In the summer of 2008,  I was hired as a contributing writer in the creation of The Rock Annex, described by Ben Sisario in The New York Times as “a smaller, quicker offshoot” of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland OH. The Annex  occupied a 25,000-square foot space beneath an Old Navy store at 76 Mercer Street in Manhattan’s Soho district.

Entrance to the Rock Annex at 76 Mercer Street, NYC. Photo: Dan Cross

For the Annex project, I wrote the text panels introducing each thematic section: “Roots and Influences,” “Moments to Movements,” etc. I created some captions for specific exhibits or artifacts. I also researched and wrote the descriptions for “New York Rocks,” a 26-foot long scale model of Manhattan identifying the location of two dozen different historic music sites. The Annex was slickly designed and built to a high professional standard by operating partner Running Subways. There were special exhibits dedicated to The Clash (where it was nice to see an old issue of my former magazine New York Rocker on loan “from the collection of Mick Jones”) and to “John Lennon: The New York City Years.”

The Rock Annex opened in late November 2009 with considerable fanfare. I attended the gala opening party, held in a vast Soho loft where corporate sponsors proffered freebies ranging from vodka shots to makeovers, with live performances by Dave Mason and Blondie’s Chris Stein & Deborah Harry.

This was less than three months after Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, plunging the US economy into its worst crisis since the Great Depression (and far from over, at this writing). Meanwhile, a ticket to the Rock Annex cost $26.50 — at that time, more than the Museum of Modern Art. There was a gift shop, but no screening room or performance/lecture space in which to hold ancillary events. The Rock Annex closed January 3, 2010 after just over a year in operation. The artifacts were returned either to Cleveland or to private collector who had loaned them; the exhibit components, including my text panels, were sold at auction a few months later.

Before the closing, I returned to the Annex in late December 2009 with my good friends Doug Milford and Eliot Hubbard–and with permission to photograph all but the John Lennon exhibit, in order to have a visual record of my work. Doug Milford shot the photographs posted below, and I thank him for his invaluable contribution to this post.

A.S. with Hall of Fame inductees list.

(1) From the main lobby, you entered a low-lit room where a central display listed all R&R Hall of Fame inductees.

(2) Plaques on the entry room walls were engraved with the names and signatures of inductees, cf. Drifters lead singer Johnny Moore (1934-1998).

(4) This original C.B.G.B. urinal was displayed in a hallway that lead to real urinals, i.e. restrooms.

(3) Proceed to a screening room for a short film of Great Moments In Rock & Roll. Fast-paced and cranked high, it was the single most exciting element of the Annex.

(5) Panel: "Moments to Movements." I was somewhat surprised to see my submissions used verbatim in this and other displays.

(6) Panel: "Roots & Influences." I tried to address a general audience, in a consistent tone.

(7) The Who's Peter Townshend looms behind my text panel for "The British Invasion."

(9) Touch screen for "NY State of Mind." Make a selection (cf. Apollo Theater, Manny's Music, etc.) and my explanatory text would appear.

(8) Looking south at the 26-foot scale model of Manhattan, inevitably labeled "NY State of Mind." Sites selected on touch screens lit up on the model.

(10) Panel: "New York Rocks."

(12) Panel: "Guitar Heroes"

(11) Panel for CBGB section of "New York Rocks."

(13) Eliot Hubbard & A.S. at the CBGB installation, with original awning, sound board, etc.