The unthinkable has happened.
The New York Times reported this weekend that a Rock and Roll theme park has recently opened in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The 55-acre park, designed “in about two hours at a Kinko’s in Hollywood, California,” boasts a “Pinball Wizard” arcade, an “Alice’s Restaurant” Restaurant, a Magic Mushroom Garden (featuring “a charming toddler play area made up of soft-sculpture, climbable clusters of mushrooms” according to the Park’s official website) and yes, Led Zeppelin: the Ride.
This is not a joke. Read the article for yourselves.
The photo at the head of the article, reproduced above, is the entrance to Rock & Roll Heaven-Land, which apparently pays tribute to fallen Rock greats. The idea that a “Rock & Roll Heaven” exists implies that Rock is dead. If it was alive before, this theme park has beaten it to death with blunt instruments.
Theme parks have long been the stereotypical Lamest Places on Earth. Clean, controlled environments where everything is planned and nothing is authentic, (except maybe the price-gouging. Hard Rock Park charges $50 a pop for admission) and Hard Rock Park sounds like no exception. I could easily turn this into a missive about the sociology of theme parks, but I will refrain. I’ll stick to how this is a disgusting misuse of art.
Theme parks are primarily for families. I’m all for getting young kids interested in Rock music, but I don’t think a sanitized, manufactured simulacrum of the Rock music experience is the way to do it. I wonder if they have an “Altamont Experience” ride (Caution: Riders will get stabbed), or if they sell Trout Mask Replicas in the gift shop. My guess is they do not. The Times article compares this park to television soundtracks and video games like Guitar Hero, arguing that all are just ways for artists to get their music heard. A theme park is not the same as a video game or a film soundtrack. In Guitar Hero, success depends on how well one is able to interact with the music. True, it is not as good as playing a real guitar, and it may give some the illusion of talent they don’t really have, but still it is better than a theme park. Television and film soundtracks use music to convey different emotions, making music an indispensible part of these media. If I had written a song, and someone came to me and said “I represent x TV show, and there’s a scene in an upcoming episode where someone dies, and we would like to put your song in the background during this scene because we think it conveys the right emotion in this death scene” I would take it as a great compliment and would more than likely let them use my song. But I find it difficult to make the connection between authentic emotion or authentic experience in a theme park.
The justification that this theme park is just another form of exposure for a band begs the question: do huge bands like Led Zeppelin really need the exposure given to them by a roller coaster? Does Aerosmith need the exposure given to it by having its own edition of Guitar Hero? The bands who end up having their own roller coasters are already immensely popular and really do not need the exposure given to them by a Hard Rock Park. The more obscure artists that could use more exposure will never have their own roller coaster. A Rock theme park will not bring obscure artists into the fore; it will only give already huge bands even more exposure. Kids will have plenty of opportunities in their lives to discover Led Zeppelin; they most definitely do not need a roller coaster to do so. The bands that could use the exposure will get it via word of mouth and mp3 blogs such as this one. The internet is as much a revolution for music as it is for just about everything else. Theme parks are a revolution for nothing.
From the article:
“Hard Rock Park is the brainchild of Jon Binkowski, 49, a veteran theme-park executive, and Steven Goodwin, 40, who developed the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Fla. Neither man is the kind of rock obsessive who trades obscure 45s or reads back issues of Crawdaddy; they seem to appreciate Led Zeppelin for its music just as much for the fact that the band is represented by one lawyer, making for easier negotiations.
Eight years ago, Mr. Binkowski bought a struggling theater here that had once been home to Snoopy on Ice, with the idea of turning the land into a children’s amusement park. When Mr. Goodwin came aboard to find investors, the project grew more ambitious, and a rock ’n’ roll theme was chosen partly for expediency, when Hard Rock International agreed to license its name.”
Great. So the founders bought some dump in Crap Hole, USA hoping to turn it into a theme park. They shopped around for a famous name to slap onto it, and Hard Rock International agreed. So it became a music theme park. What a great story!
Seriously, read the article. The whole thing just reeks of profiteering and opportunism.
Only in America, friends.
The park map is here, in all its lameness.
Posted by Adam