The Beatles Meet Rock Band

It’s a big deal, no doubt about it. Arguably the greatest rock and roll band ever meets one of the most popular video games ever in what will prove a phenomenally successful marriage. And for as long as the Fabs have avoided any kind of commercializing or digitalization, it seems George Harrison’s son, a big gamer himself, was the one who approached the company to get the ball rolling on The Beatles: Rock Band. And while I am very happy more great tunes will be heard by young folks who might not know these tunes, and I’m all for people having a good time in the privacy of their own homes by their own hand (get your mind out of the gutter!) — I tend to wonder how far away from music are we going to continue to get?

First it was recording and reproduction of performances with Edison’s ‘tone tests’ where performers signed to ole deaf Thomas Alva’s record label would perform live along side disc recordings of their voice — more often than not attempting to mimic the record to show its value to an uninitiated pre-1920s audience (the first tone test was held in Montclair, New Jersey, of all places; a stone’s throw from where I live).

Then it was the historical recordings of Delta bluesmen in the 1930s and beyond, to San Phillips, Les Paul and then the explosion of sound recording technology in the 1960s and beyond. There has been and will continue to be an attempt to capture music, any performance, for posterity or profit and the diluting of the art for will deepen (can a dilution deepen?) the further away we get from the source. Digital purists will claim cleaner recordings, preservation, storage and speedy delivery, and while I can’t argue the merits, it just reminds me how far we have come not only in our technology, but in our matter-of-fact, hell-that’s-just-the-way-it-is culpability when we applaud this latest Beatles marriage and how we are not at least cautioned a bit by it.

Supporters will cite the spike in catalog sales of artists whose music is being featured on these games and even more artists make their living solely from the soundtrack for popular entertainment like Halo and its ilk (far be it from me to damn anybody the right to make money). But one needs to wonder that if, in our journey to process and provide everything digitally, our sensibilities have been pummeled so much that the dude playing slide guitar in a cotton field or even a good two-hour concert from a four-piece band might doesn’t matter so much anymore.

The album is no longer even a thought, whole conceptual sides and fretted-over song order a concern of the past and while I don’t want to forever pine for ‘what used to be’ I seem to be doing it more and more now that one of the greatest bands ever is part of a freaking video game!

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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