Memorabilia historian Jeff Nolan on Treasures of the Hard Rock exhibition

Categories: Events, Interviews

Hard Rock International
A little piece of Jimi Hendrix.
With more than 77,000 pieces of music history in its possession, the Hard Rock Cafe empire is a global music museum as well as eatertainment complex. Along with presenting permanent displays in dozens of locations across the world, the company culls pieces from its archives for traveling exhibitions. Treasures of the Hard Rock -- which includes two collections, "Gone Too Soon" and "Music Gives Back" -- is one such show, opening today at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver in Denver.

Jeff Nolan, Hard Rock's music and memorabilia historian and the curator overseeing all of the company's exhibits, recently spoke with Westword about the process of creating a traveling show.

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Hard Rock International
Clothing belonging to Elton John, John Lennon and Bono.
Westword: How do you go about putting exhibitions like "Gone Too Soon" and "Music Gives Back" together?

Jeff Nolan: Picking pieces for traveling tours is one of the more interesting things that we get to do here. The folks involved, myself included, are passionate about we think is the "good" stuff, or the stuff that we think will be compelling to folks. The conversations and debates around making final decisions can be pretty animated.

With this particular (traveling tour), we had two collections. "Gone Too Soon" is pretty self-explanatory. A lot of rock stars left the world before their time. Of course, an odd number of them, too, at age 27.

The 27 Club has many members -- Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain. It's quite a list.

I just found out something about the 27 Club that I didn't know, as a music and memorabilia historian for Hard Rock International. I was embarrassed I didn't know this -- Chris Bell of Big Star was 27 when he died. I learned it from watching the new Big Star documentary (Nothing Can Hurt Me).

I feel like as that movie circulates, the 27 Club conversation will once again be revived. It is interesting to look at different musicians who passed at that age, and seeing where they were in their lives and careers at that time.

Absolutely. I've heard so many different theories on the 27 Club -- from the completely hippie to the numerological to the coincidental. It sort of shows an arc of life. The folks who really started to get a lot of success in their early 20s, by the time they were 27, you can be kind of spent, creatively. At least for a while. It's crazy to think that someone like Jimi Hendrix was only 27 when he died. These people become mythological creatures. They seem ageless. I mean, Buddy Holly was 22!

I just think of how I felt when Kurt Cobain died -- and I was only 13 and I was devastated. But now he's a completely different character to a whole new generation of people.

When I talk to kids and tell them I saw Nirvana many times, on club dates, too, it is very similar to when I was a kid and one of my uncles telling me he saw The Beatles. It doesn't seem like it could be real.

And you never know the outcome at the time -- it may just be one of thousands of shows you have seen.

Everyone has these stories - but being fanatical about music, I've seen so many bands in this context. I remember seeing shows that would be iconic, but at the time, it would be just another gig. Some of those legendary gigs, they kind of sucked. (Laughs.)

Location Info

Hard Rock Cafe

500 16th St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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