Beatles Back In The Game With 'Rock Band,' Remastered LibraryBy William Weir, The Hartford Courant, Conn.
As guitarist for the Danbury-based Beatles tribute band, Sgt. Lefferts Phony Hearts Club Band, Seth Lefferts understands the appeal of pretending to be a Beatle.
As such, he doesn't doubt that the video game " The Beatles: Rock Band" will be a hit.
"It's bringing the Beatles back into the focus of world attention," he said. "The 'Rock Band' release is going to make so many of the kids part of the Beatles music again, which is what we had when we were growing up. Now, the next generation will be playing along with the Beatles. I remembered when I had my tennis racket and making believe I was in the Beatles in concert. Now they have [game] controllers."
Wednesday's release of "The Beatles: Rock Band" could go a long way in helping unite teenagers, baby boomers and everyone in between culturally. At least, that's the hope of everyone responsible for "Rock Band" -- game developers Harmonix Music Systems of Cambridge, Mass., surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison.
Complete with game controllers modeled after the instruments of John, Paul, George and Ringo, gamers play along to the Beatles songs by pressing buttons on their "guitars," hitting their "drums" and singing along to the lyrics on the screen. The better they are at being the Beatles, the more of the band's story unfolds. The game consists of hours of Beatles songs (including previously unreleased studio chatter) and history.
The regulars at Friendly Fire, a gaming center in Storrs, generally prefer the competitive games like 'Halo 3' over 'Rock Band,' which emphasizes cooperation among players. But owner Daniel Keener still thinks it should be a hit. The 23-year-old considers the Beatles "the biggest influence on music" and says they're still popular among people his age.
Jordan Catrone at Game Crazy in Southington said his store has had "a ton of pre-orders" for the game. He thinks "Across the Universe," a 2007 movie musical based on the Beatles songs, has a lot to do with the band's popularity among young people.
"We've had parents come in and the teens are coming in also," he said.
It goes without saying that Charles Rosenay will purchase "The Beatles: Rock Band." The Orange resident has turned his lifelong Beatlemania into a profession by organizing conventions and leading tours of Liverpool every summer for the past 26 years. The lord mayor of Liverpool himself has named Rosenay "unofficial ambassador" to the Beatles home city.
Rosenay said he planned to buy the game (at midnight), plus the newly released remastered recordings. He said the last time there was this much Beatles excitement was in 1995, with the release of the Beatles Anthology, a series of CDs and DVDs filled with previously unreleased recordings. Rosenay thinks the video game and remastered recordings could be even bigger.
"It's the last hurrah to sell the Beatles in a CD format," he said.
Rosenay said his kids, aged 3, 4 and 10, listen to the Beatles "in equal portions to Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers" and are also excited about getting the new game. Besides stoking his own obsession with the Fab Four, Rosenay expects the new game and CDs to rekindle enough Beatlemania that he's organizing a Beatles convention in Stamford this November. It will be the first Beatles convention in Connecticut in 12 years.
The convention is scheduled to include Peter Tork, formerly of The Monkees, who lives near Storrs. As a member of a band modeled after the Beatles (in their madcap "A Hard Day's Night" persona), Tork said a game that lets everyone be a Beatle should be a hit. Tork said he has played "Rock Band" only briefly ("Eye of the Tiger" of all things), but was impressed with how close it lets players get to the music.
"The thing about the game is that it does make you much more intimate with the songs involved," he said.
In that sense, he said, the game should help generate an appreciation among younger people -- perhaps even the kind of awe that he and others his age had when Beatles sounds invaded the airwaves. Being a Greenwich Village folkie at the time, Tork wasn't even much of a pop fan, but remembers the effect the Beatles had on him.
"The Beatles were that miracle, in some ways a greater miracle than Elvis," he said. "They had so much energy -- just absolutely hyper-powered, and I was absolutely mesmerized by how powerful they were."
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