The Beatles: Rock Band

When the whole Guitar Hero craze started (God, has it only been 4 years?), my then 11-year-old son didn’t pay much attention. His video game preferences tended to run to the more mundane worlds of the Mario Bros. and their various cousins. In fact, he considered himself Sonic the Hedgehog’s number 1 fan.

But, alas, they grow up so quickly. He discovered Guitar Hero through a friend, and was instantly hooked. I must admit, I got a little bit of a kick out of it, too, but what it mostly did for me was rekindle my interest in playing the real thing. Happy to say, eventually the boy caught the bug and these days plays the real thing constantly. while the game hardly gets touched.

But back when we were both playing a lot, we both often commented that it’d be way cool if there were a Beatles version of Guitar Hero. I’ve been an uberfan of the band since they hit the states, and was lucky enough to catch them in concert at Busch Stadium on their last tour in ’66. Cameron, of course, became a fan by osmosis; I’ve  always got a Beatles tune playing in the car or around the house. The first proper concert we attended together was McCartney in Philly back in 2005 (great show!), during which he made me proud by singing along with most of the songs.

So when it was announced that the Rock Band franchise was planning a Beatles version with the help/blessing of the surviving members of the band and the family members of those who couldn’t be with us, we were both giddy with anticipation as to what was to come.

It was officially announced The Beatles: Rock Band would be released on 09.09.09 (very nice, since 9 was Lennon’s favorite number), and at the recent E3 presentation, Paul and Ringo, along with Olivia and Dhani Harrison and Yoko Ono,  made a presentation revealing some of the details of the new game.

If you haven’t seen the game trailer or “cinematic opening” yet:

Yes, I preordered promptly. And man, oh man, oh man. I hate to see summer fly by, but I can’t wait for September 9!

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Meant To Be, Or Meant Not To Be. What Was The Question?

I’ve played guitar for the majority of my years, nothing fancy, just enough to keep me amused.

Christmastime of ‘07, my son, who had become enamored of Guitar Hero, received a Behringer starter guitar and amp set. He loved it and (thankfully) started spending more time with that than the game.

This reinspired me to pick up my own battered Yamaha FG-160 acoustic and begin playing again. Soon I was hankering for an electric, since I hadn’t had one in over 40 years (my first was an old Silvertone).

I made myself a Wish List of several models I wished to have, and armed with a Guitar Center credit card, began collecting.

The first piece I picked up was a Fender Standard HSS Strat, Arctic White with a maple fretboard. I eventually made it my own by replacing several of the white and chrome pieces with black. Looks pretty sharp. I’m sure I’ll post a picture some day.

Soon after I picked up a Yamaha RGX A2. It wasn’t high on my list, but at the time a new one was selling for $499, and Guitar Center had a used one for $199. The volume knob and battery door were missing, but a $37 investment made it as good as new again.

I decided I wanted to replace the FG-160 with an acoustic-electric, and being a lifelong Beatle fan, opted for the Epiphone EJ-160E, the John Lennon signature model (after all, it was the Beatles that got me interested in playing in the first place).

At this point, my GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome; if you play, you understand) was pretty well sated. Although there were still items on my Wish List, I was happy to play around with what I had.

Until February 27.

On that day, at about 5:27 pm Eastern Time, my son Cameron and I arrived at West End Music for his weekly guitar lesson. On the sales floor was a new piece: a 2008 Fender American Standard Telecaster, Natural with a maple fretboard. I’ve coveted this particular configuration since I first saw it. Guitar Center stocks a Mexican made version for $449; the Made-in-America flavor retails for $1275. This one was on consignment sale for…$600. Jim, the Guy Behind the Counter, told me that the owner had only played it for a few hours, and decided he didn’t care for it all that much, and was anxious to be rid of it.

I spent the half-hour during Cam’s lesson playing and examining the Tele closely. Also examining my finances closely. Could I go another $600 in debt? For a $1200 guitar, I could probably find a way.

During the next few days I debated the merits of buying the Tele. I wanted it. Badly. My American Express account was empty…but they don’t take Amex. They also don’t accept Guitar Center credit, dammit! I almost went to the shop a couple of times, but some vague feeling kept me away.  I told Cameron, “If it’s still there Friday, then I’m meant to have it. If it’s gone, then it wasn’t meant to be.”

Friday comes, and I’m sitting at work, doing my job, when a salesman comes in the office. The guy’s name is Frank (he’s been in a few times, and we’ve had conversation. He’s a Giants fan, I favor the Browns), and I’m afraid I don’t recall the company he works for. The person he’s come to see is not in the office at that particular time, but he’ll be back soon, so Frank waits.

We start making small talk, he notices the Beatles calendar hanging on my wall. “You like ‘em, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, been a fan since ‘64.”

“Me, too. That’s what got me starting to play.”

“You play? What do you play?”

“Guitar. Why? You play?”

“Yeah, and same thing. They started it.”

“Yeah, what do you play?”

“A little blues, some 60’s rock.”

“That’s what I play, too. I just picked up a new one a couple of days ago.”

“Did you? I’m hoping to pick one up tonight.”

“Really? I got a Telecaster…”

“Really? That’s what I’m getting. An ash-body. I’ve wanted one since…”

“That’s what I got! And you won’t believe the price!”

A sick realization hit me.

“Oh. Where’d you get it?”

“Up at West End Music. My son takes lessons Tuesday night. I picked it up on Wednesday.”

Of course. Well, like I told my son, I wasn’t meant to have that particular guitar.

So I decided to go out to Guitar Center Saturday morning and plunk down the $449 for the MIM.  I walked in the front door, and what was the very first thing I saw? Something else that was on my Wish List, a beautiful Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Alpine White with gold hardware. Generally retails for $800, but this one was used and marked down to…yes, $600.

I figured I wasn’t meant to get the Tele, because I was meant to get the LP. I can always get a MIM Tele for $449 (and it’ll be decent quality), but who knows when I’ll find another LP Custom in the color scheme I want for 25% off? So I snatched it up.

And as an Epilogue: This past Friday I took Cameron in for his lesson, and fell into conversation, as usual, with Jim (who had been gone the previous week).

“Oh,”, he said, “ I have to tell you a funny story. Remember that Tele you were looking at a couple of weeks ago?”

“Yeah, I really wanted that.”

“Yeah? Well, my brother ended up buying it…”

“Wait…what? Frank is your brother?”

“Yeah. Oh, are you the guy from the construction office?”

“Yeah!”

We didn’t start singing “it’s a small world”, but maybe we should have.