It’s still Rock Band.
When the game’s intro unfolds your adrenaline rushes, your heart starts to palpitate and a broad smile crosses your face. It’s akin to the lights going down at Madison Square Garden. You’ve been waiting for this. And as the band takes the stage in New York and hits stray notes in the dark, you’re bursting with excitement. Unfortunately, the analogy ends there. No band takes the stage out of tune. And if they play a track from their very first album, you’d be thrilled. The disappointment in the Beatles Rock Band has nothing to do with the music. Or the graphics. It’s the game.
Sure, you can sing harmonies with your buddies, if you want to buy a couple of extra microphones, but despite all the hype, there’s very little innovation in the game.
Speak with a gamer. He talks about finishing a game. Could take a week. But when it’s completed, the gamer almost never goes back, he wants a new thrill. Only non-gamers believe that a phenomenon that’s lasted years would still be fresh. Sales reports tell us otherwise. The public is tired of music games.
But this can’t be. Guitar Hero/Rock Band must go on forever. They must be the new ringtones, making up for the drop in recorded music sales. But it’s music that lasts forever, not the ancillary products built atop it.
Buy the remastered CDs. Those will thrill you.
Playing the Beatles Rock Band will deliver some joy, but it has none of the visceral excitement you got the first time you heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
All those articles in the paper, about all the effort, the TLC…they’re kind of right, although the Beatles don’t always look like themselves. It’s just that most gamers don’t read the newspaper. And too many of those articles were written by people who don’t even own a video game console. They’ve been hyped by MTV, it’s a business story.
Do I expect the Beatles Rock Band to sell?
Of course. There is a mania, sustained by the media, which will drive sales. But the gross won’t drop your jaw. It’ll be a business, which, according to the L.A. "Times", MTV may not even make a profit on.
Who’s going to buy this Beatles Rock Band game?
Certainly not hard core gamers. It disappoints as a game. It’s best as a parlor activity amongst older friends. But do older friends have a gaming console? And, if so, does anybody in the house other than the children know how to use it?
The Beatles used to be first. Now they’re last. CD sales have dropped 54.7% in the last five years according to the "Wall Street Journal", but now the remastered Beatle albums are being released. Guitar Hero/Rock Band is on death watch, now the Beatles Rock Band is released. With two Beatles dead, it’s hard to come to a consensus, shareholders are fearful of tarnishing the legacy. But with almost five decades gone, that’s less of an issue than ever before. It’s like worrying about postcards of Michelangelo’s Pieta, nothing can tarnish the original. The Beatles Rock Band hurts the Fab Four not a whit. I wouldn’t even be worried about licensing the music to films. I hate to say it, because I’m against it, but even licensing to commercials would hardly hurt. If you want to teach the younger generation how great the boys from Liverpool were you’ll reach more of them via advertising than you will via this half-baked game.
Sure, advertising would forever associate certain songs with certain products, and that’s bad, but we’ve given up caring about music, it’s always a business story. How many Beatles remasters will they sell? How many Rock Band games? Isn’t it curious that the public had no idea of grosses when the Beatles were together and still kings? When it was truly about the music?
The Beatles tested limits musically. When we first heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand", it stunned us, we had to ask ourselves if it was any good, there was nothing remotely like it on the radio. "Strawberry Fields Forever" was so innovative as to be jaw-dropping. I’d decry the lack of chances taken in today’s pop music, just listen to Top Forty radio, the songs are interchangeable, they come from the exact same place, but that’s missing the point. So there are a bunch of bottom feeders grubbing for money… Is this the story? Or someone who breaks the mold, gets us to relax, turn off our minds and float downstream?
We’re in a period of musical chaos. The mainstream is vapid and the alternative is so overwhelming as to be almost indecipherable. There’s no center. Everybody’s making music, most of it crap, there are a ton of scenes, almost none gaining traction. If you’ve got an audience, conventional wisdom is you’re talented, that you’re worth listening to. Alas, that isn’t true. So much of what exhilarated us in the past took albums to develop and ultimately penetrate the populace. But that which broke through, which was great, still sustains today.
Lay down sixty bucks for the Beatles Rock Band. If you want it, you won’t be disappointed. When you hear your favorite songs, you’ll wring your axe, you’ll sing along with abandon. But the experience won’t resemble the one you had years ago, before the mainstream media started speaking of the Guitar Hero revolution, when you felt you were a member of a secret club, doing something if not illicit and dangerous, containing joy the masses were unaware of.
Like being in the Cavern Club. Playing Guitar Hero/Rock Band years ago had the same feel. Then it blew up. But unlike the Beates music, it didn’t change. It was still bubbles pouring down a two-dimensional guitar neck on a screen, which you had to mimic on your plastic guitar. If the Beatles had continued to cut "Please Please Me", they would not be legendary. But they took chances, tested limits. Maybe there can be a new music-based game, but this one is almost history.
So blow your money on the CDs. Consider it a last hurrah for the format. Play them and discover heretofore unknown elements. And remember the days when dropping the needle on a vinyl album was always something that got your heart beating faster. From the moment you broke the shrinkwrap, you were entranced. You were on an amazing journey, a magical mystery tour.
The Beatles never did reunite. Their flame burned for less than a decade. They realized they’d done it, there was nowhere left to go, and the band splintered, its members going in different directions. You’d like to believe, unlike the Police, unlike every classic act with more members alive than dead, they wouldn’t have reunited, soley for the bucks. We’ll never know.
But we do know the Beatles blazed trails. Opened doors that were not even seen. Created music that you could not only sing along with, but inspired you to take up musical instruments to play. The Beatles Rock Band will inspire no one to become a musician, will turn few on to the music, because it’s at least two years too late. The Beatles led, we followed. Now Apple Corps. is so tentative that it can’t help but follow. Imagine the remasters on Blu-Ray. Sure, few would be able to play them, but they’d inspire the public to get Blu-Ray players just to hear them. Could have been done. Would have blown our minds. We’d have gone to friends’ houses just like we did in ’64, to be exposed to this magic music. But that wouldn’t be expedient business. Expect the Beatles to sell MP3s when streaming is the norm. It’s a bit sad. But the music, even listened to at 128kbps on cheap white earbuds, is still revelatory. It will never fade away. Unlike Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the White Album, all of the Beatles records, are not a fad. They still get our adrenaline pumping and put a smile on our face. No matter when and where we hear them. You can build edifices atop the music, but the tunes still shine, will continue to shine. Thank God.