Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland's skyline is a dynamic mix of old and new architecture.

11:30 p.m.

StudioPLUS Motel, Westlake, Ohio

No internet or phone service – a lightning strike in the area killed the circuits. So, I’m logging this stuff into a "Word" journal for later download.

Just returned from Cleveland. It's so enjoyable riding the streets of downtown Cleveland at night, wandering the “concrete canyons”, quiet in the damp evening. A fascinating mix of old and new architecture. Many of the governmental buildings reflecting the city’s heritage, while adventurous new architecture contrasts boldly.

I was in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame four or five hours. Sensory overload, but I just figured that's the price one must pay (in addition to the $20 entry fee, that is.)

Outside the Hall, a marker told of "the birth of Rock and Roll." Local radio station WJW Disc Jockey Alan Freed coined the term “rock and roll” in 1951 (the year of my birth!) to describe the up-tempo black rhythm and blues music he was playing on his radio show. He started the “Moon Dog House Rock and Roll Party”.

To qualify for induction, it must be 25 years since the release of an artist's first recording. Then, a panel of industry "experts" vote. Over 50% must vote in favor of induction.

The exhibits begin with an exploration of Rock's history. A film entitled Mystery Train traces the roots of Rock and Roll.

We are now familiar with seeing displays of musical instruments, costumes, music scores, posters, etc. at places such as "Hard Rock Cafe". Here, there is much of the same. Fashion is a big focus, with MANY outfits from the major artists displayed.

Do you suppose this has something to do with the "Grateful Dead"?

I found it quite emotional to see videos of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley performing (I had never seen Bob Marley before. I've missed out on almost the entire MTV-VH1 phenomena by not having TV at home.)

The Jimi Hendrix exhibit featured his music AND early artwork. He was a pretty creative kid.

John Lennon’s 1957 report card (age 16) showed he was a difficult student. His science teacher wrote: “for a boy with quite a spark of originality, his work and effort are incredibly poor and slovenly. I suppose he despises school work.”

From an interview, Lennon speaks of the challenge of creating songs, and his elusive Muse. Sitting with his son Sean, he felt he should be able to write a song that expressed his appreciation of this child. He struggled to come up with something. Only when he had given up trying did the song come: "Beautiful Boy."

Most powerful, of course, were the images and video of musicians no longer with us: Hendrix, Marley, Lennon, Janis Joplin, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia, etc.

A special temporary exhibition titled “Tommy: The Amazing Journey” tells the story of The Who’s rock opera.

The Hall of Fame wing, came at the end of my tour. Entering the wing, you can watch a film collage from induction ceremonies over the years, often featuring artists performing one of their "greatest hits", joined on stage by fellow Hall of Famers.

Inside a theater, a multi-media review presents each year's inductees, counting down through the past 20 years or so. Often juxtaposing their youth and old age, compressing a lifetime into seconds, the show has a surprisingly sobering effect. Life is short. Learn what is important, then never lose sight of it.

A darkened spiral passageway leads away from the theater, its walls featuring inductees’ autographs etched in back-lighted glass.

There can be no doubt about the power of music in our lives. Yet this "Rock and Roll" genre to me feels all about the “Baby Boomers”, and I wonder if the phenomena will outlast that generation?

It must be an enormous undertaking to keep up with all that is really “rock and roll” these days, with so many venues and media outlets for music. The music scene has too many channels for an institution to survey. Can a "Hall of Fame" really represent the best of what's out there, or is it just one eddy in this river?

When I finally exited the Hall, I found Markey Ramone’s band performing on a courtyard stage. They were just being called back to do an encore. Walked around the waterfront as the sun sank into a thick haze and the city stated to light up.

Marky Ramone's band performing outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Driving back to the motel along Clifton Drive, a broad boulevard with grand old houses and towering trees, I saw the "City Place Diner & Deli”. Its appearance being similar to all-night delis in L.A, I was drawn in. This one was pretty quiet though. A radio station on the sound system, apparently broadcasting from the Hall of Fame, played "the most fun music from the 60’s and 70’s." And I ask myself “who wants to hear this stuff???” Virtually everything they play I’ve heard 100’s, some perhaps 1,000’s of times. “Give it a rest!”

Tonight at 10:00 they run down the Top 10 of July 13, 1964. The staff, almost entirely in their 20’s – what do they think? I ask the waitress. “I don’t mind. But I’ll listen to anything.” (By the way, do you know what #1 was? “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.)(Going back in my memory, I figured it was the Beach Boys “Help Me Rhonda” or Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin’”)

The warning about the motorcycle tank bag only being waterproof if the inner liner draw-string is pulled tightly closed is accurate. I had been inside the Hall of Fame during a downpour. Returning to the bike, opened up the tank bag and found about a liter of water pooled atop the waterproof liner. But inside the bag, things were relatively dry.

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