Monday, December 29, 2008

The Beatles + Guitar Hero/Rock Band= ??

I've been intending to write a post on what Beatles songs I thought would best suit the band's prospective Guitar Hero-type game. Yet even compiling a list of ten has proved far more difficult than I expected. Now The Beatles are undeniably a rock 'n roll band, but much of their music's energy doesn't consistently come from the kind of thick and forceful guitarwork that's associated with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Instead, it more often comes from the shifting interplay between a song's component parts, especially John and Paul's paired vocals.

Consider "She Loves You," for instance. It's a two-plus minute burst of propulsive pop that doesn't feature a commanding guitar part. George's lead establishes a functional and necessary presence but the thrust of the song really takes form in how John and Paul's vocal work maneuvers through the rumbling, Ringo-helmed rhythm. Sometimes they clash and sometimes they weave together. Either way, it's the song's focal point. In short, "She Loves You" boasts the pace, dynamism, and infectious nature that are among the assets of Guitar Hero/Rock Band tunes. Critically though, it lacks an explosive guitar section.

So it goes with much of the Beatles' output. Think "It Won't Be Long," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Help," "Ticket to Ride," "Magical Mystery Tour," etc. These mostly are signature Fab Four songs not without substantial amounts of energy and movement. And none of them, in my estimation, would translate well to the kind of gaming format discussed. They just don't rock out in the right way. It's also worth mentioning, I think, that in their prime, The Beatles handsomely availed themselves of advanced studio methods, which partly resulted in them not touring because their music wasn't conducive to live performances. This logic would seem to suggest similar limitations for a game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. (I should note that I don't think my views would change depending on whether the game is like Guitar Hero or more involved like Rock Band).

As a result, my selections were minimal, hardly enough to comprise a full video game or present a balanced overview of The Beatles' career. They included "Twist and Shout," (though I'm still not convinced) "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Day Tripper," "Taxman," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Revolution," and "Helter Skelter." Beyond these, I struggled. Other contenders were "I Saw Her Standing There," (weak solo) "Drive My Car," (maybe) "I Me Mine," (too much quiet-then-loud, slow-then-fast activity/not well known) and "Get Back" (again, maybe). It's possible that I've overlooked a couple obvious choices (Abbey Road material, like "I Want You?"). Even so, accounting for a few misses, I'd barely arrive at ten total.

Perusing The Beatles' albums, I found myself more interested in what songs would allow for a rewarding karaoke-type treatment. After all, from the start, John and Paul were both formidable, and later developed into classic, vocalists. On the guitar side, however, George took much longer to come into his own and foster a distinct sound. And when he did, his style wasn't of the hard, shredding, and incendiary variety (i.e., it wasn't very Guitar Hero-esque). My point is that The Beatles' vocals seem to offer better opportunities for imitation and reproduction than do their guitars because the former are more broadly accomplished than the latter. Among those that came to mind were "Act Naturally," "Run for Your Life," "Sgt. Pepper's," "I Am the Walrus," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and many more (see below). With the possible exception of "Sgt. Pepper's," I don't think any of these songs would work terribly well for Guitar Hero or Rock Band (and I write this with full awareness that vocals are integral to Rock Band; it's the other parts that might not hold up).

It's arguable then that a more fitting, though exceedingly less marketable and engaging Fab Four video game would focus on the band's vocals and, among other things, task its users with performing the harmonies that elevated so many of their songs ("Please Please Me," "There's a Place," "From Me to You," "If I Fell," "Drive My Car," "In My Life," "Two of Us," etc.). It's obviously a far-fetched idea. But I think there's merit to my reasoning.

So I'll stand by my skeptical approach to this game. That is, until I play it and in all likelihood enjoy it without a word of protest.

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