Rock Nostalgia

Walking the Halls of the Hard Rock Hotel

So I promised a blog tour of the rock & roll memorabilia here at the hotel I was staying at, while in Chicago recently for a meeting. The meeting was not at this hotel; it was about 4 blocks away. But the meeting hotel was so outrageously expensive, even at the ‘special meeting rates’, that I shopped around — and found the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago! Hotel prices in downtown Chicago of course are pricey, but the Hard Rock, which is on North Michigan Ave., was a good value for what truly is an upscale luxury hotel, with very attentive staff, in a gorgeous historic building.

With unique decor!

Did I tell you Gene Simmons was in my bathroom?

That took me aback, I must admit. Elvis Costello was in my bedroom, less shocking somehow, he’s just dancing above my desk.

(My husband has met and worked with Elvis Costello, and an old friend of ours dated him years ago, so somehow it seems as though it’s OK that he’s in my room, we might have been introduced at some point. Gene, though — another story!)

Back to the nostalgia tour.

I have fond memories of all the rockers on the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago memorabilia list — except Lenny Kravitz, ’cause apparently I’m old. (After the Preteen was born, there was a dramatic dropoff in how tuned-in I was to popular culture. Lack of sleep, and time and energy spent in production of large amounts of milk does that to you.) As I was writing this post, I was listening to some of his music, though, and I like it.

So here are the (less than studio quality) photographs, of the memorabilia of the musicians you (and I) wanted to see, in order going up from the ground floor, with random personal annotations. I took pictures of all, but this post is already WAY long, so I’m only putting in the rockers you all mentioned as your favorites (plus mine, too, of course, I also get a vote!) Click on the plaque thumbnails of musicians that interest you, or anything else small you want to see bigger (I rather like guitars so took some detail pictures).

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Styx

(I know how to spell it, but it was misspelled Styxx on the card in my room, and I thought I was wrong temporarily. Not!)

In junior high school, we had to choreograph a modern dance piece to a popular song, and I chose “Come Sail Away” by Styx.

“I’m sailing away; set an open course for the virgin sea

I’ve got to be free, free to face the life that’s ahead of me.

On board I’m the captain, so climb aboard

We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore

And I’ll try, oh Lord, I’ll try — to carry on.

I’m not sure why in particular I chose this song — maybe thinking about moving on to high school and thence the rest of my life, and the tempo change worked well for a dance number — but I do still have a couple Styx LPs in the basement. “Paradise Theatre”, a concept album, was one I played a lot at one point. (There, Nora and Sandy, two things that also have changed since high school: 1) LPs vs. CDs, and 2) gym class segregated by gender. So far, my girls have essentially always had co-ed phy ed.)

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Rolling Stones.

Dang, I missed their memorabilia somehow. I thought I hit every floor going down, but there may have been a stair weirdness.

Well, the Stones are the Stones. What can one say? They were rocking before I was sentient, during my formative years, throughout my young adulthood, and they’re still rocking. One of the lyrics that I hear in my head when I think of the Stones:

“I’ve been walkin’ Central Park, singing in the dark,

People think I’m crazy.”

Reminds me of walking home from a party at the University of Minnesota in way subzero weather as a college freshman, singing, and the boys walking us home thinking I was bombed. I wasn’t — I just sang all the time in public. (Now I knit in public — and still occasionally sing in public. Some people probably still think I’m crazy. (Or drunk.) My Preteen just thinks I’m terminally embarrassing. Ha!)

Here, in place of whatever the cool memorabilia was that I totally missed, is the elevator of the Hard Rock Hotel; I feel sure the Stones played at least some of these guitars….coolest meeting room names ever.

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Aerosmith.

Steven Tyler’s tour outfit above. Background music for much of my teens. I actually like Aerosmith much more now, I think. The influence of my husband? Though he often tells the story about how I called him, several weeks before our wedding and before he was due to move out to where I was living at the time, after he had been cutting ties, selling guitars, etc., saying (after I’d had a bad 36 hours at work and not enough sleep): “Maybe we should have lived together first?” I was panicking a little, thinking about coming home not to my nice quiet apartment but to, yes, Aerosmith and AC/DC blasting on my stereo! My then-fiancé was a little upset, thinking I had cold feet (I didn’t, just a momentary bit of angst). But it’s true that Aerosmith was part of my angst; too funny now.

My high school boyfriend had “Toys in the Attic”, I remember, and played it again and again. Or was that my brother? Maybe both of them. I think the archetypal Aerosmith song for me from the past is “Walk This Way” — with the guitar/bass licks that get stuck in your head, and the verses whose words I could never quite understand. Maybe that’s just as well. The chorus is pretty straightforward:

Walk this way!

Walk this way!

Walk this way!

(somehow now that reminds me of John Cleese as the minister of funny walks. Or Young Frankenstein.)

And we think pants are low cut THESE days?

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Beatles.

Some of the first songs I learned for myself on the guitar were Beatles songs; so I could sing and play simultaneously. Lennon & McCartney really are one of the best songwriting duos ever in my opinion; they complemented each other, mysticism and passion with those sweet pop melodies and then George Martin’s amazing producing, the cherry on the top. My friends and I used to sing Beatles songs in harmony all the time, and another high school boyfriend had a Beatles band. Definitely the soundtrack to my younger childhood. My daughters grew up with the “Yellow Submarine” movie, their main exposure to the Beatles. One of my favorites that’s in that movie is “When I’m 64”, especially with the animation:

“You can knit a sweater by the fireside.

Sunday mornings, go for a ride.”


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Bob Dylan.

From my home state; “Positively 4th Street” may refer to the street bordering Dinkytown, the University of Minnesota area where Bob Dylan first played folk music (he was a rock ‘n roller with an electric guitar when he came to college from Hibbing, Minnesota). I lived in Dinkytown when I was a student (along with a gazillion other people, of course). “Highway 61 Revisited” definitely refers to the highway which runs from Minnesota, along the Mississippi, down south (here’s pictures of my little piece of it!). When I learned to play guitar, when I was about 8, besides the Beatles, I played a lot of folk music. And one of my favorites, besides “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, for some reason (pre-preteen angst, perhaps), was “The Times They Are a-Changin'”. Picture mini-me cross-legged on my bed with my little nylon string guitar, singing passionately “Come gather round, people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown.” Maybe it was the fourth verse:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

Boy, my parents put up with a lot.

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BB King.

I love the blues. The funny thing is, I love them more than my husband (it’s funny because he can play the blues like nobody’s business). I love to sing them, way down low in my deepest alto range. I’ve written a couple blues songs in my sordid past. (Now, I think all my creative energy goes into knitting instead.) The archetypal BB King song is, of course, “The Thrill is Gone”, though that always reminds me then of a John Gorka song,

“BB King was wrong, the thrill it isn’t gone,

the thrill it is here, it is now, it is strong.”

So as I’m looking up B.B. King’s website, I find out he was playing in Chicago the night of the day I left. Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park, free (I LOVE Chicago!). And now I find out that I missed Koko Taylor Friday night! I love her music too. I could have gone to hear some zydeco Saturday night, and if not for the tornado watch and severe thunderstorms, I definitely would have.

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Cheap Trick.

Soundtrack to my high school days, WAY. “Live at Budokan”? Not that I ever had a record, but who needed one, it was blasting from my brother’s basement room. And at every high school dance I went to.

I want you to want me.

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Chicago.

Here are Beth’s horns! Chicago in Chicago, very apropos. Beth or anyone else who wants to read the piano, don’t mess up your neck, try clicking on this:

Supposedly, Chicago was the leading band with chart-topping singles in the 70s. All those classic ballads: “Colour my World”, “25 or 6 to 4”, so many, many more…..

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Madonna.

Always changing and reinventing herself, always a consummate performer.

We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.

Though I (again) think more of Madonna’s music now in some ways than I did then, I also have a pang of sympathy for the parents of my generation, as they saw this blonde dressed in a pointy bra and hardly there skirt singing ‘Like a Virgin” to their preteen girls.

I love how the mannequin can’t handle the platform shoes.

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AC/DC.

Relegated to the category of “my brother’s music” when I was growing up, other than the hits that were overplayed; now I rather lurve AC/DC. Oh, yeah.

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The Who. (John Entwhistle)

I’ve always loved the Who. Back in elementary school, I used to save my allowance to buy singles. My brother and I would go to the local discount store and buy 45s; you had to put a little plastic adaptor in to play it on your record player. One of my selections was “Behind Blue Eyes”. I played that 45 until I’m sure my brother was sick of it (hey, payback for all the serious heavy metal!): on a little white portable phonograph, which I recall for some reason playing in the driveway, with a long extension cord — probably so I could dance around. You had to put a nickel on the tone arm or it skipped. (I’m sure that did great things to the record’s grooves.)

Tell me, who are you?

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Elton John

Another musician I took for granted at the time, and now recognize as an accomplished songwriter, together with his collaborator, Bernie Taupin. A true performer, and what a varied array of hits over the years! I don’t think I had any Elton John records growing up, but I bought a big collection CD some years ago despite mocking from certain members of my family.

One of my friends drew my name for a “secret santa” thing we do at work; he gave me a tiny ornament that’s a little jointed ballerina made of beads, who sits on my desk clock at work. Every time I see her, I can’t help but think, “Tiny Dancer”.

Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.

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Prince.

My generation’s parents must have hated Prince. This androgynous, provocatively dressing rocker who sang about things they didn’t want us listening to songs about (reportedly Tipper Gore catching her 12-year-old daughter listening to “Darling Nikki” led to album ratings, and all the controversy at the time). I don’t remember any flack from my parents, though I probably listened to Prince more in college than in high school. I saw him perform at First Avenue in Minneapolis back then. I danced my teenage behind off to more Prince songs than I can remember now. He’s a different kind of a guy, but the man knows how to write songs and how to rock funky, I have to admit.

Yeah, they say two thousand zero zero party over
Oops out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999

(Remember, we were dancing to that in 1983!)

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Annie Lennox

A solo musician as well, but in my life soundtrack, I hear that distinctive clear voice within the band Eurythmics. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was playing any time you went out to dance in the early ’80s. But there were so many great Eurythmics songs: “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)”, “Wrap it Up”, “Would I Lie to You?”, “Right By Your Side”, and one of my favorites, “Love is a Stranger”:

Love is a danger
Of a different kind
To take you away
And leave you far behind
And love love love
Is a dangerous drug
You have to receive it
And you still can’t
Get enough of the stuff….

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Tina Turner

How does the woman do it? Wouldn’t we all like to know? Energy, voice and legs that just don’t quit.

And, as you might have read in my dance manifesto, Tina and Ike Turner’s “Proud Mary” was the music for my first public dance performance since I was 5.

I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
Worrying bout the way things might have been…

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Jimi Hendrix


I grew up taking this ground-breaking singer and guitarist for granted, because he’d been around since forever as far as I knew. I’m told it was mind-blowing at the time, hearing what the man could do on an electric guitar. This was not your parents’ rock and roll! And I won’t tell you the whole story, because it’s my husband’s to tell and he does it much better, but it was sneaking into a Chicago club WAY underage and hearing this skinny black guy that he’d never heard of make his guitar sing, scream and wail, that changed my husband’s life; literally, way back in the 60s.

Purple Haze was in my brain,
lately things don’t seem the same,
actin’ funny but I don’t know why
‘scuse me while I kiss the sky.

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Kiss

More albums from the basement (i.e. music coming up from my brother’s room through the floorboards). The only Kiss song I halfway liked was “Beth“, Peter Criss’ ballad. But they were always entertaining to watch, a grand spectacle, which was (and is) their main claim to fame, I’m thinking.

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Led Zeppelin.

This band opened my ears to what inspiration from folk music and so much more, mixed with electric guitars, shifting rhythms, poetry, could do together. Battle of Evermore. Yeah, yeah, Stairway to Heaven, I figured it out on the guitar like everyone else. But I never played it in public; I spared the world that. “Wanton Song” was the music to which one of my dance teachers choreographed a contemporary ballet piece

for the advanced dancers at this year’s recital; last year, she used “Rain Song” for a very cool dance as well.

These are the seasons of emotion
And like the winds they rise and fall
This is the wonder of devotion —
I see the torch we all must hold.

Hard core Zep fans will recognize “The Object” above.

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Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, this concludes this blog Rock Nostalgia tour, courtesy of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago! I appreciate your fortitude in reading to the end.

Tomorrow, we return to our regularly scheduling knitting and random programming….


13 responses to “Rock Nostalgia

  1. This post…was simply…amazing.

  2. Thanks for the fabulous tour!

  3. Way cool! Thanks for the tour… It’s all the words just before ‘walk this way’ that are always stuck in my head. You must be just a bit younger than me, because I don’t remember cheap trick from high school, I think they were popular a year or two later.

  4. Costume Genee

    Bob Dylan barefoot? This didn’t seem right, he always wears boots. Could someone get those pants a pair of boots!

  5. So many memories! We must be close to the same age. I saw Led Zeppelin twice (yes they came to SLC). Love the Stones, BB, the Beatles and Jimi. But thank you most of all for your memories of Dylan…sigh.

  6. That was a lot of work for you! Very fun. I adore John Gorka as well!

  7. That was awesome! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  8. Oh, how funny. I wonder, did you discuss “rock and roll”-outs in the apartment (and soon, old victorian) with Mike when you were at work ONLY? 🙂

    Apparently everything worked out just fine– probably after a good dose of sleep!

  9. Great tour! Thanks for the memories – though I am of the generation that danced to Bill Haley and the Comets, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and love all the good stuff that followed.

  10. martha in mobile

    Wow! What a presentation for your blog readers. Thanks! I love Annie Lennox–I saw her at the Greek in Berkeley many years ago. She started singing a song and then stopped singing and just smiled at us with that mesmerizing, dangerous smile. The audience roared with approval and took it up and finished the stanza. I later read in an interview that she had forgotten the words. I could never decide if that was really good, or really bad, stagecraft.

  11. Awesome post. Thanks. I rocked out to some of these — Stones, Beatles, Chicago, Dylan (although “rocked out” is not quite right for him) — when they and I were young and new; to some as I was introduced by roommates and friends who loved them — Led Zeppelin, The Who, Madonna — and to others — Aerosmith, AC/DC — when my kids discovered them. I loved this post. Thanks for doing the legwork and the writing for all of us.

  12. Thank you! Wow, this is fabulous, Unequalled. I have a funny Dylan story for you: couple o’ centuries ago, Dylan had been hanging around the Ten O’Clock Scholar, a coffee house on West Bank at the U of M. He was obnoxious (oh be quiet, you in the back there, yes he was too!) and the manager threw him out, saying “Get out, Zimmerman, and don’t EVER come back.” Years passed, as they are wont to do. World-famous Bob Dylan returned to Minneapolis and apparently, in a fit of nostalgia, returned to the Scholar. To the delight/astonishment/incredulity of the assembled, the manager came out of the back and shouted “ZIMMERMAN! I TOLD YOU ONCE, I’M TELLING YOU AGAIN – GET OUTTA MY SHOP!” The moment lives in infamy (I wasn’t there, but a friend of mine actually was!) I’m of the Peace Park concerts and thousands-of-nekkid-people-at-the-Electric-Fetus generation. So hugs all around!

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