Date: 31st July to 26th September, 2020
Location: Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA

Pictures and information by Eric Kantor

Two years ago, we reported on the opening of an exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Part of the Machine: Rock and Pinball ran at the home of rock and roll until Spring of last year after which it prepared to go on tour.

Now the exhibition has been reversioned for a new venue and COVID-19 social distancing, and has arrived at the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs in New York state.

The Part of the Machine exhibition at the Universal Preservation Hall
The Part of the Machine exhibition at the Universal Preservation Hall

The exhibition combines Rock and Roll memorabilia with related rock-themed pinballs. The pinballs are all playable but, in this Coronavirus-infected world, visits to the exhibition are limited to 90 minutes, so it’s advisable not to spend too long on any one game.

Pride of place in the hall goes to the KISS drum kit.

Peter Criss's drum kit
Peter Criss’s drum kit

This is accompanied by Stern Pinball’s KISS game.

Stern's KISS game
Stern’s KISS game
The KISS backbox artwork
The KISS backbox artwork

The licensing of rock bands and their music began in 1975 when Bally produced the Wizard! game based on The Who’s rock opera, Tommy. Naturally, that game is also in the exhibition together with later Tommy game by Data East and the movie-inspired game Capt. Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The Who’s Pete Townshend’s guitar is also on display alongside the pinballs.

The original rock music licence, Wizard!
The original rock music licence, Wizard!
The Who's Tommy by Data East
The Who’s Tommy by Data East
Pete Townshend's guitar
Pete Townshend’s guitar

They may not have had a licensed pinball during the band’s lifetime, but The Beatles were referenced in the 1967 Williams title, Beat Time. They eventually did get a licensed game in 2018 with Stern Pinball’s The Beatles: Beatlemania Pinball and that machine forms part of the exhibition too.

Williams' Beat Time featuring The Bootles
Williams’ Beat Time featuring The Bootles
Stern Pinball's The Beatles: Beatlemania Pinball
Stern Pinball’s The Beatles: Beatlemania Pinball
The games with a selection of The Beatles memorabilia
The games with a selection of The Beatles memorabilia

Although subtitled Rock and Pinball, not all the artists featured could be described as performers of rock music. Nevertheless, the exhibition also demonstrates how pinball and music happily collaborate across different musical genres.

This dress worn by Dolly Parton later appeared on her namesake machine
This dress worn by Dolly Parton later appeared on her namesake machine
The backglass of the Dolly Parton machine in the exhibition
The backglass of the Dolly Parton machine in the exhibition

Heavy metal band Metallica are also represented with a display of clothing worn by the band in a glass case alongside the Stern Pinball Metallica game.

Metallica jackets and a T-shirt
Metallica jackets and a T-shirt
The band as depicted by Dirty Donny
The band as depicted by Dirty Donny

The archetypal rock and roll band has to be The Rolling Stones, and they are represented here by the 1980 Bally game of the same name.

Bally's The Rolling Stones
Bally’s The Rolling Stones
The description of The Rolling Stones
The description of The Rolling Stones

A contemporary of The Rolling Stones got his pinball nearly forty years after The ‘Stones got theirs, and like them he is still performing to packed stadia.

Spooky Pinball's Alice Cooper's Nightmare Castle
Spooky Pinball’s Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle
An electric chair prop from Alice Cooper's stage show accompanies the pinball.
An electric chair prop from Alice Cooper’s stage show accompanies the pinball

Part of the Machine: Rock and Pinball runs until Saturday 26th September, 2020 at the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs.

Attendance needs to be booked in advance through the Hall’s website. Visitors are allowed a maximum of 90 minutes and booking slots are every two hours from 10am to allow time for cleaning between groups. Face masks are mandatory as are gloves while playing the pinballs.

The Universal Preservation Hall also published a press release about their new exhibition which provides more information about the artists represented and their accompanying pinballs.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Universal Preservation Hall, (UPH) has reopened to the public with a rock-themed pinball exhibit, inciting patrons to play their way through more than 50 years of history and become a pinball wizard.

The local Proctors Collaborative venue, UPH, which opened to the public briefly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, and is now reopened again by presenting a special exhibit from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Titled: Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball, this interactive exhibit showcases rock-themed, playable pinball machines and combines them with merchandise and artifacts to explore the artistic portrayal of artists and bands.

Rock and roll and pinball have a lot in common. Loud, colorful and rebellious, it was inevitable that the two would combine to celebrate rock’s icons,” Karen Herman, vice president of collections and curatorial affairs at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, said in a press release. “A number of artists and bands have been immortalized in pinball games. It gives fans another way to experience the energy and power of rock and uniquely connect with their favorite artists.

Pinball was banned until the mid-1970s in most of America’s big cities because it was considered a form of gambling. It eventually became a symbol of youth and rebellion, right along with rock & roll. By 1969, pinball and rock became inextricably linked, thanks to The Who and the group’s opus Tommy, which highlighted the skills of the rock opera’s lead character.

On display, along with the classic “Wizard” and “Tommy” pinball machines, is Pete Townshend of The Who’s acoustic guitar used to compose “Pinball Wizard” and several other songs from Tommy.

Making its debut as part of the exhibit is Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper’s newest pinball machine – Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle. The classic horror adventure game is narrated by Cooper himself and features a number of songs spanning Cooper’s career and a working guillotine set piece.

Cooper’s stage shows are always theatrical, notoriously employing outrageous stage props including nooses and guillotines. An electric chair stage prop that Cooper used in his 1971 tour across North America and Europe is on display in the exhibit.

Fans can also view pioneering pinball machines of their favorite musicians such as Captain Fantastic (1976), based on the album by Elton John and his character in Tommy, and Beat Time (1967), one of the exhibits oldest rock and roll tables, which capitalizes on Beatlemania, featuring several mop-topped musicians and a drumhead emblazoned with “The Bootles.”

Other rare and sought-after playable machines in the exhibit pay tribute to the Rolling Stones, Dolly Parton, Guns N’ Roses, Elvis, Metallica, KISS, The Beatles, Aerosmith and AC/DC. From Peter Criss of KISS’ drum set to Dolly Parton’s dress that inspired the backglass for the Dolly Parton pinball machine, fans will find other artifacts on display as they learn more about the popular pinball and rock subculture.

Hosting the exhibition at Universal Preservation Hall has been in the works more than a year as the Spa City venue sought to develop programming that complimented – rather than competed – with the area’s live entertainment scene in the summer.

It wasn’t clear when COVID-19 came along that we could hold the event but now that museums are reopening in the state we are proceeding with our plans,” said Universal Preservation Hall’s director Ms.Teddy Foster.

UPH will follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention and New York state safety guidelines in establishing safety protocol for exhibit visitors. Each visitor, staff person and volunteer will be required to bring and wear a face mask and to wear provided gloves while playing the pinball machines. All individuals will also be required to maintain proper social distancing.

Staff will also take and record each individual’s temperature and procure proper tracing information, and sanitize all surfaces including handrails, light switches, elevators, exhibit pieces, restrooms and common surfaces before new groups are admitted.

Capacity will be initially limited to 20 guests per time slot and will be re-evaluated regularly.

The exhibit opened on Sunday, July 26 for a two-month run concluding on Saturday, Sept. 26. Tickets will be sold for 90-minute blocks throughout this time period. The exhibit will be available for admittance at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day and hours will be extended to include 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. admittance on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Universal Preservation Hall is located at 25 Washington St. in Saratoga Springs, New York. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and are available now at

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  1. M.G. Brown

    4th August, 2020 at 9:08pm

    Thank you for the update on this exhibition. We enjoyed it a great deal in Cleveland, and would encourage everyone that might have an interest to attend when it is near your home town.


  2. Cyndie

    9th September, 2020 at 6:27pm

    Going to check it out in Saratoga Springs NY tomorrow! Looks awesome!


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