I came to The Beatles Rock Band with nothing but the best of intentions.
My relationship with the Beatles is probably unusual in that, up until yesterday, I didn’t own any. Growing up, there was a copy of Sergeant Pepper in the house that got an awful lot of play, and remains my central idea of what the Beatles were all about – experimental, very sixties, included cut-out moustaches and stripes in their LPs so the listeners could become a part of their day-glo fantasy militia, or so I assumed. The cover of S.P.’s L.H.C.B. pretty much sums up my childhood feelings about the Beatles – figures in the middle of a sea of pop-culture faces, frozen in history but at the same time almost controlling it. I was fascinated by their world – the forbidden thrill of running away from home to meet a man from ‘the motor trade’…
(What is the motor trade, I wondered? Is that car engine repair? Is she living on the streets now? How is this situation possibly workable? Was it workable in the sixties? Could you just… go? Was it that easy? But no – how could she do that to them? How could she make her mother cry? Just to have fun? The heroine’s guilt became my own, the tearful recriminations of the parents stabbed at me. I often skipped over the song. It’s not in the game. Neither is “A Day In The Life”, which is probably where Dead Signal got started. Death Got No Mercy has it’s own ‘woke-up-got-out-of-bed’ moment, so we can probably lay that at the Beatles’ door as well.)
So the Beatles were very important to me growing up, or at least that one album was, because it was a building block of my musical taste and my relationship with pop culture. But weirdly, after that first bite of the apple (hee-yuck) the Beatles dropped off my radar completely. I was fascinated by the forbidden world of The Sixties, but the music was for the most part just there in the background of life – comforting and familiar, like Abba, another perennial of my childhood. Unlike Abba, I never learned to appreciate it in adulthood. Beyond the grizzled, cigar-chomping Sergeant Pepper and his blood-crazed, kraut-killing Lonely Hearts Club Band, I never really dug the sound for the most part, and couldn’t really get any kind of grip on why The Beatles were important and why, say, Wings weren’t – Say ‘Paul McCartney’ to me and the first thing I think of is Magneto And Titanium Man. And the Crimson Dynamo came along for the ride! They was involved in a rob-ber-y that was due to happen at a quarter to three inna Main Street.
Anyway, I’ve come to appreciate how enormous a part of pop-cultural history this band was, and how insane it must have been for four human beings to be trapped in the eye of that kind of storm. But I still felt like I was on the outside of the phenomenon looking in, unable to get what exactly it was that people dug about the group’s total output, in the same way that people can’t understand why I love the Pet Shop Boys, and I didn’t feel like I had a way in… until now, that is!
The Beatles and their executors have got together with plastic-guitar specialists Harmonix to create Beatles Rock Band, the most important game ever made. Now, I love me some Rock Band, and I’ve found myself giving the time of day to a lot of songs that I ordinarily wouldn’t touch because I’ve been forced to power through them to earn some virtual cash to buy a pixellated guitar in the shape of a thunderbolt. Many people dismiss the placcy-guitar genre as pretend performance – why don’t they just pick up a real guitar, and be real musicians, like meeeeeee? But it’s never been about performing – it’s about listening. In the same way as dancing is listening with your body, plas-guitaring is listening with your fingers and your twitch reflexes, your gaming muscles. It’s a means of interacting with the music, getting inside it, engaging with it. It doesn’t work for every track, but I really wanted to see if it’d work this time. I wanted my ticket to the Beatles party. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I wanted in.
Well, it was my ticket to something, but I’m not sure what. So what I’m going to do is spend a large amount of my time and yours looking through the game, one track at a time in Story Mode, starting with the intro and ending with the encore track. And we’ll see how that works.
NEXT: The Intro. Stuartbot, Petebot, Astridbot and Jurgen Vollmerbot are not the fab four you’re looking for.