May 15, 2005

Notes on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1. Photography is not allowed, so I can't show you the lovely Bobby Sherman stage outfit or the Devo hat or the Jimi Hendrix drawing of an eagle.

2. What touched me very personally: a flyer for a Byrds concert at Newark Symphony Hall on March 27, 1966. I was there. It was my first rock concert.

3. I enjoyed all the stage costumes. Real effort is put into the fashion side of rock music. Many nondescript outfits of jeans and T-shirts have been worn on stage, but a lot of people have really put their art into the visuals. I stood a couple feet away from the bronze-colored bustier Madonna wore in the "Like a Virgin" go-ahead-and-arrest-me performance on the "Blonde Ambition" tour. And you could violate the rules and reach out and touch the hem of three or four ruffled shirts worn by Jimi. But the most impressive costume, I think, is that amazing thing David Bowie wore in the "Ashes to Ashes" video.

4. You can see Jimi's handwritten lyrics for "Purple Haze," with the original title: "Purple Haze/Jesus Saves."

5. There's a tower of TV screens showing fast cut clips from MTV videos. When "Thriller" comes on, a group of five young guys does the zombie dance along with Michael. They do it perfectly. It makes me think about how much love there is for Michael Jackson. People aren't really talking about his trial -- his tragedy -- very much. Maybe we're all just waiting. It will end soon, and when it's over, Michael will go home, right?

6. There's a film that focuses on each year of Hall of Fame inductees. I find myself liking everybody. (Well, I couldn't care less about ZZ Top, but other than that...) I was sitting next to a lady who sang along with each clip. It was annoying, but I realized that if the audience was bursting with sing-along people, it would have been cool. Only one clip drew applause: Led Zeppelin. One clip elicited a mass "aw": The Jackson Five. I became conscious of how much I want Michael Jackson to be acquitted.

7. In front of a case full of Elvis memorabilia, a parent took it upon himself to translate Elvis to his 9-year-old daughter. They were gazing on a classic Elvis-in-Vegas costume.
DAD: When he started wearing these white jumpsuits that was kind of weird.

GIRL: That was awesome!
I loved that. I mean, us older folk assume we know that Elvis went wrong when he put on the white jumpsuit. But here's this girl, and she's correcting her dad. She thinks she knows. She's grounded in some new world. And there, the suit is awesome.


Uncle Jimbo said...

Do you want Mike to be acquitted because you think he is innocent or because you don't want him to be guilty?

My wife is conflicted and she would prefer not to have to render a judgement.

I realize you avoided saying you think he is innocent simply that you want him to go home.


Uncle J

Military Matters

Ann Althouse said...

I don't know if he's guilty or innocent. How could I know? I'm not there listening to the evidence.

Mark Daniels said...

I think that all of us who read your blog should pool our resources and hire you to do travelogs on your site. Your one- or two-sentence takes on things are a lot more interesting than most of the travel-tales I read. (Although I do think that Bill Bryson is hilarious and intelligent.)


Mark Daniels said...

By the way, I share the feelings you have about the Michael Jackson case: I want him to be innocent, not only for him, but for the children he allegedly abused.

But like you, I can't express any opinion about his innocence or guilt. (I don't think that any of us not in that court room day after day possibly can.)

Uncle Jimbo said...

I didn't ask whether you thought he was legally innocent, just what you meant in hoping he goes home.

I hope he did nothing wrong because that is the best possible outcome. I just doubt that is the truth. I don't think you would want to cover up for him at all, but wishing him a homecoming assumes either his innocence or inability to convict.


Uncle J

Uncle Mikey said...

This post is literally the first thing that has ever made me want to visit the Hall. Thanks, Ann.

Ron said...

I find the 'no photos' policy offensive.

I had a blind date with someone, and during the course of conversation found that I had a copy of a whole live Beatles show that she had been at. I made her a tape...and never saw her again!

ah, well...

Ann Althouse said...

Uncle Jimbo: If Michael's guilty I want him to be punished the same as anyone else is punished who did what he's accused of. The same rules apply to everyone. Thinking you can do what you want because you're rich or famous is an ugly thing, as ugly as thinking it doesn't matter what happens to people who are poor and unknown.

Mark: I love Bill Bryson too.

Ron: Allowing photography would have screwed up the crowd flow and been awfully annoying. And flash photography would have been damaging to the printed material and the costume fabrics.

Adam said...

What annoyed me most when I visited the hall about a decade ago was how little music there seemed to be -- every time I saw a piece of fashion or memorabilia, I wanted to be able to press a button and hear a song from that artist/era. Made the place feel too sterile for me.

Anonymous said...

Ann -

You saw the Byrds in Newark NEW JERSEY in 1966? (If another Newark, please disregard this post).

I grew up in New England Prep Schools in the 80's but somehow ended up working for a non-profit in Newark, NJ. Stanger in a strange land. Universally considered "the armpit of america" I keep meeting locals who tell tales of a great city lost in the race riots. Apparently Newark has quite an illustrious past. God knows many major American artists emerged from/resided in this place: Allen Ginsburg, Philip Roth, George Clinton (Parliament/Funkaldelic), John Coltrane, and on and on. Eddie Murphy is from round here, too, no?

Funny to hear that you, too, may have some link to this spot also. If so, I'd love to see you write about your memories! And about what has happened here since 67-68.
Surely you could tap into something telling about Contemporary America in the story of this city and your journey through and then far away from it.

Just interested....SITP

Tonya said...

Ann, I'm sitting in Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street and they're playing "ABC" by the Jackson 5. So, of course, I immediately thought of your post about wanting Michael to be innocent of his charges. I share those feelings, but I am feeling very doubtful. Very, very doubtful. But, in honor of the Michael Jackson and the great music he gave us . . . "Shake it, shake it, shake it baby. A - B - C, easy as 1 - 2 -3. That's how easy love can be. That's how easy love can be. Oh!!"

Safe travels.

Ann Althouse said...

Stranger: Yes, New Jersey. I lived in Wayne at the time. It was the only time I ever went to Newark in the whole 5 years I lived in Wayne. Will try to say more about it later.

Anonymous said...

Ann -

People always ask me what am I doing in Newark. I tell them I am a social worker and Newark is the Hollywood of social work. Or I tell them it's like I joined the peace corps but I can take dinner in Manhattan.

Sometimes I think Newark really is a third world country - it contains a small island downtown of phenomenal wealth and power (Prudential HQ, IDT HQ, FBI regional HQ, the Federal Court) surrounded by crushing poverty, crime, and the consequences of race in this country.

A larger topic - and I've never quite been able to articulate it - is the subject of New Jersey itself and it's place in the cultural lexicon. It represents some kind of quintessentially American vulgarity, crudeness, but also some kind of "realness" - a la the Sopranos, Bruce Springsteen.

Maybe the story is this: America is about immigrants, bold upstarts who come from a shabby no name somewhere in search of Bright Lights and Big Cities. New Jersey has become America's own internal shabby somewhere that lots and lots of scrappy comers 'emigrate' from to conquer the national stage. And once they are the toast of the town, they try to hide where they came from.

Just a thought.... SITP

miklos rosza said...

Do you think Michael Jackson was a great singer, up there with Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke or Otis Redding among others, or do you like him as an entertainer like Sammy David Jr?