21
Oct 09

The Most Important Game Ever Made #17: Whaddya Got?

FT/1 comment • 275 views

There are still those, even in the dying days of the Noughties, who deride Rock Band and its ilk as ‘fake’. Well, here’s NES-rock group ‘I Fight Dragons’ doing their chiptune-heavy cover version of ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’, played on a PC-friendly flash clone of Guitar Hero.

So someone’s playing a let’s-pretend version of a let’s-pretend version of the guitar, pretending to play a cover version of a song by a band – probably a hipster band, ugh – who play with Nintendos instead of real instruments. We’re down the rabbit hole of inauthenticity here and I LOVE IT. Suck it, Grandad! Suck it in HELL!

But that’s the only inauthenticity we’re getting today, chiz chiz chiz. This one’s all about keeping it real, people.

I’ve not made any secret that Budokan is my favourite level in the game, and I like all five songs in it pretty much unconditionally – it’s the one level where ‘Beatles Rock Band’ seems less like a meeting of two separate brands and more like a description of what the game is about. This is where, fleetingly, the Beatles rock. Most of the songs rely on powerful riff technology, all the songs are up-tempo and the sound growls out of the speakers, never less than epic. Where Shea Stadium felt plodding and overstretched at times, Budokan feels like you’re in the shoes of a band who know exactly what they’re doing, playing a tight, coherent five-song set that plays to certain particular strengths. What makes the Japanese audience so enamoured of blasting Beatles-generated capital-letters ROCK(!!!), I don’t know. But in the pixellated world they can’t get enough of it.

A big component of ROCK(!!!), of course, is the ‘fuck you’ narrative, in which the band deliver a ‘fuck you’ to The Man, usually couched in terms that place the band as the real, authentic product in a world of fakes – the same strategy Pepsi Max uses. There’s nothing wrong with this narrative, of course, especially not in the world of pop, where the musicians often provide the listener with narratives to slip themselves into – who doesn’t want to feel real, authentic, the one guy who came to kick ass in a world of people who came to chew bubblegum? Step this way, Sir, I believe we have a narrative to fit you in our Rage Against The Machine wing. I’m as guilty as anyone else – all this rebellion against false authenticity is just me trying to prove my own greater, more authentic authenticity. There’s no escape.

(If you’d like to see these kinds of ideas discussed better, I recommend Frank Kogan. )

Anyway, this song seems right in step with that narrative from the off – ‘you don’t get me’, Grandpa! Johnbot’s smiling as cheerily as he does at all other times, but the message is the same. Whoever the ‘you’ in the song is, they don’t get it, man. So who is this mysterious ‘you’ with their mysterious green singing bird? What are the Beatles rebelling against? What do we got?

I’m going to just leap immediately to the assumption that we’re talking about the music business here, which would perhaps make the ‘you’ some record producer and the singing bird some fresh-faced, manufactured talent. (Possibly an actual ‘bird’ in the sixties sense of a gone chick.) The producer’s ‘heard every sound there is’, but the Beatles are off his square radar, and when all his ‘prized possessions’ – the talent – start failing on him, and when the bird he’s so proud of is ‘broken’ – high on goofballs! Or possibly just out of ideas well, maybe then he’ll come crawling to the boys and their more experimental, self-penned hits. If he’s cool enough.

Brian Epstein wanted the Beatles to continue touring, and this song was released about that time. After going against him on that issue, they started taking his advice less and less. Maybe it’s him.

Wikipedia (DON’T JUDGE ME) offers two more suspects. The first is John’s wife, Cynthia, who apparently CITATION NEEDED gave him a mechanical caged bird (???) just before the Revolver sessions. This sounds doubtful, but maybe I should start giving bizarrely metaphorical gifts to friends and family myself before I start criticising other people for it.

The other possibility is Frank Sinatra, who allegedly CITATION NEEDED was known as ‘bird’, by somebody, somewhere, at some time, possibly himself. The song becomes an answer record for some dis perpetrated by the great mafia stooge, presumably a suggestion that Tha Beatlez were not 4 real.

At the end of the day, this kind of ‘what do the lyrics mean’ whodunnit – while a lot of fun, and clearly the game I like playing best in lieu of an actual review of the track in question – means nothing, especially in this case. It doesn’t matter who ‘you’ is, because the ‘you’ in ‘fuck you’ is everybody, everybody who’s ever fucked with the Beatles, including the other Beatles – in fact, everybody in this whole stinking, fallen world…

…except for YOU, dear listeners.

NEXT: Having declared their rebel status, the Beatles hit the road in a roar of engines. These kids are out of control!

Comments

  1. 1
    Vic Fluro on 23 Oct 2009 #

    ‘Drive My Car’ is going to have to wait until Monday, unfortunately, as I’m convention bound this weekend and I didn’t have time to get to it today.

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