September 10, 2009 in City

Doug Clark: Music that doesn’t involve a big screen? Imagine

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Wednesday morning found me at the South Hill Hastings store to check out the big 9/9/9 intergalactic release of “The Beatles: Rock Band” video game.

Sure enough, an attractive display of “Rock Band” boxes and accessories had been arranged in the middle of the store.

Those who play the game perform dozens of Fab Four classics by manipulating plastic guitar-shaped controllers and playing on electronic drum pads. There’s a cool Beatles video storyline. There’s a microphone for singing lead vocals. Plus, this game accommodates three-part harmony.

From what a Hastings employee told me, mastering such a sophisticated interactive music game requires a great deal of time and technique.

“The Beatles: Rock Band” looks like more fun than a pillow fight at Victoria’s Secret.

Why, I can’t think of a better way for the youth of America to experience the joys of making Beatles music.

Hey, wait a second. I did just think of a better way.

You could spend your video game money on an actual guitar and learn to play Beatles tunes …

For REAL!

Hastings has some decent basic guitars and amplifiers for sale just a few ironic steps from the Beatles game. The real instruments sell for less than you’d drop on the $249 “Rock Band” package.

In fact, every music store in town offers affordable beginner instruments. And Spokane is blessed with many qualified music teachers who can show a budding John, Paul, George or Ringo how to strum (or drum) in just the right way.

Seeing “The Beatles: Rock Band” games at Hastings made me think about my late pal Gary Wilson.

Gary was the first real Beatles fan I knew in high school. He grew his hair into a mop-top. He wore pointy-toed Beatle boots. He idolized John Lennon.

We spent many afternoons holed up in Gary’s room with our electric guitars. We’d thumb through the pages of a Beatles songbook and listen to Beatles albums on – yes – a record player.

Slowly, we worked out the chords and the vocals to tunes like “Help” and “Yesterday” and “Day Tripper” …

Before we knew it we were in a band – The People Upstairs – and rolling to gigs in a rattling van.

I haven’t checked with Bill Burke, but I’m betting he won’t be booking any “Guitar Hero” video fakes for next year’s Pig Out in the Park.

It’s sad. I fear these poor “Rock Band” gamers will miss out on some of the important life lessons I learned while playing in real rock ’n’ roll bands.

Lessons like …

•How to con your parents into co-signing a music store credit account.

•The appropriate way to fire a teenage drummer.

•Being stiffed by a tightwad club owner.

•Playing so loudly that the cops come a-calling.

•How to keep on playing after being flashed by a fetching fan.

Oh, yeah. Now that’s interactive music-making.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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