Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-NYC Annex

Well, they finally just opened (yesterday) the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York, on Mercer Street in SOHO. I checked it out today and want to share my take on it. But first, a rant.

I can't be the only person to wonder why the original museum is located in Cleveland, especially since the induction ceremonies have always been in NYC. I'm sure the city of Cleveland isn't happy about this fact, as they are losing a lot of tourist money. For instance, Major League Baseball has their Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. And guess where they have the induction ceremony? That's right, Cooperstown. They make a whole weekend out of it, with fans booking their hotel rooms months in advance, then descending on the town and dropping loads of cash while getting to see the new inductees, along with returning HOF members. But, whatever. At least NYC now has a branch of the R&R HOF and I don't have to go to Cleveland.

Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I bought my "preview" ticket online. It was $26.01 for the ticket, $3 service charge, and $1.50 extra because I wanted to pick up the ticket at the Will Call window. Total $30.51. Coat check was free. The tour starts in a room designed to look like a pub/rock club, with brick walls, wood floor, multi-colored stage lights, and stools arranged to face a large video screen. A history of Rock & Roll film is shown—all live performances—while quotes about the artist, concert posters, and accompanying footage are simultaneously shown on the other walls. The sound system is good, and loud, and I found myself tapping my foot throughout this segment.

When this part is over, you enter the exhibit part of the museum, and are given an iPod-like device with headphones. As you wander through the displays, music appropriate for each artist automatically plays. There seemed to still be some glitches here, because more than a few times the wrong artist played, or it stopped altogether and I had to hit the play button again. But all in all, it was OK, and a neat idea.

Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I don't want to give too much away, and ruin some of the surprises, but I will say the Beatles memorabilia was a little lacking, especially since two landmark events happened in NYC: the Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and the Shea Stadium concerts. These were not represented at all. They had one of Ringo's bass drum skins with the Beatles logo (see above), a prototype Vox hybrid guitar/organ of John Lennon's, some postcards the boys wrote to fans, and that's about it. Then elsewhere there was a studio piano Lennon used on some of his 70s records (but didn't own), but of more interest to me was his hand-drawn "Hair Peace" poster used during his and Yoko's famous bed-in for peace honeymoon (see pic below. Yes, that's the best I could do). I just stared at the poster, and envisioned John hunched over a table, or laying on the floor hand coloring the letters.

Bruce Springsteen fans will be happy, as a whole small room is dedicated to the Boss. Included is the actual 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible that he owned in the 70s! Fans of the recently departed CBGBs will feel at home, with a small recreation of the famous club that includes the awning, some of the grungy bar tables and stools, graffiti covered doors, and even a urinal! No, you can't use the urinal.

Other highlights were an Elvis jumpsuit, Johnny Cash's cowboy boots (they were so high I wondered how he got them on—or off), a guitar smashed by Prince, and David Byrne's famous big suit.

The featured exhibit (in the large room before you exit) spotlights The Clash. Here they have handwritten lyrics, the outfits they wore on stage (including the military-style ones used for the Combat Rock album and tour), guitars, and even an old manual typewriter Joe Strummer used to write some lyrics. A live Clash concert is continually playing, and I stood there for quite a while just watching this exciting band do their thing.

Was it worth the 30 bucks? I think so. I spent nearly two hours going through all the exhibits, reading the handwritten lyrics, watching the videos, and listening to some good rock and roll.

NY Times article

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vatican forgives John Lennon for Jesus remark

In a March 1966 interview with Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard, John Lennon was quoted as saying, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

A teen mag in the US reprinted the quote in July and all hell broke loose. Southern radio stations banned the Beatles' records, albums were burned, the KKK protested their concerts, flowers stopped growing, the earth stopped spinning. Well, the last two things aren't true, but you wouldn't know it from some peoples reactions.

Now, 42 years later, the Vatican has forgiven John, saying that the "more popular than Jesus" remark was "a boast by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll."

They have a point. On the other hand, at the time, the Beatles probably were more popular than Jesus with the kids. You're just not allowed to say it, I guess. Which led to Lennon's retraction/apology:
John: "If I had said television is more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

Reporter: "Some teenagers have repeated your statements - "I like the Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?"

John: "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

Reporter: "But are you prepared to apologize?"

John: "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

Check out the Beatles Number 9 blog for the full text of the original 1966 article.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Always and Everywhere

I want to tell you about an ambitious project, a benefit to help a family through a rough time. My good friend Laura Bowman, who is an Atlanta-based painter and artist, has written and illustrated a children's book to help raise money for her friend Margie, who is suffering from cancer. Always and Everywhere is a children's book featuring Margie and her 2 kids, Claire and John Mark. It assures us that mom is always with us.

The book launch and benefit will be held Thursday, November 20, at Mason Murer Projects, 325 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA. and includes a book signing and silent auction of the original artwork. All proceeds go to the Margie LaSalle Cancer Fund. If you can't make the event but would still like to help the LaSalle's by purchasing a book or bidding on the artwork, please go to the website at Always and Everywhere.