Rock & Roll Books
Rock & Roll Archaeologist
by Peter Blecha
Sasquatch Books, 207 pp., $16.95
In 2000, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen opened the Experience Music Project, a 140,000-square-foot Seattle museum dedicated to the rise of rock and the history of Northwest music. At the time, few realized that beyond Sub Pop and Nirvana, the Jet City had been home to talents such as Quincy Jones and a host of early R&B players, while in 1963, the Kingsmen first recorded their immortal "Louie, Louie" down the road apiece in Portland. Yet the person most responsible for collecting artifacts was not Allen, but vinyl-mad amateur musicologist Peter Blecha. In his Rock & Roll Archaeologist, Blecha explains how he landed the "job of a lifetime," and boils down the story of how he built a collection of nearly 100,000 items. Anyone who's visited EMP, housed in a bloblike structure designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, knows Blecha spent Allen's money effectively. EMP holds a vast array of guitars, the world's largest repository of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, and a hall dedicated to the defunct punk clubs, where bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam got their start. Bizarrely, given that Blecha was negotiating with folks like Courtney Love and bidding half a million to win Clapton's "Brownie" Stratocaster, his narrative falls flat. Having spent the Nineties placing rockers, rappers, and punks under glass, Blecha now fears letting them out.