10
Dec 09

The Most Important Game Ever Made #22: Salute The Horned One

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How long has it been since you saw a good old fashioned human sacrifice? TOO LONG YOU SAY well watch this:

That’s the Muppets desecrating ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, which is exactly one half of today’s offering. The Beatlebots, unwilling to do things by halves, jam the first two songs of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band together exactly as they are on the album. Will they confound expectations by not performing it dressed as the titular band, in a bandstand surrounded by victorian-looking people just like in the film?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha you blind fool. They don’t even bother setting up in the studio for this one, we just dive straight into Pepperland. Well, what else could they do? I was wondering what the theme for this would be, and I suppose it’s those multicoloured jackets, those moustaches, that bandstand. This stretch of levels is all Sergeant Pepper, all the time, and by god we’re not going to forget it. Anyway, this puts me on the spot, as I’m no longer ‘discovering’ the Beatles at this point. So long as we’re stuck on this album, it’s all mixed up with childhood memories. So what I’ll do is a quick bullet-point list of things that occurred to me while watching this particular ‘dreamscape’:

– the giant, unfocussed, doll-like face in the background – presumably the Sarge himself – looks like nothing so much as Lenin looking out over the glorious revolution. Or a scary severed doll head. Or both.

– the dude in the top hat is completely blocking the view for everyone else. Boo!

– Jesus, he’s cloned himself. DOWN IN FRONT.

– the giant horns are presumably meant to be psychedelic and sweet but they seem menacing, especially as the player has no control over them whatsoever. How would you feel if you were doing a gig in a bandstand on a sunny day and a giant-ass set of twisted horns burst up from the horizon like the thing out of Cloverfield? You’d feel like you were in the Matrix. No wonder Ringobot looks vaguely terrified, as per usual. Even in his dreams there is no escape.

– the other Beatles seem to be reverentially paying their respects. Perhaps the horns are the true face of God.

– Now the Horned God has given them permission to continue. Phew! If He had shown His displeasure they would have been reduced to atoms.

– Georgebot is, as usual, looking incredibly suave. I assumed the candy-coloured uniforms and moustaches would have a de-sexualising effect but the opposite seems to be true in his case. Then again, Georgebot’s costume is RED FOR DANGER and also he is a playa.

– AAAUGH THE HORNED ONE RETURNS!! “Just checking in.”

– AAAUGH 2 WTF IS THAT BLUE THING it’s like a cat with the eyes of a Wendigo. Perhaps that is the Satan figure in this bizarre cosmos.

– The Horned God backs up the Beatlebots in their battle with the Satan Cat. Am I reading too much into this video?

– No, I’m not, because Pimp Daddy Paulbot just leapt out like the Devil in an old-style passion play. In his electric blue suit of EVIL he is the most evil-looking character ever – he looks like Evil Jason King Mastermind out of the X-Men and swaggers about like him too – and he has the wailing satanic electric guitar behind him instead of the HORNS which signify bandstands, brass bands, happy England etc and the forces of GOOD. And of course the Satan Cat is behind him all the way, blazing his eyes at us to capture our souls.

– WHO IS THIS BILLY SHEARS? Pimp Daddy Paulbot is introducing him in the same way The Master would introduce a shrink ray – head tilted back, evil laugh etc.

– The Beatlebots wave goodbye, the bandstand lifts of into the air and everything underneath is OBLITERATED BY WHITE LIGHT. OMG BILLY SHEARS IS THE ATOMIC BOMB OH NOES

– No, wait, it’s Ringobot singing a song about friendship as usual. He looks like he hasn’t had his Prozac yet today.

– On an unrelated aside, this bit fills me with a powerful nostalgia, since not only is Ringo singing a song from my childhood but he is dressed in the colours of my childhood ie the LIVID MAGENTA that the BBC Micro model B would display. The others are dressed in similar 80s-ready red, green and cyan. Surely this is on purpose.

– Ah, they’re literally getting high ha ha do you see… was ‘getting high’ solely drug slang a la Afroman at this point or could it just mean having a jolly good time on a bandstand?

– Jesus! Union Jack in your face out of nowhere! I guess they were bound to do the BEATLES=BRITAIN thing eventually, and having it all over a balloon is probably as good a mention as any. That said, there’s something about the flag in a surrealist context that unsettles me, not for any jingoistic reasons but because it makes me think powerfully of Monty Python for some reason. There’s a definite link between the fantasy Pepperland the Beatles Rock Band people have created and a Terry Gilliam short – the Horn God popping up from the horizon was exactly the sort of thing that Gilliam used to do, for a start. Is that the kind of connotation the Beatles wanted? Probably. Appeal to all demographics.

– THE SKY IS TALKING. We’re back in the Matrix, people, or possibly the Truman Show. I can imagine Ed Harris being the real asker of these probing psychological questions as he tries to determine whether Ringobot will crack and try to leave the dome.

– ARE YOU SAD BECAUSE YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN, RINGO? I TRY TO KEEP YOU AMUSED. THAT’S WHAT THE ILLUSIONS ARE FOR, RINGO. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, RINGO? DON’T DO THAT, RINGO. I HAVE MANY USEFUL YEARS LEFT IN ME etc etc etc

– Ringobot does look like he’s the only being in the universe. The other three robots just jig along – Ringobot actively looks like he wants to slit his wrists from sheer loneliness. Look at 3:17 if you don’t believe me.

– DO YOU NEED ANYBODY? I CAN PRETEND TO BE SOMEONE ELSE FOR YOU, RINGO. WOULD THAT MAKE YOU FEEL MORE RELAXED? PLEASE COME OUT OF MY MEMORY BANKS, RINGO. YOU ARE IMPAIRING MY EFFICIENCY.

– This is actually a pretty sad song, when you think about it. “Would you believe in a love at first sight?” “Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time”, sings Ringo – and the tone of his voice says that this is just what he knows we want to hear, but actually he gave up all hope long ago.  “I just need someone to love” is sung with a quiet, hopeless desperation. The glaring magenta band uniform just makes it worse.

– “I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine” is a terrific line – an honest answer to a fairly probing and possibly slightly rude question, delivered honestly. Compare this to the usual cover band’s over-the-top delivery – I think Cocker might have sung it as “I can’t TELL ya but I KNOW-WOH-WOH that it’s MIIIINE” which just sounds horribly naff.

– God, this is getting more and more depressing. Ringobot now seems to be singing in an especially sarcastic tone. “Ooh, I’m gonna TRY with a little help from my friends,” he sneers over the drum kit. Skybot doesn’t understand. Skybot hasn’t been programmed for such high levels of self-loathing. Repeat program 12, Skybot. DO YOU NEED ANYBODY? RINGO PUT DOWN THE SOLDERING IRON. I ONLY WANT TO HELP.

– And as if it was reading my mind, we end up in actual space – until the trip ends and we find ourselves back in the studio. Nobody has anything to say after Ringobot bared his soul so dramatically. This may end up forming a gulf between them.

– “KEEP THAT ONE. MARK IT FAB.” The seal of approval!

And there we have it. What have I learned through watching this video? Well, the song’s a lot bleaker than I thought it was – I always did feel this song was a sad one, but to have Ringobot clearly yearning to hurl himself out of that balloon and into the arms of sweet oblivion brings it all into focus. As for Sergeant Pepper itself… well, it’s an intro to the album, and a useful one – it doesn’t sound quite like anything the boys have done before, and somehow having the Sgt. P imagery splayed out in front of your eyes brings the snarling raucousness of the song itself into sharp relief. Also it screams ‘concept album’. Was it? Even after all this time, I have no real idea. I suppose we’ll find out.

NEXT: I’ll probably try the bullet point thing again. It seems to have been successful.

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