From Springsteen to Strummer: A Tour of the Museum from a First Time Visitor

Thursday, January 28: 12 p.m.
Posted by Caryn Rose

Guest blogger Caryn Rose shares her thoughts with us about her visit to see the Rock Hall’s special exhibit From Asbury Park to the Promised Land and her first tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s a funny thing to have watched Bruce Springsteen sitting at the Kennedy Center, with his rainbow ribbon award around his neck, and find yourself standing in front of that very award just a few weeks later, in his exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s even odder that that ribbon is in a room along with the legendary Esquire, and that you can get close enough to the guitar (inside its case, of course!) that you can see that the legend is true, that there’s more glue than wood in some places. It’s in a room with the very jeans that adorned the very ass that graced the cover of Born In The USA, the original handwritten lyrics to “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” (with the “freeze out” written in wriggly letters I assume was meant to convey ice), the very flannel shirt that was on the cover of The River (the cuffs so worn that they are hanging on by threads), and the Blistex “Beautiful Lips” award, where Bruce won in the category of “Boss-est Lips”.

All of this is just upstairs from the jacket Bruce wore on the cover of Born To Run, Danny Federici’s accordion, a letter from Robert Hilburn to Adele Springsteen (where he apologized for not writing sooner to send her the copies of the review he wrote) and a Columbia records reel to reel tape marked with #79682. (If you’re a freak, you’ll recognize that number. If you’re not, it’s better that I not explain it to you, because you’ll run away screaming.)

This is the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

At 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I am reading the original lyrics to “It’s So Hard To Be A Saint In The City” - noting the ’silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat’ and then, a few steps later, seeing the aforementioned Born To Run biker jacket hanging on the wall. The jacket is smaller than I thought it would be. It’s weathered, it’s worn, it’s wrinkled. Someone has undoubtedly slept in it, sweat in it, sat in the back of a van in it while it was still wet.

I step closer.

There are silver star studs on the shoulders.

On my second day at the Hall, I made my way from Elvis‘ (yes, *that* Elvis) purple Lincoln Continental to John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper suit to Jim Morrison’s cub scout uniform, to a Rolling Stones tour rider that spells out the exact selection of cheese they required. Around every corner there is something else that ups the ante. There are the things you remember (like U2’s bedazzled Trabants, which I last saw hanging high about the stage at Wembley Stadium during Zooropa) and things you wish you did (the poster from Patti Smith’s first poetry reading at St. Mark’s Church). You gawk at yet more original handwritten lyrics (they are everywhere, a trainspotter’s dream), whether it’s “Enter Sandman” or “Here Comes A Regular” or “Bad” or “Save The Last Dance For Me,” and ponder how many songwriters favored spiral notebooks and regular ballpoint pens. You glare at those you hate (okay, I did more than glare at anything having to do with the Eagles) and you cheer on the underdogs (Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs’ amp making it into the Ohio exhibit).

Blank Generation: New York and London city scenes case

Blank Generation: New York and London city scenes case

I will warn you that no corner is safe. Making my way through the excellent “Rockin’ All Over The World” exhibit, I am happily absorbed in a case with punk memorabilia from the Dictators to the Ramones to Talking Heads (Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth seemed to have kept EVERYTHING, and I thank them for that), when I notice a guitar in the exhibit that looks very, very familiar. I gesture at it helplessly and press my nose to the case.

It is a guitar that looks like it has been through the Charge of the Light Brigade itself, grey paint worn through to black through to what must have been a sunburst Telecaster once upon a time, rust flaking off the hardware from years of sweat, the finish worn down to bare wood along the top. And there, in the top left corner, is the sticker reading IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS. I am standing in front of Joe Strummer’s guitar - JOE STRUMMER’S GUITAR - and before I can manage to say “I think I’m going to cry” I start to do exactly that. It is like a piece of my heart is sitting inside that case.

And this is why you come to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Caryn Rose is a writer and a photographer whose favorite subjects are rock and roll, Bruce Springsteen, New York City, baseball and the New York Mets. She freelances for Backstreets Magazine the largest repository of Bruce Springsteen information published under one roof. She’s lived in London, Tel Aviv, Seattle and now resides in Brooklyn, NY.

>>The Rock Hall announced this week that From Asbury Park to the Promised Land will be extended and open through the end of 2010. New artifacts have been added including Bruce Springsteen’s first car.



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