Rock & roll fans would be quick to add the amenities of their favourite genre besides the music, from guitars and girls to money and muscle cars. Not far down that list would be pinball, the game of choice before video games and online amusements became all the rage.
On Wednesday, the Cleveland-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame launched an exhibit of these balls and bumpers attractions, made famous by the 1969 release of the hit single, Pinball Wizard, by The Who as part of the group's classic rock opera album Tommy. Patrons get to play on those machines for as long as they want until Sunday. Starting on Tuesday, visitors wanting access to those games will get four free tokens with the price of admission and will need to pay 25 cents for each additional play.
For those who don't want to have a go at pinball, there's enough visually in the Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball exhibit to keep them enthralled. Each machine is decorated with a theme, most of them paying tribute to rock's biggest icons like Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. More latter-day stars like AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Guns N' Roses, KISS, Metallica and Ted Nugent are also prominently showcased as well as one by country legend Dolly Parton.
Pinball was more than a pastime for youth when rock was in its heyday, it was seen as a subversive distraction from homework and family time, while several states banned the games during the 1970s because of its perceived association with gambling. But like the music with which the game is synonymous, there's a genuinely artistic element that shines through. Many of the decorated machines were painstakingly created by visual artists with heavy attention to detail. Some of the craftsmanship that went into some of these pinball artefacts are visually stunning.
For music fans, additional wares on display as part of the exhibit include the acoustic guitar Pete Townshend used when the Who went into the studio to record Pinball Wizard. There's also a kit donated by KISS drummer Peter Criss, an electric chair used onstage by Alice Cooper and the same dress worn by Dolly Parton that's immortalized on the pinball machine created in tribute to the songstress.