Rock Hall exhibits 50 years of Stones history
The Rolling Stones will not be any closer than Chicago on its current ”50 & Counting” tour, but its history will be on display for the next year at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
The top two floors of the Rock Hall’s pyramid will be filled with gear, stage clothes, memorabilia and other oddities for ”Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction,” which opens Friday.
Meredith Rutledge-Borger, assistant curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, said, ”The Rolling Stones have had a presence here since the museum opened, but we wanted to do an expanded exhibit. Last year and this year seemed like an ideal time because of the 50th milestone.”
The Rolling Stones started in 1962, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both have said the Stones didn’t really become the Stones until drummer Charlie Watts joined the band the following year. That makes 2013 the 50th anniversary of the group frequently called ”the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.”
About 60 percent of the items on display came from the band while the other 40 percent are on loan from private collectors, and Rutledge-Borger said they had a wealth of material from which to choose.
”Something we’ve found is that people who are really successful knew or had a sense early on that they were going to be successful,” she said. ”Therefore, they kept things. I’m always really surprised when bands have posters from their first gigs.”
The exhibit spans the band’s entire career, starting with its early influences and Blues Incorporated, a British blues band led by Alexis Korner that was the common thread that brought Jagger, Richards, Watts, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman together. Keyboard player Ian Stewart also was full-fledged member of the band early on, but he was relegated to sideman status by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldman, who thought the older Stewart didn’t fit the band’s young and rebellious image, Rutledge-Borger said.
Maybe Wyman was thinking about that when he filled out a fan club questionnaire at the request of the band’s first secretary, Doreen Nelson. Those questionnaires are on display, and Wyman shaved five years off of his age.
Another artifact from the band’s early days is a tray from the Station Hotel. The Crawdaddy Club, where the band played some of its early gigs, was located inside the hotel, and it is believed that one of the band members snatched the tray from the hotel and left it behind in the apartment where they were staying.
Several pieces are included from the ”Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus,” a television show that was filmed in 1968 but wasn’t released until the mid-’90s because the Stones “felt The Who kind of stole the show,” Rutledge-Borger said.
The sweater Keith Richards was wearing during the band’s 1969 Altamont concert (where a gun-toting fan was stabbed by a member of the Hells Angels, who were hired as security for the outdoor show) also is on the fifth floor.
”That had a chilling effect on the whole festival ethos of that era,” she said.
There is no shortage of stage clothes and instruments for fans to gawk at, but the exhibition also tries to take visitors inside the music. On the fifth floor is a listening room with three different stations, one for each of the three guitarists Keith Richards played with in the band – Jones, Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood. Visitors can pick different songs from each era to hear what those musicians brought to the band and how Richards adapted his style to complement each one.
Other interactive stations were created by Jason Hanley, director of education for the Rock Hall, to cover the band’s musical roots, how the band added new sounds and rhythms to its style over the years and on Jagger and Richards as songwriters.
”We wanted to find a way in the exhibition to bring visitors deeper into the music of the Stones,” Hanley said. ”Each one gives you a lesson.”
The three different segments run about 5 minutes each.
”We wanted to say something substantial but keep it short enough to move through,” he said.
The exhibition doesn’t shy away from controversy. One display is filled with headlines and stories from the different band members’ legal problems, most of which have been drug related. Another focuses on the charges of misogyny leveled at the band for some of its lyrics, stage props and marketing efforts, such as a giant billboard that was set up on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip to promote the band’s 1976 ”Black and Blue” album. It featured a bound and bruised women and the slogan, “I’m black and blue for the Rolling Stones.”
”The question is, is it something that comes from the band or an image imposed on them?” Rutledge-Borger said.
”Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction” has a companion exhibit at the museum’s Library and Archives, 2809 Woodland Ave., Cleveland, that focuses on the band’s tour production from 1975 to 1981 with set lists, photographs, stage drawings, fabric samples, lighting cues and handwritten notes from Art Collins, a Rolling Stones records executive who toured with the band from 1977 to 1982.
His notes were used to help select which performances to include in the concert film ”Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
And for the first time, a Rock Hall exhibition features a fan-generated interactive exhibition. Since May 13 fans have been encouraged to post pictures of their own Stones’ memories and memorabilia through Twitter and Instagram, and those images will be shown as part of the exhibit and featured on the museum’s Facebook page.