John Lennon

  • STORY / FELLOW BEATLE PAUL MCCARTNEY'S IRISH HERITAGE / CLICK HERE

Though I love the city of Cleveland and had a blast when I visited the expansive Rock and Roll Hall of Fame there last year, I must admit that it is a thrill to have a piece of the museum in Manhattan.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex opened earlier this year, and if you are looking to spend an afternoon rocking down Memory Lane with the Ramones, Talking Heads, and the Four Seasons, head down to Mercer Street in SoHo.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC is an experiential, technologically advanced exhibition. Unlike other museums that give you a pair of headphones for a self-guided tour that you have to follow precisely, the annex’s headphones are wireless and explanations of the exhibits are triggered as soon as you stand in front of the relic.

The punk rock movement that exploded in The Bowery is preserved in the CBGB exhibit. CBGB’s grungy pub was the epicenter of the seventies movement that spawned Blondie and the Talking Heads. The Annex also showcases selected items from Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s vast collection, including Bruce Springsteen’s 1957 Chevy, Elvis Presley’s motorcycle jacket, a handwritten poem by Jim Morrison and much more.

The venue offers six galleries including the Hall of Fame, the Immersive Theater, the Roots and Influences movie, and the Special Rotating Exhibit.  

If you have been anywhere near the Holland Tunnel over the last few months, you can’t miss the banners on the lampposts touting the John Lennon exhibit in the annex. Lennon made the Big Apple his home in the last year of his life, and it is only fitting that the first major exhibit would be dedicated to him.

Lennon’s contributions to the city are indicative of the cultural impact that Irish descendents have had on Manhattan. Lennon was born in Liverpool, a port city teeming with Irish immigrants, and his paternal grandmother, Eliza Jane Gidea, hailed from Co. Tyrone. 

On a big screen television, there is a grainy black and white home movie filmed in the Dakota apartment that Lennon shared with his wife Yoko Ono. During the film, the duo are rehearsing “Luck of the Irish,” the scathing condemnation of British occupancy in Northern Ireland that he recorded for the album "Sometime in New York City."

“A thousand years of torture and hunger/Drove the people away from their land/A land full of beauty and wonder/Was raped by the British brigands! Goddamn! Goddamn!

“If you could keep voices like flowers/There'd be shamrock all over the world/If you could drink dreams like Irish streams/Then the world would be high as the mountain of morn/Why the hell are the English there anyway?/As they kill with God on their side/Blame it all on the kids the IRA the bastards commit genocide! Aye! Aye! Genocide!” Lennon snarls on the movie.

It is a poignant reminder that the Beatles were not just lovable mop tops, they were also capable of stinging social commentary when sufficiently irritated.

A lump in your throat emerges at the last exhibit on your way out. It’s a simple brown paper bag full of items on Lennon’s person that the coroner gave to Ono the night her husband was gunned down.

“‘The King of the World’ returned to me in a paper bag,” she writes on the wall next to a poster begging for a crackdown of gun violence.

Thousands of people have been gunned down in Manhattan since Lennon died in 1980, and Ono has loaned the annex her late husband’s artifacts to draw attention to the violence that snuffed out this musical treasure.

Music is art and like all good art, The Rock and Roll Annex will entertain you while making you think at the same time.

The NYC Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex will extend its hours throughout the special exhibit’s stay.  The extended exhibit hours are Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-midnight, with last admission one hour prior to closing.

For tickets call 866-9-ROCKNY or 866-976-2569. The Annex is located at 76 Mercer Street (between Spring and Broome Streets).