Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on Day Eight we woke up in Cleveland on purpose. Not many vacationers will lead a story off with that confession. This wasn’t like our last time in Cleveland, an ill-fated day in 2004 when we ended up trapped there for several hours, having been clobbered by a sneaky one-two punch of alternator failure and overturned semi. No, this time I wanted to be in Cleveland all day long. We had a to-do list of geek stops and I meant to assay every last one of them.
Our second stop of the day has a high-ranking item on my modest bucket list for years: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, ruling majestically from the coast of Lake Erie. I’ll be honest: its six-hour distance from home wasn’t the only reason I’d procrastinated a visit. I was afraid the whole place will be one massive, nostalgic, retrograde tribute to old acts from thirty or forty years ago, just like the average Grammys ceremony. I was honestly surprised at the breadth of musical acts honored inside these randomly shaped walls.
The first sign we weren’t in for a nonstop parade of Elvis, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys: the awning from CBGB, the legendary New York club where many a punk or new-wave act got their start back in the late ’70s. The club closed several years ago, and was commemorated in 2013 in an eponymous art-house film starring Alan Rickman. Critics kind of savaged it, so now I’m afraid to watch it for myself.
One of those frequent CBGB guests: the Ramones. Joey’s jacket is now a revered display centerpiece. I’m sure somewhere in the Ramones catalog is a buzzy, catchy, six-verse track that would object to this.
Sure, you can visit the Museum and see Chuck Berry memorabilia or girl-group dresses or whatever. Or you can feel your jaw drop as you realize they acknowledge the existence of hardcore, as evidenced by old concert flyers and the Black Flag set list at upper left.
The Museum even confirms that yes, there have been rock musicians after 1980. Seriously, my expectations beforehand were low enough to scrape the carpet. I’d prepared myself for wall-to-wall squareness and expected salutes to Barbra Streisand or Katy Perry. I felt a lot more at ease when I began seeing relics from more recent acts who’re actually represented in my personal music collection. Exhibit A: a guitar belonging to Tim Armstrong from Rancid.
If you simply must have at least one Top-40 connection in this entry, let it be known Armstrong also produced, co-wrote, and played guitar on Pink’s “Trouble”, among a few other tracks on the same album. Enjoy.
Much more famous: Rage Against the Machine. This used to be their tour van, when they were living the life of every starter rock band that can’t afford a luxury bus to travel cross-country to their gigs.
Okay, fine, have two mentions of Top-40 acts in this entry, but only because I own many Tom Petty albums. My family doesn’t get him, but that’s not my problem. Unfortunately I can’t remember which tour or video this jacket belongs to.
Several sections of the museum trace rock’s roots to and from other genres. The blues receives extensive coverage, and even country music sees some tangential props. Once upon a time, Hank Williams Sr. rocked the house in these duds.
Recently inducted into the Hall of Fame: Public Enemy, a heavy-rotation staple from my college cassette-player days. Flavor Flav may be better known these days as a reality-TV star, and I cried a little inside just typing that, but once upon a time he was part of music that mattered. That being said: I really don’t want to know what those stains on his jacket are.
Those inspired by the sights and sounds can head back outside and use this percussive bench to make your own DIY rhythms and melodies.
To be continued! In our next installment: same location, but stuff from musicians you might like instead.
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]