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Editorial Reviews. Review. “Amazing.” ―Bruce Sterling, “Looking back over the last Retromania: Musica, cultura pop e la nostra ossessione per il passato (Italian Edition) eBook: Simon Reynolds: Kindle Store.
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But animosity, the sort of polarised vision that fuelled Burchill's snarling, strident rhetoric, has gone now, everywhere. Rock museums like the British Music Experience represent the triumph of the Tapestry, with even the most troubling threads, like The Sex Pistols, neatly woven into its fabric. And Elvis Costello, the nasty New Waver who once said abhorrent things just to wind up decrepit American hippies Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, can be found on TV hosting his show Spectacle , where he interviews the likes of James Taylor and Elton John and finds amiable common ground in a shared love of American roots music and singer-songwriter balladry.

Next I plunge into the eighties room, which contains indie The Smiths et al. It's striking that this last room, which feels cursory and rushed, covers a sixteen-year period, whereas the four-year stretches of - 6 and - 70 get a whole chamber each.

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The covert argument of the museum's structure would appear to be that any single year in the sixties was approximately four times more exciting than any year in the last decade and a half. Not that I disagree. And that bias probably mirrors the outlook of the average BME visitor, who leans towards middle age rather than youth.

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Museums, by definition, can't have that much room for the present. But the Experience website had actually promised a final Edge Zone, a whole space dedicated to the future and the question of where music might go next. I must have missed it, though, because after the - Present room I find myself back in the gift shop. On the way out, I notice a giant cut-out pop-star figure directing visitors to the museum that I didn't see on the way in: Johnny Rotten in all his safety-pinned glory. For five weeks in the late summer of , former Clash guitarist Mick Jones is throwing open to the general public his personal archive of memorabilia, which is kept in a suite of Ladbroke Grove offices tucked directly under the Westway dual carriage-way.

The press release for the Rock'n'Roll PublicLibrary trumpets Jones's generosity as a 'direct artistic challenge to the likes of the corporate O2 British Music Experience' and advises visitors that despite the exhibition's sedate name, they should not 'expect peace and quiet'. Actually, it is pretty quiet in there when I drop by at noontime on Saturday, the Portobello vintage-clothing market in full swing directly below. And it doesn't feel like a challenge to anything in particular, this cosy clutter of souvenirs and keepsakes, the detritus of a life spent rocking and rolling.

In tune with The Clash's fascination with military glory, the walls are decorated with nineteenth-century watercolours of battle scenes and images from World War II, such as a print of US marines raising the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima. Give or take the odd youngster, the visitors are mostly veterans of the punk wars. There's a middle-aged couple, the woman plump and with a purple streak in her hair, the guy wearing a Pistols T-shirt and a bedraggled Mohawk. And there's an endless supply of guys who all seem to wear the cowboy-like hats that The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite favoured.

One of these stupid-hat diehards - a Mancunian Clash fan - sits down beside me and, already quite drunk even though it's not lunchtime yet, regales me with stories of climbing onstage at a Clash gig and being invited to play the A, E and G chords. Eventually I make my excuses and slope off into a side-room that's like a cavern of pop periodicals: issues of Crawdaddy! Pumping at moderate volume out of speakers all through theoffice space there's a Radio Clash-style stream of Mick Jones's favourite tunes.

But The Clash long ago stitched themselves into a corner of Rock's Rich Tapestry - as early as London Calling , which re-rooted punk in the riches of rock'n'roll and Americana, and was duly anointed Greatest Album of the Eighties by Rolling Stone. The latter, co-founded by Rolling Stone 's Jann Wenner, is not just an awards ceremony but the world's first rock museum: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened in and is based in Cleveland.

At the ceremony, Mick Jones - balding, clad in black suit and tie - didn't look like a rock'n'roll soldier getting a medal so much as a stoop-shouldered clerk shuffling to the podium to receive his retirement gift for forty-five years' loyal service to the firm. The Clash's meek compliance with their incorporation into the rock pantheon contrasts pleasingly with the intransigence of The Sex Pistols, who threw their invitation to the ceremony back in the institution's face. This didn't stop the Hall of Fame inducting them anyway, of course.

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The accompanying rude and crudely scrawled note brought a smile to the wrinkled faces of ageing punks everywhere: Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming. We're not your monkeys. If you voted for us, hope you notedyour reasons.


Your anonymous as judges but your still music industry people. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stream is a real Sex Pistol. On one level, it was a curious gesture of defiance. After all, the group had already thrown in their lot with retro culture by re-forming for 's six-month Filthy Lucre Tour, and only a year after middle-fingering the Hall of Fame they would monetise the legend once again with a series of shows in - 8.

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Still, these reunions - Never Mind the Bollocks as travelling museum exhibit - could be seen as bracingly cynical, even an extension of the Pistols' original demystification of the music industry: not 'cash from chaos'but cash from nostalgia for chaos. Turning up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, though, really would have meant the blunting of any residual edge the group had. In an interview for National Public Radio, Pistols guitarist Steve Jones claimed that 'once you want to be put into a museum, rock and roll's over'. Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which bands become eligible for twenty-five years after they formed, is a last rite of passage into the rock afterlife.

In some cases, the artist is literally dead; in almost all other instances, the creative life of the performer expired a good way back. Theodor Adorno was the first to point out the similarity of the words 'museum' and 'mausoleum'.

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Beyond the phonetic resemblance is a deeper proximity: museums are the final resting place of 'objects to which the observer no longer has a vital relationship and which are in the process of dying'. The Hard Rock chain who started using rock memorabilia such as signed guitars as decor way back in the seventies came up with the name of the Vault for its own museum in Orlando, Florida.

And Wolfgang's Vault is the slightly creepy name of one of the world's largest music-memorabilia companies, derived from the massive underground storage centre inwhich famed San Francisco promoter Bill Graham whose real name was Wolfgang Grajonca kept his archive of audio and video concert recordings, posters and assorted rock relics. Before visitors are admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Annex in New York, they wait in a little room that actually resembles a mausoleum.

From top to bottom, the walls are covered with small rectangular plaques, each commemorating - and bearing the signature of - an artist who's been inducted into the Hall of Fame. It starts, near the entrance, with the first inductees from back in the mid-eighties - your Carl Perkins's and Clyde McPhatters - and works around to more recent ones like The Pretenders anointed in , located by the door that leads to the museum proper. The plaques are redolent of the small 'niches' you find in some burial vaults that are made for cremated ashes. Music plays, and in a touch that's both kitsch and eerie, when a particular song comes on, the silver-engraved signature of the artist glows orange or purple.

The parent museum in Cleveland goes one better, though. Fusing museum and mausoleum, it displays the earthly remains of Alan Freed, the DJ who popularised the term 'rock'n'roll' and organised the music's first major concert with 's Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland. Jim Henke, the museum's chief curator, explained that 'we'd been working with Freed's kids on putting an exhibit together and then one day they said, "Listen, our dad is buried in upstate New York, and that doesn't make any sense.

If we brought the ashes, would you guys accept it? Still, there is an aspect to many of the exhibits in Cleveland and at the New York Annex that's close to medieval sacred relics such as splinters from the cross, the bones of a saint or vials of Christ's blood: they elicit morbid awe rather than scholarly respect. For instance, Cleveland has one of Bob Marley's dreadlocks on display. While you can't actually see dried blood, it does mean that visitors are just inches away from physical traces of the slain singer, as close to a saviour as rock has produced.

Other museum exhibits cast their spell through metonymy rather than being part of the idol's body: irradiated with 'aura', and in some cases stained with sweat, these are the actual clothes the stars wore, the instruments the musicians held. First is the Chevrolet Bel Air convertible that was Bruce Springsteen's first car and which he actually drove during the recording of Born to Run in The second is the diorama reconstruction of CBGB's interior that incorporates actual things from the legendary punk club: the old-fashioned cash register, the vintage phone box that dates back to the twenties, when the venue was a flophouse. There are some nice touches - empty beer bottles, graffiti and bandstickers everywhere - but there are no ashtrays a crucial period touch, given that this is meant to be CBGB's prime, the era of The Ramones. Nor is there any dried-out chewing gum under the tables. I'm also wondering where CBGB's infamously squalid toilet is, only to find it when I'm about to leave the museum and dart downstairs for a quick visit to the gents.

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Lo and behold, in a glass case just before the door to the gents, there's the CBGB urinal, with band stickers speckling the white ceramic outer surfaces. Marcel Duchamp meets retro culture! I reckon they should have kept it in service, inside the men's room, but I guess it's an antique, this piss-pot, and besides it would have meant that only one gender could take a gander at it. Incidentally, while wrapping up this chapter, I learned that during the summer of artist Justin Lowe recreated the graffiti-daubed CBGB lavatory at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut - a homage not just to the punk venue but also the museum's history of supporting surrealist art - while that August the porcelain commode from John Lennon's - 72 English country estate sold for fifteen thousand bucks at a Beatles memorabilia auction.

The Cleveland institution's big rival, the Experience Music Project - which opened in the year and was built by billionaire Paul Allen using the fortune he acquired as co-founder of Microsoft - attempted to outdo its predecessor with an emphasis on interactive exhibits and the avant-kitsch flashiness and kookiness of its building designed by Frank Gehry and often compared to a smashed guitar. The EMP made a big splash initially. But over the course of the past decade, it struggled to meet what were probably unrealistic expectations a million visitors a year.

Allen, a sci-fi buff as well as a rock fan, added the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame to the building to bump up its appeal. Still, when you consider the continued existence of these two major rock museums in Seattle and Cleveland and the numerous smaller genre- or city-focused ones elsewhere in America the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Rock 'n' Soul Museum in Memphis, Detroit's Motown Historical Museum, etc. These institutions are competing for artifacts and funding as well as for visitors.

Keith Richards may once have jeered, on being introduced to Jim Henke, 'A rock and roll curator?! That's the silliest thing I've ever heard! All these people involved in the museum-ification of rock share a common ideology, based around the twinned concepts of posterity and historicity. Posterity is self-explanatory: it's on whose behalf all these materials are carefully preserved and tidily presented.

To a large degree, historicity entails a leap of faith: it's an intangible quality that depends on an element of trust and projection on the part of the museum visitor or collector. In the text for his book Vintage T-Shirts , Johan Kugelberg notes the huge difference in price between an original tour T-shirt and a reproduction, which may actually look indistinguishable from the real thing, given that not only period stylisation but ageing and distressing of fabric can be faked.

Historicity is paradoxical in the sense that it pertains to something only after it has been left behind by History, when it's become a remnant. During the time period when they actually have currency, tour T-shirts have no extra value; they derive their later lustre by harkening back to a time when they were unremarkable, just used. Archly echoing the Romantic poets and their obsession with medieval abbeys, Kugelberg describes the vintage T-shirt as a 'ruin', but warns that these ruins can themselves be ruined, in terms of collectability, by 'the dreaded pit stains'.

Some canny 'investment venture capitalist type' activity has placed him in the enviable position of being able to follow his wife's motto, 'Why pay less? Or he'll be a pre-emptively high bidder in auctions online and offline alike. After spending the nineties working at various record labels, around the turn of the millennium Kugelberg fell into a modus operandi: focusing in on a specific area of the past and scooping everything up - not just records but fanzines, flyers and every kind of memorabilia related to the period.

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