Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On The Day Of Rockening

I suppose really it’s only a matter of time now before they release Guitar Hero: Punk.

Children and adults of 12+ will be able to hold pretend-y-wee guitars, basses and drums that contain no strings, only coloured pads, and attempt to hit the correct sequence of lights to reproduce “Pretty Vacant”, “Making Plans For Nigel”, “London Calling” et al.

Johnny Rotten will turn up and spit on a PS3 for effect, Captain Sensible (from The Damned) will do a quick rendition of “Snooker Loopy” (his theme tune for Snooker-related TV quiz Big Break), Billy Idol might even get a look in (though to be fair he was too late for punk). Someone will say what a great bloke Joe Strummer (and anyone who says "Who?" should kindly re-direct themselves forthwith to London Calling by The Clash) was and the one surviving member of the New York Dolls will be spending most of his time in a corner counting how many fingers he has.

However I suspect that “Orgasm Addict” by The Buzzcocks, “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols and anything by The Slits will be noticeable by its absence.

Just the other day I saw someone walking home across town holding a big box marked Rock Band: Beatles, presumably containing it’s standard issue plastic Hohner bass (do players have to play left handed, I wonder?) ready for some unsuspecting family to attempt to reproduce Hard Day’s Night in front of their Wii Station 3 (or whatever) along with simply oodles of other tracks that some corporate suit has decided are the absolute definitive Beatles tracks.

Quite possibly people playing Rock Band: The Beatles have the same argument that most bands end up having – who ends up being bassist (even McCartney never wanted to play it until they sacked Stuart Sutcliff), who gets to drive the tour van when they take on the neighbours and how the royalties are split.

Perhaps a few hours of fun will be spent trying to reproduce the same sequence that the games producer created (not, as you may realise, actually reproducing the original song structure – McCartney especially is famous for introducing tricky B major 9th chords to mangle your fingers)

Speaking as someone who plays guitar (note that I don’t call myself a musician – that would indicate some modicum of skill) I have to ask one obvious question:


I mean – yes, ok I’m sure that getting your mates/family around the telly and watching notes scroll down the screen towards you (presumably with animated Ringo Starr to pep things up) is hours of fun for all the family – but there’s a far more effective solution.

Go to your local music shop – buy yourself some instruments and form a band. Find yourself a tab site online (and there are hundreds) and you will now be able to play any song you want to.

Actually play it – not just hit three or four different coloured keys – you will have an instrument that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. You’ll never have to upgrade it or replace it when a new batch of pre-selected songs is released and sold at extortionate prices, you’ll never find that your fret board is suddenly out of date and you can no longer get the games.

Radical isn’t it? Go out there and actually think for yourself, “what songs do I want to play?”, “what bands do I like?”

Hell, you might even end up writing your own songs that some poor unsuspecting soul will end up buying on their games station ten years down the line.

As a simple example of the kind of thing you can do with a guitar and half an hour with nothing on telly I offer you the below song. Recently I mentioned that I had gone through a 2 year period where I hadn’t written any songs at all – the below song was the absolute last one I DID write during that period and sat, mostly unloved, on a cassette tape in my drawer for the entire time.

It’s quite Oasis influenced and you’ll have to imagine the guitar solo and forgive the whine – this wasn’t on the original video and seems to have been caused by compressing the file (Watercats – if you have any idea how to avoid this please let me know)


Tomorrow Came Too Late

I always had too many dreams, and now they’ve turned to silent screams
I wish there was a way to make things right
If I could turn the hands of time, I’d go back to my recent crimes
And make sure things went right for you and me

But it’s too late, my time has come
And now I’m looking at my future in the barrel of a loaded gun
It took too long, to realise
Tomorrow came too late for me, and yesterday is far away
But it’s too late, my time has come
And now I’m looking at my future in the barrel of a loaded gun
It took too long, to realise
Tomorrow came too late for me
Tomorrow came too late for me today

I always try too hard to please, I begged you on my bended knees
I didn’t know where I had got it wrong
And if I had the chance again, to find some way to make amends
Don’t you know it’s just what I would do?

I wish that I could make it right, time goes by, another night
Has left me stranded, sleepless on my own
I wish that I could make you see, you drive me too insanity
But still I want you back if there’s a way

PS: hands up anyone who believes there's even a modicum of truth that Ringo tried to play the game and couldn't get past stage three?


This Brazen Teacher said...

When Second Grade learns about Cosmic Art by Peter Max, we listen to music from the era... Led Zeppelin, Beatles etc...

Whenever "Paint it Black" comes on by Rolling Stones... at least half shout: "It's the song from Guitar Hero!"

I don't know whether to be excited kids know about the iconic band, or to cry that the knowledge comes from a video game which pimps out music "talent" to those who can afford to drop 300 dollars on a game system.

india said...

i nearly choked the other day as a semi-centenarian proudly tapped their way [slowly] through some ghastly forgettable rendition of something and actually thought they were "drumming"

it ain't music. i'm no great talent but at least i blow a real sax.

Argent said...

I think people like the game because they can get music to come out without all that nasty practising of scales and music theory and whatnot. It sounds to me like the game is just a jumped-up version of that old Simon Says electronic game of the 70s/80s where it flashed a sequence of coloured lights and you had to copy it. Keep it live!

Niamh B said...

y'see your idea - the crazy thought of actually making your own music, with real live instruments, is all well and good, but that would require effort - which is a thing people are not willing to use in their spare time, bad enough having to use it in work, or figuring out the dole paperwork or whatever else they have to do to live - laziness is the chewing gum that keeps us all chewing without ever filling us up. Yeah computer games should be banned. except tetris... and maybe minesweeper...

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Brazen - music can be such an emotive issue and its a bit sad to hear that their excitement comes more from the game than from actual experience of the original intent.

India - if only we had the tech to form an internet band! So envious that you can play sax - i wanted to learn this term, but the lessons are a night i am already way too busy.

Argent - i have seen various versions of these games and been excited by none

Niamh - don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with computer games as such, but there should be life outside them and these kinda games may have their use, but will never replace the real thing (i hope)

the watercats said...

It comes up as a private video???!... can't view it!??... You need to tick the 'public' box on the upload form (in edit video).. words sound cool though! :-) As for the sound whine thing... not a clue!, lol Argent will be the one for that I'd say..
AND.. don't talk to me about guitar hero crap!.. F.F.Sake! Surely it's more difficult to hit three coloured buttons on a plastic piece of shite than it is to learn three chords? and cheaper to buy an ACTUAL guitar! the world is fecked! The more I think about the state of it, the more I despair about the complete lack of common sense and .. GGGHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
*head...... desk........

the watercats said...

Firstly... We have got one of them fender guitar straps.. it's currently upon the strimmer.. works a treat.... secondly.. Nice song! especially like the dramatic pauses :-) It's a shame you aven't got a head, but I'd imagine you do a great deal of business for halloween parties... Really nice moody vibe to the song, just the way we like em!... now, off ye go to an open mic or somethin.. it's the only way to get a-head.. (see what we did there.. ) :-P

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Watercats - there are many important reasons for not revealing my face, primary amongst them the fact that i'm an ugly fecker. The sound of people spontaneously exploding when they see my face is a constant stone i have to carry :)

gemandal said...

completely agree with most of what you say... absolutely right, but you see; it's fun! Sorry, but it is. And if it gets people to finally listen to music and pay attention in a way that they wouldn't when it's just background radio commuter music then that's got to be good, right?

Harry 'aka' Mojo said...

Yes indeed mate..all so true.. so sad..and so true.
wonderful blog story..come on over to my place..have a new photo blog up, hope you enjoy it..




Captain Steve said...

If only I had the talent to play guitar. I don't think my fingers work that way.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Gem n al - nice to see you after so long, and interesting point: is it getting people to listen to music they might not otherwise have listened to? Well i guess so - but is it persuading people to go out and be creative themselves or just turning them into mindless zombies who can only respond to flashing lights? I think i'd like to see some figures as to how many Rock Band players are going on to learn an instrument and to form a band before i'm persuaded that it has a positive impact.

Harry - yes, i have been neglectful recently and hoping to visit you all again soon.

Captain Steve - you never know until you try.