WE’RE NOT WORTHY?
From time to time, some of our more passionate guests will get worked-up over certain pieces of memorabilia in our collection and try to take us to task over them. Usually, this stems from someone assuming that a joint called the Hard Rock should exclusively display memorabilia that fits into their personal definition of what “hard rock” music is. Here’s the thing – our memorabilia collection strives (successfully, we think) to present a truly broad cross-section of music culture. If we only adhered to an “it must be rock music to qualify” ethos, not only would we have to purge pop-culture icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson from our collection, we’d have to lose every piece of memorabilia from before 1951. More importantly, we’d miss out on presenting some of the most unique – and most significant – pieces from the crazy and wonderful world of popular music. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things we’ve been asked about.
Let’s start with one of the most controversial pieces in our collection – the jacket Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli wore to the 1990 Grammy™ awards:
In 1989, Milli Vanilli were global pop superstars, but it came to light that they didn’t actually sing on their record – they were simply two German dancers cast in the role of pop stars for producer Frankie Farian’s plastic pop product. They were so huge, they won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
The ruse worked like a charm until a technical glitch caused their backing track to skip live in front of thousands of fans….
The duo was forced to give back their Grammy and Rob Pilatus sunk into a depression that resulted in his death at the tender age of 32.
It’s painful to think that Rob’s life was destroyed by the lip-sync scandal – when today’s pop stars do THE EXACT SAME THING MILLI VANILLI DID on a daily basis and no one bats an eye. What’s the difference between Milli Vanilli’s lip-syncing and today’s singers using Auto-Tune to make them sound semi-talented? This jacket represents everything that’s cynical and evil about the music industry, which makes it a fantastic piece of memorabilia.
Here’s a great one – Frank Sinatra’s gold-plated AKG microphone:
Amazingly, we occasionally catch some flak for having this piece and other non-rock, “Rat Pack” stuff on display. First of all, this is Frank Sinatra’s gold microphone. That equals totally awesome. Second, you people better be careful, or the Chairman of the Board might come out of the grave just to kick some ass. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again. Frank may not have been a rock artist, but every single front man in music – from Elvis to Jagger to Bono to Timberlake – owes Frank a heavy debt. Sinatra was the guy who pioneered the whole concept of the singing teen idol. Better recognize.
Speaking of teen idols, Justin Bieber is one of the most divisive artists among Hard Rock guests. Some love him, some loathe him, but Bieber is part of the time-honored tradition of the teen idol. Ever since Frank Sinatra made bobby socks-clad girls scream in the 1940’s, popular music has celebrated the bubblegum awesomeness of teen singers. Though they’re often maligned by the music cognoscenti, teen idols have been around for as long as rock ‘n’ roll has existed. This skateboard was used in Justin Bieber’s video for “One Time” and he signed it to the squealy delight of girls worldwide.
Here’s another piece we’ve caught grief over. It’s the outfit worn by MC Hammer in the “Dancing Machine” video:
There are always people who think hip-hop music doesn’t belong in our collection, but those people clearly don’t understand rock music. MC Hammer was like some sort of bizarre, inescapable force of nature in the early ‘90s and his trademark super-baggy pants will go down in history as one of the most ill-advised fashion choices of the 20th century. For that reason alone, MC Hammer outfits are like gold to us. We realize MC Hammer doesn’t exactly qualify as an emcee with true hip-hop bona fides, but his legacy in pop culture is undeniable.
A lot of the things we get negative reactions to are from contemporary female pop artists. Hardly a day goes by without a guest balking at a kickass Rihanna, Katy, Beyoncé or Gaga piece. Dummies. Those things are awesome as hell. For us, this backlash started with Britney Spears. Here’s her waitress outfit from the video for her 1999 megahit, “(You Drive Me) Crazy”:
Look, we’re well aware that most contemporary pop stars aren’t exactly artists in the traditional sense, but the sexpot singer is as old as music itself. Their music is designed for prepubescent kids who quickly grow out of it and latch on to something with more substance. In a way, these pop-tarts are opening up the world of music to kids who’ve previously only paid attention to cartoons and video games. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.
Finally, let’s look at a piece that once represented everything any self-respecting rocker despised. Here’s the sun sculpture that hung over the dance floor at legendary disco Studio 54:
It’s funny how well disco music has aged. Today’s dance music is made almost entirely by machines and, compared to disco, it lacks a human element and a true soul. It’s great to listen to old disco records and savor some dance grooves that were played by actual living humans. ‘70s disco rocks harder than most contemporary rock bands. Check out A Taste of Honey throwing down live in ’78 and tell me this doesn’t smoke the vast majority of contemporary rock bands:
So there you have it. Actually, we love when guests have a strong reaction to something in our collection – even if it seems negative. It allows us to get into the big music-nerd debates that we all dig having. That’s what this collection is all about.