The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles Rock Band combines two of the most powerful pop culture phenomena ever, allowing players to be The Beatles minus screaming girls, LSD, and Yoko Ono.

You may notice The Beatles are running from nobody

John Lennon and George Harrison contemplate what The Beatles: Rock Band would look like if they were, you know, not dead.

Since when did blue horned elephants become associated with The Beatles?

Just The Facts

  1. The Beatles: Rock Band was released on September 9, 2009 (09-09-09) for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii.
  2. The Beatles: Rock Band takes players through the career of The Beatles, using 48 songs.
  3. The two remaining Beatles and their record company coincided the release of the game with digitally remastered CDs of The Beatles discography.
  4. The Beatles: Rock Band allows the player to witness The Beatles at various points in their career, from days in sweaty,cramped Liverpool clubs to psychadelic trips inspired by Indian sitar music.
  5. The Beatles: Rock Band, like it's cousins Rock Band and Rock Band 2, lined up whole albums for additional content, including Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Rubber Soul.

Song Selection in The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles: Rock Band was one of the most eagerly anticipated video games released in 2009, and with good reason. Rock Band 2 features "Shooting Star" by Bad Company. The first few lines include "Johnny was a schoolboy when he heard his first Beatles song." Most of the people who bought Beatles Rock Band were little when they heard their first Beatles song. For most of us it went something like this:

You are on your way to school in the back of your parents' minivan. You don't have any idea what music you like yet because up until now the only thing you have heard is oldies and "Wheels on the Bus" by Raffi. Since the driver (your parents or some adult figure) control the radio, you (the youngster), get to hear the stuff they listened to in their youth. Fortunately for us the music from their youth, the 1960s or 70s, is some of the best ever made and it includes The Beatles. Singing the "Na na na nah" part of "Hey Jude" comes to mind. Starting to remember? Ok, good.

Once you discovered Atari, Mario, and Sonic, The Beatles and video games were on an epic collison course like two trains leaving from different cities and crashing into each other somewhere in rural South Dakota.

Leaving Liverpool: A train carrying The Beatles. Leaving Video Game Land: The Harmonix Express

It took approximately 20 years to manifest itself with technology, game development, lawyers, and intellectual property rights getting in the way. Once all the details were sorted out, Beatles Rock Band was now possible. Now the developers had to figure out which songs to include on the game disc. There are four basic categories.

No Brainers: "I Saw Her Standing There," "A Hard Day's Night," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Ticket to Ride," "Yellow Submarine," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/ A Litte Help From My Friends," "I Am The Walrus," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Helter Skelter," "Revolution," "Come Together," "Here Comes The Sun," "Get Back."

I Could See That: "Twist and Shout," "Do You Want To Know A Secret?" "Can't Buy Me Love," "I Feel Fine," "Eight Days A Week," "Day Tripper," "Paperback Writer," "Hello Goodbye," "Back in the USSR," "Something," "Don't Let Me Down," "I Me Mine," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

Umm, Ok: "I Wanna Be Your Man," "I'm Looking Through You," "Taxman," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Within Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows," "Getting Better," "Dear Prudence," "Birthday," "Octopus's Garden," "I've Got A Feeling,"

It's A Stretch: "Boys," "If I Needed Someone," "Good Morning Good Morning," "Hey Bulldog," "Dig A Pony."

Overall the song selection has a bit of everything from The Beatles catalog that Michael Jackson bought. There are some songs that somehow are not yet on the game like "Help!" "Yesterday," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Love Me Do," and "Hey Jude." Still, The Beatles: Rock Band has plenty of filler for additional downloadable content so gamers can pay $1.99 to add it later. If The Beatles have any business savvy at all, they'll release their songs onto iTunes shortly thereafter.

"Hey Jude" coming to iTunes and downloadable content as soon as The Beatles think it will be profitable.

Plus, when "Hey Jude" is a part of The Beatles: Rock Band we can do this for ourselves:

Playing as The Beatles

The developers of The Beatles: Rock Band emphasized that the game was not a continuation of the previous Rock Band titles. Instead, the emphasis was an exploration of The Beatles career, and by that their musical career. Unfortunately gamers do not get the full experience of having riot police escort them to waiting cars, freaky LSD trips in elevators, hanging out with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and the presence of Yoko Ono in the studio while recording "Octopus's Garden."

This is Paul McCartney admitting he took LSD. It is not programmed into The Beatles: Rock Band. Maybe that is where the blue horned elephant came from.

So, unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero, there is no create a character in The Beatles: Rock Band. Instead The Beatles play their music throughout, their looks change as the time and music goes along. In most cases the looks are accurate to how The Beatles actually looked at the time. In essence, as you play, you become John, Paul, George, or Ringo. For most of us it will be as close any of us will ever come to channeling their spirit and talent without some sort of voodoo ritual, and if we got that far, we would need an exorcism to remove them. (John's spirit of genuine strangeness, Paul's spirit of misguided creativity (blue elephant), George reincarnation as a sitar, Ringo's spirit of writing songs about mollusks).

Gameplay looks like this, reflecting the various stages in The Beatles' career:

Cavern Club Beatles circa 1963. Well before widespread fame and wacky LSD trips that produced blue elephants.

The Beatles at Japan's Budokan. You cannot see it, but there are countless Japanese fans screaming. It may mark the beginning of when the Japanese people defined the word "psychofan."

Sgt. Peppers Era Beatles. Who hasn't wanted to wear the Sgt. Pepper's uniform? Raise your hands. Just you? Lame.

Rooftop Concert Beatles. So simple, yet brilliant. Wearing full beards and real fur coats.

Sing and play along to all those tunes you know, since most of us are familiar enough with at least one Beatles song to give it justice. Maybe they can include the famous Beatles speeches in downloadable content later on as a new feature. For only $12.99 you can duplicate the most infamous Beatles speeches like the Christmas radio releases, Paul's interview on LSD, and John's "bigger than Jesus" speech. That way gamers can purchase The Beatles in all their talent and rock 'n' roll glory.

Limited Edition Bundle or The Disc

As mentioned before, The Beatles: Rock Band was one of the most anticipated video games released in 2009. In order to capitalize on the latest wave of Beatlemania two versions were released: sensible and ludicrous.

The sensible version of the game takes the form of the game disc for whatever console you fancy. The sensible version provides all the timeless Beatles songs selected for the game. It costs the same as a regular console game ($60). The sensible version assumes that you are already a player of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, and have all the equipment necessary to play. Should you not own a magic guitar controller, they can be found a hop, skip, or jump away at any video game store for about $20. Microphones cost about $25 (new).

The Beatles: Rock Band. Sensible Version.

The ludicrous version has a name: The Beatles: Rock Band Limited Edition Bundle. The ludicrous version contains truly ludicrous items for The Beatles: Rock Band:

1. The game disc for the console of your fancy.

2. Game controller inspired by Paul McCartney's Hofner Bass.

3. Drum controller modeled after Ringo Starr's Pearl Drum Set.

4. Microphone and microphone stand.

All the items in the ludicrous edition can be purchased for the cutthroat price of $250. The ludicrousness doesn't end there. The creators designed the most advanced plastic guitar controllers ever for a game for The Beatles: Rock Band. The REPLICAs of John Lennon's Rickenbacker 325 and George Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet guitars cost $100 a piece. To get the complete package of ludicrousness, you must spend $450. (Or you can go to the video game store and purchase used equipment from previous versions of Guitar Hero/Rock Band and get everything for around $100).

The Ludicrous Version. Looks innocent doesn't it?

Saving the finest example of non-sensability for last, Microsoft even made a Beatles Rock Band special edition Xbox 360. Just before the game's release they put one up for auction on eBay and sold it for $17,300. (The money went to Doctor's Without Borders). Just think, for only $18,000 you can indulge in channeling the spirits of The Beatles in the fullest way possible!

Taking ludicrousness to another level. At least the money spent to buy it went to charity...

"I Have To Admit, It's Getting Better"

Without question, numerous improvements find their way into The Beatles: Rock Band. For the first time, the player has the option to sing either the harmonies or the lead vocals. Now you can sing "Goo goo ga joob" with the rest of your party after a few Jagerbombs. Of course, that does require the purchase of additional equipment, up to three microphones in total. Forget about using that Xbox 360 headset too, since it doesn't work.

The bars indicating when to play are a little fatter than Rock Band, so you can see them pretty well. They even make you calibrate your controllers for optimal gameplay. The same features exist from Rock Band, like Overdrive (Starpower in Guitar Hero), Bass Groove, and streak multipliers. However, they have a Beatles-esque spin. Overdrive is renamed "Beatlemania." "Beatlemania" appears yellow, resembles flower power, and does a good job distracting you from the game and will often times mess up your "groove." (Especially if you play bass and deal with an annoying yellow and purple scheme on your strum bar.)

Bass Groove and Beatlemania = Loss of your momentum and streak.

Remember, it can get better too. They have already added three albums to the queue of downloadable content. They could do so much more too, like the aforementioned speeches or even the Billy Preston track pack. Perhaps a "Create a Beatle" feature could allow for the gamer to mix and match John, Paul, George, or Ringo at various times in their careers and perfom a song. Or, what would be truly spectacular, allow their songs to be inserted into Rock Band so your created character could play them. Still, the LSD element would be fun, it would likely resemble South Park's legendary Heroin Hero.

No matter how annoying that dragon may be, and the fact that you will never catch the dragon, it still does not explain where that blue horned elephant came from. However, the opening cinematic is way cool and sums up the game well, even if there is no explanation for the flag carrying blue horned elephant.