You can be a pinball wizard! There’s no twist. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame debuts its new exhibit, Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball, on July 11. The interactive exhibit showcases rock-themed, playable pinball machines and combines them with merchandise and artifacts to explore the artistic portrayal of artists and bands.
“Rock and roll and pinball have a lot in common. Loud, colorful and rebellious, it was inevitable that the two would combine to celebrate rock’s icons,” says Karen Herman, Vice President of Collections and Curatorial Affairs, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “A number of artists and bands have been immortalized in pinball games. It gives fans another way to experience the energy and power of rock and uniquely connect with their favorite artists.”
Pinball was banned until the mid-1970s in most of America’s big cities because it was considered a form of gambling. It eventually became a symbol of youth and rebellion, right along with rock & roll. By 1969, pinball and rock became inextricably linked, thanks to the Who and the group’s opus Tommy, which highlighted the skills of the rock opera’s lead character. On display, along with the classic “Wizard” and “Tommy” pinball machines, is Pete Townshend of the Who’s acoustic guitar used to compose “Pinball Wizard” and several other songs from Tommy.
Making its debut as part of the exhibit is Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper’s newest pinball machine – Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle. The classic horror adventure game is narrated by Cooper himself and features a number of songs spanning Cooper’s career and a working guillotine set piece.
Cooper’s stage shows are always theatrical, notoriously employing outrageous stage props including nooses, guillotines and electric chairs. Last year, Cooper discovered a rare Andy Warhol piece, “Little Electric Chair” in a storage locker with memorabilia from his many tours. The artwork and an electric chair stage prop that Cooper used in his 1971 tour across North America and Europe are on display in the exhibit.
Fans can also view pioneering pinball machines of their favorite musicians such as Captain Fantastic (1976), based on the album by Elton John and his character in Tommy, and Beat Time (1967), one of the oldest rock and roll tables, which capitalizes on Beatlemania, featuring several mop-topped musicians and a drumhead emblazoned with “The Bootles.”
Other rare and sought-after playable machines in the exhibit pay tribute to the Rolling Stones, Ted Nugent, Dolly Parton, Guns N’ Roses, Elvis, Metallica, KISS and AC/DC. From Peter Criss of KISS’ drum set to Dolly Parton’s dress that inspired the backglass for the Dolly Parton pinball machine, fans will find other artifacts on display as they learn more about the popular pinball and rock subculture.
Guests can play their way through over 50 years of rock & roll history when the exhibit opens on July 11. The exhibit runs through Spring 2019. Guests can enjoy free pinball play during opening weekend, July 11-15. After opening weekend, the pinball machines can be played with tokens. A limited number of complimentary tokens will be included with a Rock Hall admission ticket and additional tokens can be purchased in the exhibit.