Met jams with rock greats’ instruments

BY GABE HERMAN | The Met museum’s new “Play It Loud” exhibit is an impressive collection of memorabilia from rock-and-roll history. It’s like walking into a giant shrine to the history of rock music, and is worth a visit for hardcore or even casual fans.

The show, which opened April 8, is chock-full of guitars and other instruments that were not only used by the greats, but during their prime years. The exhibit is co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and features about 130 instruments, mostly guitars.

In fact, the exhibit is so good and so comprehensive, that after a while, it almost becomes numbing how many great items there are around every corner.

A guitar smashed by Kurt Cobain at the Met show. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Wow! Look! It’s Keith Richards’s Gibson electric guitar from the late ’60s, which he hand-painted himself. And there’s Muddy Waters’s Telecaster electric guitar that he used from 1958 until his death in 1983. There’s the guitar Chuck Berry used to record “Johnny B. Goode.” And Jerry Lee Lewis’s home piano for decades.

There’s a John Lennon Rickenbacker electric guitar that he used on the Beatles’ 1964 North American tour and for recording “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Beatles For Sale.” Ringo Starr’s drum kit is there, along with multiple George Harrison guitars, including his first electric guitar from 1959.

From left, a guitar used by John Lennon, Ringo Starr’s drum kit and George Harrison’s first electric guitar. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

The list of legendary musicians represented here is seemingly endless: Eric Clapton, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page, Jerry Garcia, Prince, Joan Jett, Metallica and more. It goes all the way up to modern artists like The Roots and Lady Gaga.

Jerry Lee Lewis’s home piano of many years. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Every room to walk through just keeps featuring more amazing items.

“This exhibit is incredible,” a man was overheard saying near the end of the exhibit. “I can’t believe how much stuff they have.”

A guitar hand-painted by a young Keith Richards. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

If smashed instruments are your thing, there’s a few of those, too. Such as a mangled Fender electric guitar, totaled by Kurt Cobain during a 1993 show in Inglewood, California. He destroyed the bridge pickup by using a technician’s drill, allegedly to impress Eddie Van Halen, who was at the show.

And there’s a Gibson guitar smashed by Pete Townshend around 1973. And — talk about a great Jimi Hendrix item — a fragment of the Stratocaster the “Purple Haze” great destroyed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival in a ritualized sacrifice. Then you enter the next space and there’s Hendrix’s white Woodstock electric guitar casually standing upright in a glass case in the center of the room.

A dragon outfit worn by Jimmie Page and a double-necked guitar — with acoustic and electric — that he used to play “Stairway to Heaven” and other songs in concert. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

There are also a few costumes, including a “dragon” suit worn by Jimmy Page during Led Zeppelin live performances from 1975-77.

The exhibit’s many excellent posters are not to be overlooked. Along with some great psychedelic artwork, there are posters for some truly momentous moments in rock history.

There’s ones for Woodstock and the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan went electric. There’s the poster for the Beatles at Shea Stadium, and the only known one for The Quarrymen, the earlier group with John, Paul and George.

Classic and rare rock posters. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

In a sad piece of history, there’s a Jan. 30, 1959, poster for the Winter Dance Party Tour in Fort Dodge, Iowa. It is the only surviving poster for the show, which featured Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Four days after the show, all three artists died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

A poster for a show by Bob Dylan in Midtown Manhattan at Town Hall in 1963. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

There aren’t too many Bob Dylan or Greenwich Village folk-related items, but there is a poster for a 1963 Dylan Town Hall show in Midtown. The poster said tickets could be purchased at the Folklore Center, at 110 MacDougal, the famous Village shop whose founder Izzy Young recently died.

All the items in this staggering show couldn’t be listed here, but the full, awesome collection can be seen at The Met until Oct. 1.

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