I've never been much of a gamer. Well, not never, but not since I was about thirteen. Yes, I know that video games are the healthiest segment of the media business nowadays, and that some bands -- Aerosmith is an oft-cited example -- make more licensing their old hits and their likenesses to the makers of Rock Band than they do on their new music. (I also know that Little Steven loves it, or has at least said that he does in public.)
I've played Rock Band a handful of times, and I expected to dig it, but mostly it just makes me feel silly. Sillier than singing karaoke in a crowded bar does.
It doesn't make sense to me, either. Having a few drinks and singing a few songs with friends ought to be a great time. But at least for me, the fact that you know everyone in the room also detracts from whatever meager sense of accomplishment you might feel at having stared down embarrassment and won. The idea of a group of players trying to perform together as a band is cool, if not nearly as cool as a group of people trying to play music together for real. Of course, compared to a first-person "shooter" game, Rock Band is a divine revelation.
But I might change my tune on September 9th, when The Beatles: Rock Band comes out. The band's entire catalogue is finally getting a sonic upgrade and rerelease on CD the same day, but the pre-release hype is treating the actual music as kind of an afterthought to the game. I'll certainly be sampling these long-overdue cleanups of the albums, but I'm increasingly intrigued by this thing. From the press release:
. . . the game represents the first time fans will be able to experience The Beatles' musical career for themselves. From the early touring days in 1963 Liverpool to the immortal, final performance on the Apple Corps rooftop, fans can follow in the band's footsteps as they traverse the globe during the height of Beatlemania. Adding to the experience is the introduction of three-part vocal harmonies to game play, allowing gamers to revel in the unparalleled vocal stylings of the Fab Four. Beatles fans will also be thrilled to hear previously unreleased authentic voice recordings from John, Paul, George and Ringo chatting between takes during studio sessions recorded at Abbey Road more than four decades ago.
Unreleased studio chatter? Shades of "Free as a Bird"! But as cynical as I might pretend to be, this trailer might have sold me.
Fortunately, it won't be out for three months. Plenty of time for me to come to my senses. Or at least to learn how to play "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" on a guitar with actual strings.