August 12, 2009

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few


This may be my magazine journalism swan song. From this weekend's New York Times Magazine, While My Guitar Gently Beeps, a behind-the-scenes look at The Beatles: Rock Band that was seven-months in the making and, among its many other pleasures, afforded me the opportunity to meet one of the greatest songwriters of all time and someone I wanted to be when I was 10 years old.

Ringo Starr.

I'll warn you that it kind of goes on forever (cover stories, ahem, will do that) so if you can wait and read it in the print magazine (where it also looks terrific), you're probably better off doing so. But online you'll also find this video we shot of the excellent Beatles tribute band Bubble learning how to play the game — and nailing it on the first try. (You can't quite tell, but the drummer started on expert and scored a 93%. Once he figured out which pad correlated to which drum on Ringo's kit, I don't think he even looked at the screen.)

Update: I'm going to be discussing this tomorrow morning on The Takeaway and Saturday night on The New York Times Close Up.

Update: You got that the Ringo thing was a joke, right? Misdirection? Because a certain lass with devoted fans among my readers did not.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Daniel -- I cannot wait to read this in its entirety. Congratulations again on this and The Daily Show news. I hope you are enjoying yourself this week in all appropriate ways.

Question: Does this now qualify you for VH1's Best Week Ever? (I don't know what that show is, but it sure seems appropriate for you.)

Continued success!

Fine article, but the Times screwed you by adding a completely false and impossible claim on every page:

"A version of this article appeared in print on August 16, 2009, on page MM26 of the New York edition."

You should demand they fix it by the weekend.

Very nice article. It gives me an appreciation for the time and effort such a game demands of its creators.

On the other hand, I still think people who play the game should pick up a real instrument and play with other people with real instruments. I disagree with Rigopulos' and Egozy's sense of fairness, though I don't think music lessons, per se, have anything to do with it. People just shouldn't be afraid to make real music.

My concern is that people will supplant real music experience with this enhanced video game experience. Looking back over the years I am willing to bet the number of classically-trained musicians and singers has dwindled. How many heavy metal singers were real singers compared with 90s and 00s rockers? Nearly all of the older (50s to my 30s) musicians with whom I have played - and many non-musical adults in their 50s - had near-compulsory music training when they were young. Perhaps they didn't want to force it on their kids like it was forced on them?

God, I sound like an old fart. What I am getting at is that the foundation for new entrants becomes an instant powder (just add heroin!) the formulation and assemblage of which they have mostly second-hand knowledge.

Well I haven't been following your blog. Actually, this is the first time. But I just read your article in NYT and had to drop you a note. I first started reading on a BlackBerry and couldn't stop. As soon as I reached home I started reading it on a bigger screen. Not only is it about two things I'm interested in: The Beatles and Rock Band, but it is a superb article. From the first paragraph, I was transformed to Abbey's Road, with accuracy that should be envied by the Harmonix developers.

I can go forever describing how well written this piece is. I wish I could be able to write such lenghty piece with similar elegance, skill and compelling coherence.

There's no game for people to experience the process of reporting and writing and even if there were, I don't think many people would be interested. But when it comes to music, many want to be part of the magic, whether they are musicians or not. I don't think Rock Band will ever be an alternative to music, but it'll always be an outlet for people like me (who could destroy a melody just by humming along to the radio) to experience the euphoria of being part of the magic that's music. Something more rewarding than singing along to Twist & Shout or Hey Jude in the car.

Best of luck on the new job

Hot piece, Daniel Radosh! The article rocks too! But (aw fuck) now I can no longer glibly dismiss The Times as "lies couched in bad writing" in that way I have. I learned something new about the four lads from your stunning reportage: the Beatles only started writing their own stuff so they wouldn't be playing all the same songs as the act before them. Shit, imagine that. Interviewing Jaded Monsters might just be your strong smoot. And yeah I did catch the prude reference. "Don't fuck this up!" always reminds me of ballerino-turned-wonk Rahm Emanuel. Wikipedia: "Before Tony Blair gave a pro-Clinton speech during the impeachment crisis, Emanuel reportedly screamed to Blair's face "Don't fuck this up!" while Clinton was present; Blair and Clinton both burst into laughter." Btw, Ringo was always the favorite among French gay guys too. Something about big nose, big ... family.

Small world. In the late 90's, I worked pretty closely with Eric Brossius at Looking Glass Studios. I was doing audio programming on Thief and System Shock 2. He and I designed a little scripting language, which I implemented and he wrote scripts for, to control the dynamic ambience in SS2.

Also, the biggest career mistake I probably ever made was turning down a job offer at Harmonix in early 2000 when they were a small, struggling developer working on their first console title. Doh!

what's the graphic here, Daniel?

Say hi to Mark for me.

Nice "Takeaway" segment, D. you should be the host.

@Jake. Subtle tweaks to George's hair. To illustrate the obsession to detail that went into the game.

It would be nice if that news story was even remotely interesting

*Were.* *Were* even remotely interesting. Attacks on good work by potentially great literary truthtellers bring out my mostly repressed internet grammar police instincts.

I blame O.J.

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