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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

Posted February 27, 2009 | 10:23 AM (EST)

Rock Band, Guitar Hero: Murdering Musical Taste


I climbed into the car the other night, thankful that my 17-year-old son finally had his driver's license so he could pick me up at the train station. I could hear the music thumping before I got in.

As soon as I opened the door, it hit me. That song.

It was Foreigner, playing Jukebox Hero. It wasn't on the radio or even on a CD. It was coming from his iPod, which was jacked into the car's sound system.

Foreigner?

My God, I thought, haven't I taught him any better than this?

"Why are you listening to this?" I asked, trying to hide my horror.

"It's on Rock Band," he said. And then he flashed through some of the other video-game-inspired selections that he'd downloaded from iTunes: Journey, Rush, Boston.

Aargh.

What's next -- Bad Company? Asia? Kansas, for pity's sake?

It's bad enough that so-called classic-rock stations clog the airwaves with the worst of the 1970s and 1980s -- but to have the videogame industry spoon-feeding it to a generation that doesn't know better is too much.

OK, so I'm a snob. I admit it.

I spent 20 years writing about popular music and had strong likes and dislikes, as any critic should. Hooray for the Allman Brothers -- and fie on the Outlaws, Molly Hatchet and the rest of the mindless Allman wannabes. Yes to David Bowie and Lou Reed; no to Yes and ELP and the Alan Parsons Project.

Since I stopped writing about music in the mid-1980s, I've still maintained my interest, even as I shifted my professional focus to film, theater and TV. I pay enough attention to know who's who and what they sound like; my ears are always open, as they say.

And I tried to school my sons in the classics: Beatles. Rolling Stones. Chuck Berry. Bruce Springsteen.

And that's why I hate the games Rock Band and Guitar Hero.


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