Sunday, June 13, 2010

For Those About To Rock

Magnet # 267: Hard Rock Cafe Atlanta Guitar

Material: Metal

Purchased By: Me

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the day back in 1971 when the first Hard Rock Cafe opened its doors in London, England in what was once a Rolls Royce dealership. It was founded by American restaurateurs Peter Morton, the son of a distinguished restaurant owner, and Isaac Tigrett, who would later go on to create the House of Blues. The restaurant originally had an eclectic Americana decor, but one of its loyal patrons, rocker Eric Clapton, would soon change that. He jokingly asked Morton and Tigrett if they would save his favorite table for him, perhaps with a brass plaque. And they suggested he give them one of his guitars to mark it instead. Clapton handed over a Fender Lead II, it was mounted on the wall, and everyone had a laugh. But in just a week, another guitar arrived, this time a Gibson Les Paul, with a note - "Mine's as good as his. Love, Pete." Yep, Pete Townshend of The Who had turned an inside joke into much, much more. Soon, more guitars were rolling in, along with other instruments, articles of clothing, original lyrics, vehicles, and all sorts of other memorabilia. And they would cover the walls of Hard Rock Cafes around the world when the chain went global in 1982. Nowadays, the chain has amassed over 70,000 items of Rock and Roll memorabilia, the largest collection in the world. Some of its most noteworthy items are Louis Armstrong's trumpet, a guitar that Bo Diddly made for himself, the front doors from Abbey Studios, where the Beatles and other legends recorded, and pairs of glasses that belonged to John Lennon and Buddy Holly.

The Hard Rock Cafe actually offers its own line of magnets equipped with bottle openers, and they are very popular among collectors. They've evolved over the years, and started off as a simple design like the one featured on this magnet. They then featured more elaborate graphic designs on the guitars, like peaches on their Atlanta location, a lighthouse incorporated into their Biloxi guitar, tires on the Detroit one, a Walk of Stars design on the Hollywood magnet, and so on. Personally, I like these ones best of all. But I guess the powers that be at Hard Rock Cafe decided they wanted new designs to bring in more money, so the guitar design was nearly abandoned and new shapes, like pilsner glasses, guitar picks, and surf boards were introduced. And the designs on the guitar magnets that are still sold are a bit more modern and wild than they used to be. A friendly sales associate at the Baltimore location told me that many collectors have been pretty upset over the switch, some so much as to yell at her, but I guess it's here to stay. The Hard Rock Cafe magnets can be a little expensive - ten bucks and up - but if you've got a AAA membership as I do, you can get 10% off of them and anything else you buy there, except alcohol. If I'm able to get one of these in person, I try to do so, but it's not usually a magnet I try to have others get for me. I know that a fair amount of trouble goes into obtaining them.

Although Morton and Tigrett sold the Hard Rock Cafe in 1995 for hundreds of millions of dollars, it seems the chain has kept its standards up.  I think the food there is really great and they make certain it's as good as that of a regular restaurant, even though some theme restaurants don't make that effort.  My favorite is their Cobb salad, which is pretty tasty.  And I love the music they play - it's great to hear one rock song after another while eating there.  There are 149 locations in all in 53 countries - pretty impressive.  If you've never given any of these restaurants a try, you might want to consider it.  Sure, they're a little cheesy, but they're also fun, especially if you like rock and roll.  And if the past 39 years are any indication, there are plenty of people out there who really enjoy the combination of their great food, unusual setting, and awesome music.

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