I’ve been told many times over the years that when you have kids you stop listening to any music that isn’t The Wiggles or a Disney song. Apparently you are either too dog-tired to bother or you are so enamoured with childrearing that frivolous things like music just aren’t interesting anymore. This thought always makes me very depressed.
Whilst having children is no doubt an amazing experience, so is driving to work with the intro of U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name pumping through the car at full volume. One of my favourite musical memories is a late night drive on an empty road through the New Mexico desert with Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ testing the full capacity of my car’s speaker system and nearly breaking it. My smile nearly broke my face.
Music has been around pretty much since humans figured out how to bang a stick against a rock. The majority of parents on this planet don’t forsake it when they have kids so I don’t really know why so many western ones do. I can’t imagine a life where you don’t want to put a set of headphones on and be entranced by the guitar break in Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird, be engaged by Eminem rhyming about Slim Shady’s twisted thoughts, taken to another place by Jimi Hendrix wondering about what Joe is going to do with that gun in his hand or lifted to a whole other level by DJ Tiesto’s mix of Adagio for Strings.
Whether it is opera, rock, techno or hip-hop, the tunes take you out of where you are to wherever you want to be and the lyrics offer endless and often changing interpretations of what the writer meant or what the words means to you. So after feeling somewhat ashamed and immature for my continuing love of extremely loud music that apparently derives from the fact that I haven’t bothered to procreate, it was a nice to find myself in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (also known as The Rock Hall) in Cleveland, Ohio where music is revered like a religion and I was surrounded by people who felt the same way about music that I do. And you’ll never guess what…some of them bought their young kids along too.
This is a venue that needs to be on the bucket list of anyone who even vaguely loves any music that post-dates the 1950’s. And it doesn’t matter if you are a buff or a novice, you’ll find something interesting here and I can guarantee that when you leave you’ll find the nearest place where you can play your favourite songs at high volume.
I won’t deny that at times this venue was frustrating. Why was Beyonce given a huge space opposite the rap wall but Eminem wasn’t mentioned? How come it took until 2016 to induct Deep Purple? And where the hell were ABBA and Blondie? But it still offered a great insight into the story of music as we know it today, showcasing the beginnings of Rock and Roll right through to the birth of MTV and iTunes.
Whilst the most famous British artists are fairly well represented this is a very American-centric place which I guess is to be expected considering the location. There was mention of the British punk movement but not a whole heap of context compared to how much political interpretation was given to various American genres closely tied to current events. I didn’t notice much in the way of music from any other countries other than brief mentions of bands like INXS. But I don’t think this detracts too much from an overall great experience. And after all music is highly personal so there is no way they were going to create a place that kept everyone happy the whole time.
You are surrounded by original handwritten lyrics from the likes of The Clash and The Beach Boys. Many artists have donated fascinating memorabilia such as stage outfits worn by David Bowie, one of Michael Jackson’s Grammy Awards (and a sparkly glove) and childhood drawings by Jimi Hendrix. There are stage set pieces from Metallica, one of Slash’s hats and the jewellery Madonna wore for her debut MTV appearance. A contemporary exhibit showcases some of the newer artists making it big today so that it isn’t all history. Original guitars line the walls and you’ll soon be glad for the subtitles on the videos due to the constant stream of iconic songs pumping from speakers throughout the museum.
The highlights for me included the introductory Hall of Fame Movie, a great edit of the many legends that have been inducted, the Jimi Hendrix exhibit that seemed to be the least visited but most comprehensive in the whole museum, along with an extensive interpretation on the top floor about how music contributed to politics and social change over the years. This covered everything from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War and the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq. That was the other impressive aspect; this museum is very up to date. I saw an interpretive marker mentioning the recent Black Lives Matter movement and it is rare to find an attraction that is able to update its exhibits so quickly in order to be in tune with current trends and issues.
So whether you get the chance to visit the Rock Hall or not, for the love of god put on your favourite song, turn up the volume and let it take you some place nice. There is no excuse for not enjoying music and a love of it is a great gift to pass on to your children. If your kids complain tell them to suck it up and ask yourself what would have happened if every iconic musician on this planet had given up on music when their first child arrived.
Tip: If you grew up or came of age in the 1980’s then be sure to visit the ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ exhibit. It involves a series of video clips from the 80’s and some from the 90’s showcasing the rise of MTV. At times it was like I was back on the lounge floor when I was a kid watching the Top 20 countdown on a Saturday night making bets with my brother and sister on who would be number one that week. I had totally forgotten that we used to get excited about things like that before the internet.