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Could 'Beatles: Rock Band' tarnish the Fab Four legacy?

By Matthew Shaer / September 8, 2009



The reviews are in for "The Beatles: Rock Band," and for the most part, the critics are impressed. The professional musicians? Not so much.

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Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman says the game, the latest entry in the insanely-successful "Rock Band" franchise, "encourages kids not to learn." Nick Mason of Pink Floyd has said just watching his kids play music video games is "irritating." (Interestingly, Mason would not rule out the possibility that Floyd could – in the future – lend its tunes to a similar game.)

And Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page says there's no way anyone will play his music on toy guitars. "Obviously, there have been overtures made to Led Zeppelin," Page told a reporter for Starpulse.com, "but if you start with the first track on the first album, 'Good Times Bad Times,' and you think of the drum part that John Bonham did there, how many drummers in the world can actually play that, let alone dabble on a Christmas morning?"

Meanwhile, some bloggers have wondered about the effect the game will have on the Fab Four's legacy. After all, this is the band that helped launch the rock and roll revolution. A band that inspired millions of would-be musicians, from China to Europe to the United States. A band that defined a generation. What could a video game – a glorified, super-glossy toy – add to that formidable history?

"Playing the Beatles Rock Band will deliver some joy," argues music blogger Bob Leftsetz, "but it has none of the visceral excitement you got the first time you heard 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.'"

Don't Pass Me By

Still, the underlying issue here is one of relevance. Let's face it: people aren't buying many CDs anymore. The record industry is in trouble. And music video games are a proven success – a way to introduce the classics to a new generation of fans. To paraphrase the Beatles, wouldn't it be a shame for this moment to pass us by? Here's Seth Schiesel of the New York Times:

"The Beatles: Rock Band" is nothing less than a cultural watershed, one that may prove only slightly less influential than the band’s famous appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. By reinterpreting an essential symbol of one generation in the medium and technology of another, "The Beatles: Rock Band" provides a transformative entertainment experience. In that sense it may be the most important video game yet made. Never before has a video game had such intergenerational cultural resonance.

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