CLEVELAND – Through the years, curators at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum occasionally have had trouble coaxing reluctant stars to help put together major exhibitions. Not so with members of The Rolling Stones, who made time in their packed anniversary schedule to help.
“Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction,” running through March 2014, covers two floors at the museum and contains scores of personal items.
“The timing was right,” associate curator Craig Inciardi said. “Ordinarily, you would think that working on an exhibit while the artists are getting ready for a major tour would be a bad thing. In this case, it worked to our advantage in that they were all getting together, spending time making decisions in the same room. ... We ended up getting their full cooperation.”
The interactive exhibit honoring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the band’s other members is a tribute to their work, worldwide musical impact and continued relevance.
It’s more than a celebration. In fact, it’s a gas.
With nearly 300 artifacts on display, the exhibit chronicles the band from its birth in England as a blues cover band to its current “50 and Counting” tour. Rare guitars, stage outfits, concert posters, documents and personal items fill two floors.
After stepping through a doorway framed like the Stones’ iconic tongue-and-lips logo – omnipresent in various shapes and sizes on the museum’s fifth and sixth floors – visitors are taken back to the band’s early days, even before founder Brian Jones, Jagger, Richards, Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts played their first gig.
There are gems of Stones’ history interspersed throughout the exhibit. Impeccably mounted behind glass, the treasure trove of items includes:
Fan questionnaires filled out in the early 1960s by the band. On his, Jagger listed his likes as “girls, eating, clothes” and dislikes as “intolerant people, having my hair cut.”
A silver serving tray the band “allegedly” stole from Station Hotel during a night of beer drinking.
Jones’ custom Vox teardrop guitar and Ronnie Wood’s Zemaitis electric six-string, which has personalized etchings carved into the silver facing.
Jagger’s floor-length cape stitched out of U.S. and British flags that he wore on the 1981-82 tour.
The 1970 letter the Stones sent to Santana, asking for permission to use footage of the band’s performance at the infamous Altamont concert, which eventually became the film “Gimme Shelter.”
The original artwork for “It’s Only Rock and Roll” and “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”
However, this is hardly a staid stroll through display cases and wall hangings. With this exhibit, the hall is hoping to entertain, educate and enlighten.
For the first time, visitors can be included in the show with the launch of an interactive project where fans can share photos – the hall has lifted a ban on picture-taking in the exhibit – and other memorabilia at a multimedia display and online. Fans can upload images to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #rockhallsatisfaction to contribute.
“This gave us an opportunity to engage the fans a little bit more,” said Todd Mesek, vice president of communications. “‘OK, show us your experience with the Stones. Show us your tickets, show us your set lists, show us your concert photos.’ What we’re also doing with our new photo policy is letting fans take shots in here and send it out to the world, let them be a part of it.”
The exhibit includes three iPad-based interactive kiosks where visitors can put on a pair of headphones and hear the band’s early blues influences, explore the Jagger-Richards songwriting team and see how the band melded influences into its one-of-a-kind sound.
“We wanted to take visitors deeper into the sounds of the Stones and their music and hear it in a way they’ve never heard it before,” said Jason Hanley, the hall’s director of education.
“ ... We had to think about ‘how do we get 50 years of music into three different stations?’ So we came up with the idea of focusing on them as real innovators who were always looking at the world around them and pulling in new things.”