My Imaginary Visit to the Hard Rock Park
When I was a kid, my two cousins and I thought Myrtle Beach was actually called Murder Beach.
We were scared to go there, and the fact that our parents would try to diffuse our fear by saying things like, “At least it sounds nicer than Nag’s Head or Kill Devil Hills,” did very little to abate our apprehension.
Over the past 20 years, I figure I’ve played in Myrtle Beach with Widespread Panic more times than I care to remember. And I remember all of the gigs, from the earliest at The Afterdeck – basically an outdoor deck connected to the strip club known as Thee Doll House – to a massive gig at the local raceway. Most recently, our venue of choice has been the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach.
During our last three-night stand down at the House of Blues, I was invited to check out the Hard Rock Park, an amusement park that had just opened a few miles away run by the same folks that own the Hard Rock Café and all the other mass-marketing mess associated with that particular brand.
I’ll admit it: I was curious and a little bit frightened at the prospect. After all, nothing had put the fear into me more than wandering around the casino at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas a few years ago and seeing everything from Keith Moon’s drumsticks to Joan Osborne’s dress encased in glass like holy relics for all the tourists to drool over. Okay, maybe Keith’s sticks merited it, but not Joan’s dress or Vince Neil’s collection of women’s undergarments. The whole thing felt cheap and sickened me to the core. In my mind, some things are sacraments and others are just dirty and mundane. The corporatization of the music that made me who I am just felt wrong…kind of like most organized religion does to me. Despite my gut reaction, I looked up the Hard Rock Park on the web in anticipation of a possible visit. I was appalled, but not surprised, with what I saw:
• “Led Zeppelin: The Ride” is the big thrill-coaster where riders race at speeds up to 65 mph all to the tune of “Whole Lotta Love.” I’ll bet Page and Plant made a pretty penny on that deal, but wonder if Willie Dixon’s estate ever got its due.
• “Nights in White Satin” is the haunted house at the Hard Rock theme park, which begs the question: was anything the Moody Blues ever did considered the least bit frightening, except possibly their brief appearance on MTV in the 80’s?
• There’s a bouncy house called the “Punk Pit” that advertises “slam dancing for the whole family.” Now that’s something unusual.
• There is even an attraction called the “Roadie Stunt Show” that allows onlookers to watch a hapless roadie on his first day of tour. Fascinating I’m sure to just about everybody, unless you’re one of the lucky few who set up gear and deal with prima-donna rock stars for a living.
• Perhaps the most intriguing attraction is called “The Magic Mushroom Garden.” Seriously. This is a place where children of all ages can climb and play on soft, colorful mushrooms. I guess it’s no worse than the infamous spinning teacup ride at Disney World that I was so fond of as a child …just without all the projectile vomiting.
After checking out the website, I went to bed conflicted over my pending visit to Hard Rock Park the next day. Everything I loved about rock music had been co-opted into utter silliness like some kind of heretical cartoon….and all for the profit of someone who at one time probably loved rock ‘n’ roll as much as I did. And worst of all, it was neatly packaged and “fit for the whole family!”
Whether it was my own mixed emotions about visiting the park, or something freaky I ate, my dreams that night were plagued by nightmarish visions of other “attractions” I might encounter should I decide to go. Thus, in all good humor, here’s what I remember from my imaginary visit to the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach:
• After a few drinks at “Bonham’s Vodka Bar” (23 shots, minimum), proceed immediately to “The Randy Rhodes Airplane Experience” and try to buzz the tour bus.
• For a little more down-to-Earth experience, give “Keith Moon’s Destruction Derby Bumper Cars” a shot. Just make sure you aren’t dressed as his limo driver!
• The park’s creators are very concerned for the safety of their patrons so in front of every thrill ride is a life-sized cardboard cutout of Ronnie James Dio that says, “You must be at least this tall to shout at the devil on this ride!”
• Getting tired of those screaming brats? Drop them off at “Gary Glitter’s Baby Sitting Service.” Don’t worry about a thing: the kids are in good hands!
• Be sure to visit “The Iggy & the Stooges Funhouse,” consisting of a long, dark hallway filled with broken light bulbs and peanut butter. If you make it out unharmed, a lucrative publishing deal and commercial licensing opportunities await!
• If you really want a scary experience, try “Jerry Garcia’s Deadhead Tour Express Train,” a forty-five minute ride though a bad acid trip all set to the tune of 12 different poorly recorded bootleg versions of “Dark Star” playing AT THE SAME TIME. Free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during the drum solo!
• Towels are provided free of charge, but no sun block is needed if you want to take a permanent dip in the “Brian Jones Memorial Swimming Pool.”
• Be sure to bring a handkerchief as you stroll through the memories in “Mark David Chapman’s Gallery of Shooting Stars.” Pow!
Besides the more obvious rock ‘n’ roll rides, there are also a few intellectually stimulating attractions for the indie-rock shoe gazers in every crowd:
• Check out Wayne Coyne’s one-man performance of Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain’s monologues. The quirky and cerebral white-suited leader of The Flaming Lips adds his own spin to Holbrook’s revered reading of America’s foremost humorist by performing inside of a huge, clear plastic gerbil ball.
• Try your skill at the “Axl Rose Midway of Difficult Performers.” Games like “Find Jeff Mangum,” “What Kind of Band is Built To Spill Anyway,” and “Will Ryan Adams Actually Show Up?” test your mental prowess and teach kids valuable lessons. You could even win your very own Wynona Ryder kewpie doll!
And realizing that all kinds of emotional stress can occur during a visit to the amusement park, management proudly offers certified therapeutic counseling in the Psych Ward:
• Arguing with your spouse? Just ask Sid or Nancy for some sage advice for couples!
• Feeling depressed? Kurt or Elliott will talk you out of falling on that butter knife!
• For those with really deep-seeded problems, we recommend several sessions in the sandbox sanitarium with Brian. For best results, be sure to wear a colorful Hawaiian surf shirt!
Lost in the park? Be sure to see one of our many tour guides dressed as Sufjan Stevens, who will compose a topographical song on the spot to help you get to where you’re going!
Need a bite to eat? Scattered throughout the park are several “Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Diner,” where visitors can ingest the South’s most artery-clogging fare with free Metamucil chasers for the olds and Ex-Lax for the young. If only the King had known about the wonders of regularity, he might still be with us today!
And don’t miss the park’s thrilling main attraction: John Entwistle’s Roller Coaster Tour of Las Vegas. Start off with your very own heart condition, high-priced escort, and eight ball of cocaine in your penthouse suite and end up in the county morgue! Don’t worry, your longtime bandmates will go ahead and start their tour without you!
It’s kinda ironic that this last attraction was the final stop in my imaginary visit to the Hard Rock Park. After all, it was at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas where John Entwistle spent his final hours. Perhaps he had a premonition of the future of his legacy and that vision was the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach. Or maybe he decided to check out early the only way he knew how: like a real rock star.
God bless you, John!
Schools blames his strange affection for submarine movies on the 20-plus years
he’s spent in a tour bus with Widespread Panic. When not blogging for BLURT or
playing bass in front of thousands of screaming fans, Dave likes to dance…tap
Photo by Josh Miller