Overpriced.
The Basics: A fun time, but not terribly balanced in its exhibits, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is worth going to for anyone who loves music!
Since high school when it was erected, I have been eager to go to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Despite having such interest for almost fifteen years now, I have never managed to get to this cultural experience . . . until now! Yes, despite a number of people in my past telling me they would love to go with me to the Hall Of Fame, it took my beautiful and wonderful wife to actually get us there! On our most recent trip to Michigan, my wife planned a day for us at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and that was pretty cool.
Unfortunately, while it was an exciting getaway for us, the Hall Of Fame was not the extraordinary experience I thought it was going to be. Indeed, while there was a ton of material for a few of the inducted artists – Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones – there were other inductees who had very little material showcased (David Bowie, U2) or none at all (John Mellencamp). All in all, I’m glad we went, but I have a much weaker “recommend” for the place than I ever thought I would.
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is located in Cleveland, Ohio at 1100 Rock And Roll Blvd. Using that address, MapQuest came up with directions right to the door. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is easily accessible from Interstate 90 in Ohio. On 90, Exit 174B puts one out within view of the Museum!
The Museum itself is a giant glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei and it stands out on the coast of Lake Erie. The glass pyramid is over seven stories tall and its distinct architecture sets it apart on the Cleveland skyline.
Ease Of Local Transport/Parking
Despite the congestion of traffic in Cleveland right around the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s exit (having quite a bit to do with an abrupt left turn in the Interstate within a mile from the exit), the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is very easy to get to. I ought to qualify that: it is easy to get to so long as one parks right nearby. Within three blocks of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is a labyrinth of one-way streets which is tough to get around, especially as one of the main ones does not allow left turns and if one is stuck on that, they will only get farther and farther from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Like most major attractions in the United States, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has no parking, so one must park off-site for it. My wife and I chose the nearest parking lot, which was just about a tenth of a mile down the same street. We paid $8.00 for a day of parking and it was nice to not have to worry about the car for a few hours.
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is a place to go to learn about and geek out over the relics of Rock and Roll history. Every year, new members who have had distinguished careers in rock and roll are added to the Hall Of Fame and the visitor is treated to a remarkably professional museum experience, regardless of what one might think of the subject matter. No, this isn’t going to the Smithsonian to see the Constitution, but it still had the potential to be very cool. From the beginning, I was convinced it would be awesome, which is why I gladly paid the $22.00 each for my wife and I to go in.
The lobby one enters into is a huge open area and one has to descend into the base of the pyramid before they can actually go up. At the bottom of an escalator is a collection of cars. They range from the interesting (Joan Jett’s first car, bought when she was still a minor) to the pointless (one of Billy Joel’s many motorcycles with no apparent connection to music history). I didn’t expect to geek out the way I did when I saw ZZ Top’s car from the cover of Eliminator and the videos from that album. It was pretty cool, though! Sadly, cameras are not allowed in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame after a point, so we did not get any pictures.
On the bottom floor, in addition to collections of guitars from famous musical artists (many of whom were not inductees), there is a brilliant historical journey through the pioneers of rock and roll, starting with the bluegrass, jazz, folk and even Country roots. In this section, there are many photographs and the only real disappointing thing about this part of the exhibit was the follow-up; turning away from the photographs of the important root personnel in the rock and roll movement, one finds a bank of headphones and mini-computers where they may listen to the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. I was excited about this because there was a Country star I had never heard of (one of the few white people on the whole wall of pioneers in Rock and one of the few women as well!), so I went to hear her songs on the 500 Songs bank. Despite saying that she changed the direction of rock and roll in the 1960s, not one of her songs was included in the further listening section! That was terribly disappointing!
The rest of the level was not disappointing at all, unless one looked very closely. The bottom level has artifacts from Elvis, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and the Rolling Stones, as well as a brief exploration on how rock evolved into Hip-Hop. These artifacts include things like Elvis paystubs and a jukebox filled with only Elvis hits that was given to him or several costumes from The King. This level also has guitars from Hendrix, John Lennon’s Sgt. Peppers outfit (from the cover of the album!) and a picture of Jim Morrison’s grave. But while many of the presentations of the stage personas of the rock and roll stars are pretty cool, some of the “historic documents” are blasé at best. Looking closely at the handwritten lyrics from Hendrix and Morrison, most of them were photocopies! Sure, it’s not the Constitution, but when I go to a museum, I want to see the real things; I am sure I could find photocopies of virtually anything online!
Other displays throughout the Museum include tour outfits for David Bowie, Michael Jackson and U2, with single outfits from Elton John and a few others. There were one or two artifacts from the music videos, like props from “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers). But while there are a ton of guitars that illustrate Les Paul’s creative and engineering genius which show how he evolved guitars from the basic to the most advanced electric, I only learned that John Mellencamp was part of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame from the Level Three wall of fame! With so many people represented, it seems like some people would be neglected, but to completely neglect people who are members of the Hall Of Fame seems insulting.
That said, the actual Wall Of Fame is pretty impressive, though getting into it is annoying. Right in front of the main theater where showtimes illustrating who all has been inducted into the Hall Of Fame is a smaller theater with a continuous program showing people getting inducted. In other words, you can miss the limited production by sitting through the constant display! That’s irksome.
My wife and I also particularly enjoyed the “Video Killed The Radio Star” display, which was an homage to the development of music videos. It’s a chaotic video presentation, but it was still pretty neat. All in all, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Museum’s displays were very much like any other museum; you go, you look, maybe you learn a little something and then you leave.
Currently, the top two levels are devoted to Bruce Springsteen and the layout included such neat things as the table Springsteen wrote many of his hits at. Unfortunately, the two-level exhibit is packed with photocopies instead of originals and the appeal was limited as a result. Even so, it was neat seeing all of Springsteen’s records and the evolution of his career.
Inside the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame there is an overpriced café which features cold and hot food options. Their selection was severely limited the day we visited, so we did not eat there.
Also inside the Hall Of Fame is an FYE store. This seemed like it would be the coolest place to find c.d.s, but I was astonished by how poor the overall selection was. Annoyingly separated by “members” and “non-members,” the c.d. collection is sparse for obscure artists for contemporary artists, but rich with collections for classic rock artists. Either way, it was not the grail of c.d. stores I thought it ought to be. Prices were what one might expect from a tourist trap or a museum (my wife was beaming with how inexpensively she snagged some rare c.d.s on-line when she discovered them at the gift shop). There were books and DVDs, clothing and other baubles that related to rock music at the Hall of Fame.
Ultimately, I am glad we went, but it was not all it was hyped to be. The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame is good, but not great. We’ll probably go back when the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis get inducted, but even with it so close, we’d have no reason to go back sooner.
For other destinations, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Verona Beach State Park
For other travel reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |