For a few years in the mid 00’s Rockband and Guitar Hero dominated nearly every party. Drunk folk loved to pretend they were rockstars and the already wannabe rockstars showed off how hard they could shred those plastic guitars. Most people did not know that Harmonix, the creators of Rockband and the early Guitar Hero games continued to release downloadable songs long after people were dragging their squeaky plastic instruments into their living rooms to entertain guests.
The singalong parties have long died and our fake guitars and drums are now coated in layers of dust, but the memories remain of screaming at our friends to activate ‘star power’ and drunkenly shouting along to Say it Ain’t So along with ten of our kinda sorta closest friends. I loved those times, as it was a chance to listen to and talk music without coming across as too pretentious. I could comment on the drum pattern of Them Crooked Vulture‘s New Fang without getting a collection of eye-rolls or point out the interesting bass lines in a Muse track. Doing that in casual conversation is a great way to kill the excitement in the room.
Yet, despite all of this there were many great songs or bands that never made into our living rooms. While we all have our favorite band we wished would have made into Rockband/Guitar Hero, here are ten tracks that I feel would have made the experience that much more fun…or interesting…or just downright a convoluted mess.
10. Fela Kuti – Zombie
An all too few James Brown tracks made it as downloadable content during the five or so years of Rockband’s lifespan. Unlike the traditional verse/chorus/verse structure of the majority of the songs these tended to be endless riffs and grooves that gave whoever was singing the chance to scat and channel their inner PCP addled James Brown. Now imagine this, but three times as long, having back up chorus vocals, and having much more dynamic drum parts. Fela never made it big in the states, but this number could bring everyone involved into a dancing frenzy as you grooved out on your plastic guitar.
9. Deafheaven – Dream House
The first Rockband featured some awfully convoluted black/death/I don’t know-metal song that was really difficult and not fun at all. I get that it catered to that small sect of people who were interested in that genre or excessive difficulty, but it simply was not any fun to play. DeafHeaven‘s epic album Sunbather checks both boxes, however, appealing to fans who like music to murder to and is somewhat fun as well. Extra bonus for the poor sap who has to screech all those lyrics too. This is a rare album that may come from a niche genre, but can appeal to many types of people, a must for what is a commonly a party game.
8. Focus – Hocus Pocus
Listen to this song, listen to this fucking song. Seriously, LISTEN to this fucking collection of yodeling, pan flutes, iconic 70’s musical excessiveness, and downright insanity and then DARE tell me this would not be a good fit for Rockband. Even non prog-rock fans love this song purely for how off the rails ridiculous it is. Playing this one at a party would leave everyone in utter shock and awe, even having the people who had locked themselves in the closet to fool around coming out to check out why Steve is yodeling. YODELING…IN MY ROCKBAND.
7. Frank Zappa – The Black Page #2
Remember your friend that was WAY too good at Rockband? This is the song that tells him to fuck himself and his plastic instrument virtuosity.
6. The Mars Volta – Cassandra Gemini
Near the end of Rockband’s life cycle they released Rush‘s legendarily indulgent 2112, a highly impressive number that took up an entire side of the record. Not bad…I guess, but imagine if the song went on for an extra 10 minutes and was twice as insane and you get an idea what you might be in for. The serious Rockband players always loved a long marathon session together without their less talented significant others dragging them down. The symbiotic connection that could be generated from this grand epic could never be matched by any other song. Once you start to emerge from the broody and slow middle improvisation part all eyes would lock and glow with enthusiasm as they knew the end in sight. You just gotta hope Greg doesn’t screw up the drum part….he always screws up the drum part.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland 1945
There is nothing particular special about this song in contrast to everything else on this list, but indie bands did not make enough significant headway into Rockband before the downloads stopped. That pretentious music snob friend of yours who poo-poos everything, but that one Modest Mouse and one The Flaming Lips song could finally be shut-up as he finally is able to pretend he is as cool as Jeff Mangum (Spoiler Alert: He isn’t).
4. Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
This one is a no-brainer. I do not get how Harmonix didn’t give Paul Simon enough money to agree to get this track onto Rockband. It is a classic song that most people know and love. Bonus points because it has Adrian Belew and you know how I feel about him.
3. Huey Lewis And The News – Hip To Be Square
More 80’s schlock, but I do not get how they skipped this track in the Huey Lewis DLC pack. That does not make any sense. You could even make a little Patrick Bateman avatar to sing along with as well. I am not sure what else to say here other than ask “Do You Like Huey Lewis And The News?”
2. Danzig – Mother
Odd enough The Misfits never were never in Rockband, nor was Danzig. Frankly, most people do not recall Danzig, but this song could have changed that. It is such a brooding fist-pumper that I can only imagine how quickly Danzig albums would start flying off the shelf after people discovered the powerful Mother. Not too many songs in Rockband catered to us with lower range voices either, something that Mother could provide too. This song is so 80’s cool, like drinking beer in the parking lot in your rusted our Trans-Am cool. You didn’t peak in High-School bro, you haven’t even begun to peak. Yes, keep your acid wash jeans, they are coming back in style bro. One last thing….tell your children not to walk my way.
1. Boredoms – 77 Boadrum
Can you imagine the amount of USB dongles it would take to make this work? The endless daisy chaining of USB cables and ports gang-banging your Xbox 360 as you and 77 of your closest friends (Because someone gets to do EYE’s “guitar” parts) making the most insufferable racket with 77 plastic drum kits. That hypnotic trance you would all get into as for a solid hour you all were hitting nearly the same exact drum pattern over and over and over and over and over again. Can you also even begin to comprehend how big of a TV you would need for all 78 notes patterns to be even remotely visible.