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Why Rock and Roll Pioneer Alan Freed Won't Stay Buried

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As one of the first famous disc jockey personalities and the so-called “father of rock ‘n’ roll,” Alan Freed has a big place in music history. Freed actually coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll," and hosted the first major rock concert in 1952. He also ignored the segregation prevalent in pop culture at the time, becoming the first white deejay in the North to play R&B, and refused to put white covers of black songs on the radio just because record execs thought they would play better.

Of course, Freed’s history isn’t all glowing—he was also part of the big payola scandal of the early ‘60s, when it was discovered that he had been accepting money in return for playing certain records. Nonetheless, he's still well-represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which features a large exhibit on his contributions to music history.

But there is one thing you won’t find there: Freed. Or at least, his ashes—though you would have if you had visited the museum between 2002 and 2014. When Freed died of liver cirrhosis in 1965, he was initially buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. But in 2002, the urn containing his remains was transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where they were quietly interred in an undisclosed location in a wall. At the family’s request, the urn was later moved to a more obvious spot where museum-goers could view it.

Until recently, everyone seemed happy with the placement. But in 2014, Freed’s son was asked to come pick up his father. “The museum world is moving away from exhibiting remains,” said Greg Harris, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s executive director. "Museum community colleagues across the country agree." Freed’s last day at the museum was on August 4 of last year.

If you’d like to pay your respects to the father of rock and roll, don’t worry—you’ll be able to soon. In October 2014, Freed’s family decided to build a memorial in his honor at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. It wasn’t finished as of April 2015, but the future monument will include a microphone and a likeness of Freed holding records. They plan to include an epitaph of his beloved signature sign-off: “This is not goodbye—it’s just good night.’”

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Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images
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Pop Culture
How Phil Collins Accidentally Created the Sound That Defined 1980s Music
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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Unless your technical knowledge of music runs deep, you may have never heard the phrase “gated reverb.” But you’ve definitely heard the effect in action: It’s that punchy snare drum sound that first gained traction in music in the 1980s. If you can play the drum beat from “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince or “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen in your head, you know what sound we’re referring to.

But that iconic element of pop might not have emerged if it wasn’t for Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. As Vox lays out in its new video, the discovery was made in 1979 during the studio recording of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled third solo album (often called Melt because of its cover art). Gabriel’s Genesis bandmate Phil Collins was playing the drums as usual when his beats were accidentally picked up by the microphone used by audio engineers to talk to the band. That microphone wasn’t meant to record music—its heavy compressors were designed to turn down loud sounds while amplifying quiet ones. The equipment also utilized a noise gate, which meant the recorded sounds were cut off shortly after they started. The result was a bright, fleeting percussive sound unlike anything heard in popular music.

Gabriel loved the effect, and made it the signature sound on the opening track of his album. A year later, Collins featured it in his hit single “In the Air Tonight,” perhaps the most famous example of gated reverb to date.

The sound would come to define music of the 1980s and many contemporary artists continue to use it today. Get the full history of gated reverb below.

[h/t Vox]

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