All About The Instruments Of Rock And Roll Exhibition At The Met
I can think of many reasons why New York City is probably my favourite city to visit, anywhere in the world. It always has many answers when a restless traveller like me throws the “What Next?” question. Just a week ago, I checked into the Four Points Sheraton Midtown Times Square. A hotel I picked for its location in the centre of it all. Close to the viewing decks where I always find my zen moments and the city’s eclectic mix of museums. You expect hotel most midtown hotel concierge staff to know what’s happening in a city where the action never stops. The team at Four Points directed me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a.k.a. the Met) where I experienced emotions only a true Rock fan can relate to.
Cut back to 1963, American-made instruments were sought after possessions among British music acts. Ringo Starr bought his first American drum set – a 4-piece Ludwig kit, from London’s Drum City store. It was the shop’s owner – Ivor Arbiter, who designed the Beatles ‘drop-T’ logo as we know it today. This now iconic logo also retained room for the Ludwig brand insignia. Ringo used this drum kit for the band’s pathbreaking performances in Europe through 1964. It now occupies pride of place at Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll, an exhibition that runs till October 1, 2019, at the Met. It’s fair to say that no major museum has ever assembled such a formidable array of musical instruments that have defined the age of Rock and Roll – about 130 in all, plus costumes and posters.
The crowds never quite stopped milling around a Gibson Flying V that was Jimi Hendrix’s guitar of choice through the late 1960s including his solo on All Along the Watchtower. Hendrix painted this instrument himself using nail polish. In terms of showstoppers, even Hendrix’s guitar was no match for the five-neck guitar that guitarist Rick Nielsen used in the early 1980s with Cheaptrick. But it was a Stratocaster that had my attention. U2’s Edge is credited with the use of analogue delay effects within rock music transforming the electric guitar into an atmospheric instrument. This guitar was his primary instrument on the Joshua Tree album and the subsequent tour and he pulled this one out again for the 30th-anniversary tour of my favourite U2 album with songs like With or Without You and Where the streets have no name.
Some of the museum’s big draws include a special section on the ‘Guitar God’ phenomenon with Eric Clapton’s Blackie, Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein. There’s also room for Keith Moon’s legendary Pictures of Lily drum set, Lady Gaga’s custom designed piano and a guitar that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain smashed in 1993. It’s not just instruments, the exhibition seamlessly weaves in vintage posters, costumes (including Jimmy Page’s intricately hand-embroidered dragon suit) and videos. There were moments I smiled, moments when I felt goosebumps and also the occasional moment when I almost choked. Fanboy moments? Or just knowing that a generation that grew up on YouTube may not be able to produce the magic of these gods of rock and roll.
Details: this exhibition runs till October 1, 2019, at the Met (www.metmuseum.org) and then moves to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio. Entrance to the Met ($25) allows you access to this exhibition. You could also do a special pre-opening visit (from 8:30 am) that costs $50 on select days. There’s even a special store with cool memorabilia (look for the cuff-links) that is part of the exhibition. You can also access the Met and the museum with the NYC City Pass (www.citypass.com) that costs $132 and gives you access to 6 attractions where you can also skip the line.
Stay: the Four Points Sheraton Midtown Times Square (www.marriott.com) is walking distance from Broadway, Times Square and perfect if you want to catch performances at Madison Square Garden. It’s also close to the Met.
While you’re in NYC: visit the One World Observatory (www.oneworldobservatory.com) located atop the Westfield World Trade Center. It offers a whole new perspective and clear views of the Manhattan skyline and other landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge from 100 floors up in the sky.