During the heyday of Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, hundreds of artists great and small let their songs get dissected and played on plastic guitars and drums. A handful of bands even released entire albums for these games, including (but not limited to) The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul; Metallica’s Death Magnetic; Rush’s Moving Pictures; Green Day’s Dookie, American Idiot, and 21st Century Breakdown; and The Clash’s London Calling.
In other words, some prestigious shit.
With both Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4—two unexpected new entries in these dormant series—due out before the end of the year, we’re hoping both games will get even more classic albums. But we also know that not every album we like will make it in. Like so much to do with rock & roll, there are egos, fights over money, and, well, pesky logic, all of which will prevent these great albums from ever making the games.
Here are nine great albums we’d love to play in Guitar Hero Live or Rock Band 4…and why we probably won’t get to play any of them.
9. ‘BLIND FAITH’—BLIND FAITH
Why it would rock: Driven by the soulful singing of Steve Winwood, the rockin’ rhythms of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Rick Grech, and, of course, the wailing of the guitar god himself, Eric Clapton, Blind Faith’s one and only album is a run of classics that includes “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Presence of the Lord,” and the epic jam of “Do What You Like.”
Why it probably won’t get to: Because aside from a crappy cover of “Sunshine of Your Love” from Clapton and Baker’s previous band, Cream, none of Clapton’s songs have ever made it into games, musical or otherwise.
Why it would rock: For what would become their penultimate album, R.E.M. went back to the guitars-first approach of Life’s Rich Pageant and Monster with such ballsy tracks as “Living Well is the Best Revenge” and “Horse to Water,” and the result was their best albums in years.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because while R.E.M. have had songs in these games before, including “Living Well…” in Rock Band, odds are that if they did any full albums for one of these games, the Band and Hero people would probably opt for Out of Time, Automatic for the People, or even Monster before Accelerate.
7. ‘GISH’—THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Why it would rock: By far their most riff-heavy album, the Pumpkin’s 1991 debut kicked off hard with “I Am One” and tore through such rollicking songs as “Bury Me” and “Tristessa.” While later albums would be more popular (like Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness), they were also more bloated (like Siamese Dream), and, in the case of Adore, just more painful to listen to, leaving Gish as the best choice for a virtual jam session.
Why it probably won’t get to: While “Siva” does appear in Rock Band, and singer/guitarist Billy Corgan was an unlockable character in Guitar Hero World Tour, the Band and Hero developers would probably opt for the more popular or bloated album instead, while Corgan—the only original member still in the band—would probably want them to include their newest album.
6. ‘LULU’—METALLICA WITH LOU REED
Why it would rock: An odd left turn from a band who delights in taking them, Lulu had Metallica backing the former Velvet Underground singer/guitarist on a bunch of songs based on a German play. It was noisy, dissonant, and sometimes atonal, with Reed usually talking instead of singing, but it also has such great and rockin’ tracks as “Brandenburg Gate” and “Iced Honey,” especially if you like your turns to be left-wise.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because while Metallica have had songs in both games, and even had their own Guitar Hero spin-off, the only people who liked Lulu were Reed, the members of Metallica, and me.
5. ’BITCHES BREW’—MILES DAVIS
Why it would rock: A fantastic fusion of jazz and rock, Davis’s 1970 masterwork is like hearing Jimi Hendrix backed by Santana and jamming with, well, Miles Davis. Though playing some of these songs would be a physical challenge—"Pharaoh’s Dance" is twenty minutes long, while the title track is just shy of twenty-seven minutes—the sheer scope of these songs, coupled with John McLaughlin’s epic guitar playing, would more than keep us going.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because while there have been Hendrix and Santana tunes in Guitar Hero, as well as the occasional long song (such as Rush’s twenty-minute-long epic “2112”), there’s been no jazz or jazz-rock fusion in either game, and we doubt they’d start with a double album on which four of six tracks hit double digit run times.
Why it would rock: While Nirvana’s second album, and their late singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, were a great many things to a lot of people, the fact remains that Nevermind is, at its core, a great hard rock album. Besides “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it has such air guitar-inspiring classics as “Breed,” “Drain You,” and “On A Plain,” with nary a dullard in the bunch.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because after they saw footage of Cobain’s avatar singing other people’s songs in Guitar Hero 5 (see the lead image up top), Kurt’s widow, Courtney Love, threatened to sue the game’s publisher, Activision, while Cobain’s bandmates, Kurt Novoselic and Dave Grohl, criticized the game openly.
3. ‘MEDDLE’—PINK FLOYD
Why it would rock: Released in 1971, Meddle is arguably the first great Pink Floyd album, thanks in large part to such epic track as “One of these Days” and “Echoes.” It’s also the first album to really capture what would become the spacey Pink Floyd sound later typified by such albums as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because if either game was going to do a Pink Floyd album, it probably wouldn’t be the one that starts with a song that has the lone lyric “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces” (“One of These Days”), ends with a twenty-three-minute-long psychedelic freak-out (“Echoes”), and includes a blues jam with a dog (“Seamus”). Besides, they’d probably do Dark Side of the Moon first. Or The Wall. Speaking of which…
’THE WALL’—PINK FLOYD
Why it would rock: After Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd’s most popular album is The Wall. But it’s actually the better choice when it comes to inclusion in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, as Dark Side doesn’t have anything as air guitar-inspiring as “Comfortably Numb,” “Young Lust,” “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” “Hey You,” or “In The Flesh?”.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because while The Wall has all those aforementioned great guitar tracks, it also has a bunch of interludes that work really well in context of the album, but would be a bit odd to play in a game. That said, of all the albums on this list, this one has the best chance of making it in, since (if rumors are to be believed), the band once talked to the Rock Band folk after seeing The Beatles Rock Band.
’PHYSICAL GRAFFITI’ (OR REALLY ANY OF THEIR ALBUMS)—LED ZEPPELIN
Why it would rock: I’m sorry, are you unfamiliar with the music of Led Zeppelin? The riff-heavy, blues-inspired, balls-out and bluesy music of Led Zeppelin? “Trampled Under Foot”? “The Rover”?“ "Sick Again”? “Custard Pie”? “Kashmir”? Seriously? I think you’re reading the wrong article.
Why it probably won’t get to: Because guitarist Jimmy Page has said he’s not letting anyone but him touch the band’s master tapes, which the developers would need to adapt these songs for the games. Then again, he said that a while ago, back when the band were a lot more hesitant to license their songs for movies and commercials. In recent years, they’ve lightened up about that stance, and recently allowed “Whole Lotta Love” to be used in Christian Dior cologne commercial and the second Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation trailer, while “Ramble On” was featured in the sci-fi movie Oblivion and The Immigrant Song pops up basically everywhere. Still, given Page’s past comments, I’m not holding my breath.
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.
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