“It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled
been a long time since I did the stroll
let me get it back, let me get it back
let me get it back, baby where I come from…”
– Rock and Roll, Led Zeppelin
Muddy Waters. Jeff Beck. Ringo Starr. Jimi Hendrix. Buddy Holly. Lars Ulrich. Jimmy Page. Eddie Van Halen. Bo Diddley. Prince. Kurt Cobain. Steve Vai. Imagine if all of these musicians, the founders and innovators of rock and roll, were gathered in one location. What a terrific jam session that would be! While that jam session will never happen, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing its best to bring them (and many other musicians) together through their instruments. Running through October,
Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll is a special exhibit at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit focuses on the guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, and other instruments that made rock and roll possible.
After seeing a special on the exhibit on the
CBS Sunday Morning show, my wife and I decided to take advantage of a nice Sunday morning to head to Manhattan and tour the Met, seeing these iconic instruments up close. Over the course of the weekend, we also saw more cherry blossoms, ate a delicious lunch, and took in some priceless works of art. With that, let’s start with some updates and then dive into our latest adventure:
After a long winter, it felt good to give the Accord its first thorough cleaning. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s a good start. Despite closing in on 128,000 miles, the interior is holding up nicely.
Our first destination this weekend was to a park in Newark, New Jersey that has the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States.
Despite an overcast morning, the white and pink trees let us know we were getting close to our destination.
We arrived a little after 9:00 am and were able to find parking fairly easily. When we left a little more than 90 minutes later, every spot in the lot was taken, and people were parking on the surrounding streets. This is quite an event!
Branch Brook Park has over 5,000 cherry blossom trees. They were a gift from Caroline Bamberger Fuld, sister of department store founder Louis Bamberger (via Wikipedia).
Every April, the park attracts over 10,000 visitors. Despite cherry blossom season only lasting a few weeks, the park has a welcome center specifically for the those wanting to learn more about these beautiful trees.
Despite its small size, the Cherry Blossom Center has a wealth of information about these flowering trees.
The Japanese word hanami means “flower viewing,” referring specifically to cherry blossoms.
At 360 acres, Branch Brook Park is the largest park in Newark. John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr designed the park. Their father, Frederick Law Olmsted, famously designed Central Park in Manhattan.
The remaining moisture from an early morning rainfall added another element to the photos.
I had (stupidly) left my camera at home. That said, I was pleased with how the photos from my iPhone came out.
My wife, though, took the single best photo from the day. Great shot!
Our destination for Sunday morning: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located beside Central Park in Manhattan.
With the questionable roads of Staten Island ahead of us, we decided to give my Accord’s suspension a break and take my wife’s Jeep. A dense fog had rolled in overnight, reducing visibility as we drove.
Rather than driving into the city, we took the Staten Island Ferry. The heavy fog slowed down the ferry, making the usual 20-minute ferry ride take almost double that amount of time.
The fog wasn’t all bad, however. It gave the Statue of Liberty an other-worldly appearance.
Pushing through the fog, the skyline of Manhattan came into view.
What has become one of my favorite places in New York: The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. I featured this Irish pub in my birthday trip post last August.
While lunch was delicious, the highlight of the meal was (and always is) the Irish coffee. Made from four ingredients (coffee, heavy cream, whiskey, and Demerara syrup), it’s perfection in a cup.
Departing from lunch, we took a short Uber ride and arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Built in 1874, this massive structure is the third-most visited art museum in the world (via Wikipedia).
After paying for admission, we didn’t pass go and we didn’t collect $200. We went directly to the Play It Loud exhibit. Entering the exhibit, the first guitar you see is Chuck Berry’s ES-350T hollow body electric guitar. With this guitar, he played such famous songs as Johnny B. Goode and You Never Can Tell.
“Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!” This is Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano. This piano sat in Lewis’ home from 1957 until 2017.
This red Fender Telecaster guitar was played by blues legend Muddy Waters. How influential was he? His 1950 song “Rollin Stone” was the inspiration for a British rock group’s name: The Rolling Stones. It was also adopted as the title of a San Francisco magazine that focuses on art, music, and culture: Rolling Stone.
“Who Do You Love?” This guitar, the Twang Machine, was owned by blues artist Bo Diddley. He popularized hambone rhythm, a rhythmic style that is still used today in popular music.
“Here comes the sun…” The exhibit included (from left to right) John Lennon’s 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar, Ringo Starr’s drum kit, and George Harrison’s Hofner electric guitar.
“Heart full of soul…” This heavily used and abused 1954 Fender Esquire was owned by British guitarist Jeff Beck.
“Soul to Soul.” This road-worn 1963 Fender Stratocaster was owned and played by blues master Stevie Ray Vaughan. He named this guitar his “Number One.”
And speaking of number one… one of the guitars that drew me to the exhibit. Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein. It married the body and neck of a Fender Stratocaster with the electronics of a Gibson Les Paul, giving him the playability of a Strat with the tone of a Les Paul. He simply calls it “his baby.”
I grew up playing piano, but picked up the guitar at age 13, largely due to the playing of Eddie Van Halen. This is an exact replica of the original Frankenstein. This replica was made by Chip Ellis, Eddie Van Halen’s personal guitar technician. The original, worth over $2 million, is locked away in a vault.
In another room were several guitarists’ concert rigs, including Eddie Van Halen’s setup. The white-and-black guitar is another reproduction: this is how the Frankenstein looked in the late 1970s before Eddie added the red paint. The speaker cabinets in the background are Eddie’s old Marshall amplifiers. On the floor are some of the effects pedals Eddie used to help create his sound. Needless to say… I spent quite a while here.
“All Along the Watchtower.” This Gibson Flying V was played by none other than Jimi Hendrix. He painted it himself using nail polish.
The history of electric guitar, in one shot. On the left is the very first guitar made by Fender (which served as a prototype for the Telecaster and the Esquire). Center is one of the first Fender Stratocasters ever made. And on the right is the Gibson Les Paul.
I also liked this collection of Gibson SG electric guitars, including the one owned by Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers (center) and Angus Young of AC/DC. Angus’ guitar also helped to inspire the title of this post. Monsters of Rock was a heavy metal music festival of the 1980s, which featured groups such as ZZ Top, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Van Halen, the Scorpions, and AC/DC.
“Gimme shelter…” This 1959 Gibson Les Paul was played by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
Keyboards have coming a long way… this is a 1968 Moog Synthesizer. If you’ve ever played an electronic keyboard, this is its grandpa.
“Purple rain, purple rain…” This unique guitar was played by none other than Prince.
After leaving the exhibit, we decided to walk around the museum for a bit. This room, filled with art, statues, and furniture from Europe in the 1600s, caught my eye.
As my wife is a huge fan of Monet, we went to the second floor to tour the Impressionist gallery. And as my mom also loves the works of Monet, you better believe I included these pictures in my post!
My wife pointed out these two paintings; both by Monet, done approximately twenty years apart. You can see how much his style changed over his career.
After spending most of our time in the rock music exhibit, we didn’t have much energy left for the rest of the museum. I did manage to explore some of the Egyptian gallery.
The museum also houses a complete copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, far larger than the one I saw last week in the National Geographic Museum.
Despite being nearly 3,000 years old, this coffin was still colorful.
After leaving the museum, we ambled through Central Park and found yet more cherry blossoms!
This time, having remembered my camera, I had some fun.
And to think that in a week or two… this will all be gone for another year.
Despite the morning forecast insisting that the fog would depart by late morning, it was still hovering over the harbor when took the return journey on the ferry.
Fog obscured the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, although it made for a cool photo.
Play It Loud is running from April until October 2019.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open Sundays through Thursdays from 10:00 am – 5:30 pm, and Friday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm. Until a few years ago, the museum was free, although a small donation was requested. Citing financial pressures, the museum now charges $25 per adult, $17 for a senior citizen, $12 for a student, and children 12 and younger can enter for free. Although steep, the admission price is valid for three consecutive days, so if you are going to visit, plan well! For me, though, the history of the instruments of rock was worth every penny. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m inspired to go play some guitar. Time to wail…
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.