Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday afternoon at the rock show

If you ride the NYC subway, you've probably seen the ads for the "Who Shot Rock & Roll" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.  It's a collection of photographs of rock musicians from 1955 to the present day.  I live about 15 minutes from the Brooklyn Museum, and the show has been running since October, but it took me until this afternoon to go see it.

I got to the museum around 3 PM to find a huge line snaking through the lobby.  The line moved quickly and I was on my way up to the fifth floor and the exhibit by 3:20.  That's where I ran into the second line for the show itself.  So it's a popular destination right now.  Also, it closes next weekend, so I'm sure the urgency brought out a larger crowd.

The exhibit is arranged by topic: performers before they were famous, private moments, concert photographs, album covers, and videos, to name a few.  Some of my favorite photos were of Jimmy Page with the Yardbirds in 1966, with short hair and a waist-length double-breasted jacket.  Compare that photo to the one around the corner of Page in 1975 on stage with Led Zeppelin, with long flowing hair and his shirt open to the waist.  There's a great photo of Johnny Cash at San Quentin prison, responding to the photographer's request to "take one for the warden!"  I really enjoyed the pictures of the Beatles and Rolling Stones before they were famous, lounging at pubs and backstage.  You can see Jimi Hendrix playing with Wilson Pickett in 1966, then with his own band a year later.  I won't spoil the contrast here but it's striking, almost jarring.  In between the two halls of the exhibit, there's a 15-minute slide show of other rock musicians from the 1960s and 1970s.  There's a photo index on the wall, but if you're of a certain generation it might be more fun to play "name that person."  I can tell you that David Crosby was never a good-looking man. 

There's also a Grace Jones video playing in one of the rooms.  Seeing Grace Jones always reminds me of her turn as a Bond girl in A View To A Kill in 1985.  I have the image of her in bed with an aging Roger Moore burned into my brain.  That movie should have come with a warning.  No twelve-year-old boy needs to see that.

The show runs through next weekend and is absolutely worth the shlep out to Brooklyn.  I didn't have to shlep, but those of you who live in Manhattan should make the trip.  Be prepared for crowds, and for tourists who don't know who Patti Smith or the Sex Pistols are.

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