Sunday, May 17, 2009

John Lennon's Home Town Exhibit

Last night we went to the "John Lennon: The New York City Years" exhibit, which opened on May 12th at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Manhattan (on Mercer Street). The exhibit was created by Yoko Ono and celebrates Lennon's love of New York City.

Before we entered the John Lennon exhibition room, we were led into a room where they showed us a 10-minute video montage of the great Rock legends. We then wandered around several rooms containing some great Rock memorabilia - costumes worn at concerts, musical instruments, letters to fan - of Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, and many more. The ones that really made us stop were the handwritten lyrics scribbled on random papers. There were some technical difficulties with our automated head sets, as we viewed certain memorabilia the soundtrack played music from a neighboring exhibit. Imagine looking at Elvis' jumpsuit while your headphones blared Michael Jackson's Billy Jean?!?! There was even a recreation of CBGB and a interactive area that showed you the significant New York places that shaped the music world.

Then we finally entered the Lennon exhibition. We loved the things he said of New York, written on the white walls of the exhibit. He said he loved the anything goes attitude in this city, how free and alive he felt here, and that although he was born and raised elsewhere, he LIVED in New York. Lennon and Ono moved together to this city in September 1971. Ono apparently showed Lennon the nooks and crannies of this city. He also said of New York, "If I'd lived in Roman times, I'd have lived in Rome. Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself." We feel the same way.

One of the first things that blew our minds was Lennon's "New York City" shirt he wore for his iconic photo taken by photographer Bob Bruen on the roof of an East Side apartment in 1974. The shirt was also given to Lennon a year prior to the shoot by Gruen - they just cut the sleeves off for the shoot. It was a shirt Lennon loved and to see it (stained and all) was unbelievable. This one faded and torn shirt has spawned thousands of recreations and bootlegs. On every NYC street vendor's table there are two types of shirts for sale: I Heart NYC and the shirt Lennon wore in that photo. We took this photo months ago from one of those T-shirt street vendors.

The exhibit also shows Lennon's fight with deportation, his green card, his handwritten lyrics, his piano from their Dakota apartment, his guitar from his concert at the Madison Square Garden with Elton John, and self portrait drawings. Our favorite drawing was the self-portrait of Lennon as the Statue 0f Liberty with the black power salute. There were four large screens playing rare footage of John and Yoko - peace protests, their time in New York City, and even the "Woman" video we always watched on You Tube.

One of the last things visitors will see is a small canvas bag wrapped in a plastic bag behind a glass case. The canvas bag is from New York's St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center and it contains the clothes Lennon was wearing when he was murdered. The final image is a photo Yoko took of Lennon's blood-soaked glasses. She included these pieces in the exhibit to send a message about gun violence. There was a white wall with sharpies attached to it where we got to sign our anti-gun violence message to President Obama.

The John Lennon: the New York City Years was a fantastic exhibit and will be much appreciated by all Lennon and music fans - it was John's love story to New York City told now by Yoko who said, "When he came here, he felt it was his home. He was head over heels in love with this city, and when you're in love, you forget you had a past."

No photos were allowed and there was no way we could sneak any photos in. The exhibit is open everyday, and not typical of other exhibits, this one is open til1:00 AM. We thought it would be small and wouldn't spend much time there but we were there from 8 to 9:30 PM. We love music and we appreciated everything that was on display. We had a much better time here than we did at the waste of space eyesore that is the Experience Music Project in Seattle.