Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rock n' Roll Memorabilia in Madison

As I mentioned in Sunday's Post The Many Moods of Madison, WI, I went to my state's capitol on Saturday for a very specific reason.  That was to visit an exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum called "Smart Sounds, Alt Music, Mad Scenes" and it was all about the alternative rock scene that Madison played host to in the 80's and 90's.  For those of you who don't know, I am a rock music fan, collector and (sometimes) scholar, so I had to see this exhibit before it closed on September 15.

The main focus of this exhibit was Smart Studios which opened in 1983.  The studio was started by producers Butch Vig and Steve Marker, who would eventually form the 90's alternative rock band Garbage.  Many popular alternative bands recorded parts of their albums at Smart Studios including Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum, Everclear and, of course, Garbage themselves.

But the most famous album to have been partially recorded at Smart Studios was Nirvana's Nevermind.  In fact, Smart Studios collaborated with Seattle's Sub Pop records for another of their local bands, Tad.

The exhibit displayed a lot of the covers of the albums recorded there until it closed for good in 2010.  The exhibit also featured replicas of one of the mixing rooms as well as one of their recording rooms, shown below.

The other part of the exhibit spoke of Madison's alternative/punk club scene.  There were three major clubs that played a role in bringing this new, harder yet stripped down music to the capitol city: Club de Wash, O'Cayz Corral, and Merlyn's, where U2 famously played in 1981.  The photo below is a replica of Merlyn's front door. 

Of course there was a lot of memorabilia from this era - T-shirts, calendars of events, photos, and promotional posters.

There was one other piece of music memorabilia that I wanted to see while I was in Madison, and it was one of the reasons why started my day at Monona Terrace.  This is where a memorial plaque sits for Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash on Lake Monona in 1967.  I especially like the last line that reads "Otis Redding stands with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke in the first rank of American rhythm and blues singers."  My personal favorite song of his is "Try A Little Tenderness."

Unfortunately, like I mentioned above, this exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Musuem ended on September 15.  But I'm always on the lookout for places that honor the history of rock n' roll music.  I have also been to Cleveland to visit the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame and Memphis.  Are there any places you like to visit in your home state that are dedicated to your favorite music?  Please feel free to give me suggestions in the comments section.

This is also my "R" post for Alphabe-Thursday.  To see more "R" posts, click here.


  1. Neat post and great photos ~ Wow! ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  2. I agree with Carol! Our eldest daughter and her husband lived in Madison for many years, and we have visited there several times. What a wonderful city it is!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes it does! I would like to back and visit again sometime.

  4. That sounds like an exhibit I would have loved to see! My type of music, for sure!

  5. Sounds like an exhibit I would have loved to see. The mention of the groups brings back memories...

    Saying 'hello' from my Riesling / Alphabe- Thursday @ ImagesByCW

  6. What a rockin' exhibit!

    I love the various styles of artwork you showed!

    It looks like it was really fun visiting!

    Thanks for linking up!