But, let's hand it to these guys: They wanted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than anybody else a decade ago, and now--$92 million later--they've got it. Both the building itself and the exhibitions it houses are flawed but fascinating. Even if one suspects that putting rock in a museum is tantamount to killing it, there's enough detail built into the exhibits to amuse and delight the most hardened fan of the music.
For example, there's the jukebox that purports to hold the 500 songs that shaped rock 'n' roll, among them two songs by the Monkees--the Monkees!!!--and only three by Van Morrison. It doesn't contain the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" but does save a slot for Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf," and Culture Club ("Time (Clock of the Heart)") rates as many mentions as Paul Simon ("Graceland"). Yet there are some wonderfully offbeat inclusions: Husker Du's "Turn on the News" and the New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis," for example, which weren't hits but which are great songs.
- Disc jockey Alan Freed, who, while broadcasting out of Cleveland in 1951, made the term "rock 'n' roll" a part of white youth-culture slang, is the personality most invoked by city boosters when they talk about Cleveland as the home of rock 'n' roll. It's a silly debate, and what's more, it's obvious that Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago have a greater stake in the music's origins. But the myth of Freed was continually exaggerated by the Cleveland media throughout the weeklong festivities. The hall itself takes a more sobering view: It credits Freed with popularizing, not coining, the term "rock 'n' roll," which had been a part of African-American slang for decades, and it dispassionately notes that he pleaded guilty to commercial bribery in 1962, one of the biggest fish to fall in the payola scandal that tainted commercial radio. Freed was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined, and died three years later, a broken alcoholic.