Monday, September 14, 2009

With love. From me. To You.

[Andy Bentley writes about Beatles: Rock Band]

One of the happiest experiences of my life occurred in the winter of 2006 at Skidmore College’s Beatlemania. Professor of Music, Gordon Thompson, organizes the concert each year to allow students and faculty to perform The Fab Four’s songs and to celebrate all things Beatles. My brother was in his senior year there, and we organized a group with two of my friends, Tom and Adam. Being mostly non-faculty now student, we were relegated to one song, Eight Days A Week. To say I was nervous is to put it mildly. As I walked on stage, my guitar became a foreign object and my hands began to sweat. I shook myself out of it and began the infamous upward chord progression

I glanced over at a group of Asian girls who were swaying to the beat in the front row and I smiled and nodded. I knew all would be well, even if I missed a note or two. It was amazing to be on stage playing this song everyone in the room knew and loved. My mom came up to us afterwards, beaming with pride and wearing her Beatles pin - an original from her youth. I put up video of the performance on Youtube the next day with some trepidation. We all know how nasty the internet can get and I didn’t want this experience marred by an 11 year old with a ‘tude. I’m happy to say it’s up to about 80,000 views and barring a few complaints, it has mostly received praise from the viewers.

The Beatles are a universal truth, maybe one of the last ones we’ll ever experience. Nathan Rabin of the Onion’s AV podcast suggests that the emotional response to Michael Jackson’s death was not just for the performer, but for the death of a cultural consensus. Every fan of music had Thriller, and everyone had Sgt. Peppers. But today’s music has become very splintered for a myriad of reasons. He goes on to say that current works of art that do have a wide spanning audience such as The Davinci Code have to be watered down and homogenized for the masses. There is a nostalgia factor at work there, yet I still can’t see another Beatles ever happening. What music form the 90’s would have such a massive presence in forty years? Nirvana? Maybe, but I don’t think they were around long enough. It’s an interesting topic, one not limited to music. No one is going to touch the ratings record MASH’s finale had because there’s so many choices on cable TV. Comics probably aren’t ever going to hit that 1 million orders mark they used to. Even video games don’t have the massive hold on youth as they used to.

But I digress. I’m supposed to be reviewing The Beatles: Rock Band for you. I purchased the game-only PS3 edition as I already had the instruments from the first Rock Band. The trademark Beatles instruments are fun, but just not in my budget for this week. The Guitar Hero/Rock Band phenomenon began with studio musicians recording the tracks for game because Harmonix couldn’t afford the rights to the originals. As the games grew in popularity, and the music industry fell into the toilet, bands suddenly realized this was a great marketing tool to get their music to new and young consumers. So by now, it was safe enough for Sir Paul and Ringo to sign off on this recreation of their careers. George’s son, Dhani, also contributed heavily to the game.

The game follows the careers of the Beatles as they move from the Cavern in Liverpool, to the Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, Budokahn, the studio and finally the roof top of Abbey Road. The character models are cartoonish at times, but they thankfully don’t veer into creepy animatronic mode. The gameplay is essentially Rock Band 2 and ranges to being very easy to quite difficult (I still can’t get 5 stars on I Saw Her Standing There in expert mode!!!). 48 tracks total and you can soon go online and purchase Abbey Road, Sgt Peppers and Rubber Soul. The greatest part of the game are the dreamscapes that accompany songs that weren’t performed live. These are pure sugar for Beatles fans:

There are plenty of people who find the whole idea of Rock Band or Guitar Hero rather silly. But for a long time gamer like myself, I just see it as further immersing yourself in the experience of the game, which from the look of Nintendo Wii sales seems to be the future for the gaming industry. When I got home and played my first song, I got a little bit of that feeling I had back at Beatlemania. I recommend the game for any Beatles fan who is willing to try something different or a gamer for is a fan of the Rock Band series.


scott91777 said...

Now the important question... where you John or Paul :)

scott91777 said...

woops... that should be "Were you John or Paul?"