NEW YORK – Played by Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards and now shining behind the display cases of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, more than 100 iconic instruments that gave life to rock and roll have taken over a large exhibition at the museum for the first time.
“Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” brings together at least 130 items from the most influential rockers of the last eight decades that encapsulate the “innovation, experimentation, passion and rebellion” of an era, MET director Max Hollein said at a press conference on Monday.
Although the exhibition will open its doors from April 8 to Oct. 1, the MET celebrated this milestone in advance by opening its galleries, which are usually full of paintings, to musicians such as Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads) and Steve Miller.
Amid great anticipation, Felder started to play the solo of “Hotel California” before the audience with the double-neck Gibson that for 40 years has given its characteristic sound to the song, and is considered one of the musical gems of the exhibition along with pianos, synthesizers, drums, posters and video clips of some 80 renowned musicians.
The Gibson that visitors will see is the same one with which Chuck Berry recorded the classic “Johnny B Goode,” the first piece of a journey through the musical history of the twentieth century, to which their own owners have made some contributions throughout the years.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the MET and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Page appeared on stage, saying that it was a day he had never dreamed of seeing. He said he used to take his guitar to school and they confiscated it from him. Page made his hobby a lifestyle and his double-neck guitar is now exhibited next to the dragon-embroidered costume that he wore when performing with Led Zeppelin between 1975 and 1977.
Page said in a video that he thought the guitar chose him, a sensation shared by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones in another clip, where it shows a Gibson Les Paul that he decorated with paint pens and also with acid, the same that appeared in “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968) by the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
Steve Miller took part in the crowded presentation to point out how difficult it is for musicians to separate themselves from their instruments. He said that this exhibition is also marked as even more important by the inclusiveness of the women of rock and roll, such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Jett, Patti Smith or Wanda Jackson, considered the “queen of rockabilly.”
The exhibition includes items from artists from the present day, since there is the futuristic piano that Lady Gaga played on television to perform “ARTPOP,” personalized with a transparent casing and LED lights, and reaches different cultures, as shown by the sitar of the musician and Indian composer Ravi Shankar, the master of the instrument.
Among the most outstanding pieces, there are Prince’s guitar in the shape of his symbol with which he protested against the music industry, an Ibanez covered in mirror pieces from Paul Stanley (Kiss) or the Gibson Melody Maker with which Joan Jett recorded “I love Rock’n’Roll,” covered in stickers with feminist slogans.
“Play It Loud” includes items from The Beatles, Metallica and The Who, and instruments modified or destroyed in action by their owners, which left some of the most memorable photographs of the rock and roll movement for its rebelliousness and irreverence.
The most anti-establishment side of this musical era of the past century still resonates in the Gibson which was shattered by Pete Townshend (The Who) during a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz and is now preserved in resin, or in the remains of the Fender that Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) smashed in a performance during the tour of “In Utero” in 1993.
Other names present at the exhibition, which will hold its closing concert in September, as Steve Miller announced at the event, are Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead.