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The Beatles: Rock Band: So, what's the missing song?*

August 27, 2009 |  5:46 pm


People who work in the world of video games love to keep consumers guessing about their newest products, and The Beatles: Rock Band is a perfect example.

They’ve trickled out titles of the songs that will be included in the initial game disc over the last few months, until those who have been following these announcements closely can tally 44 of the 45 songs destined for the game.

What’s the mystery song? Rock Band watchers are speculating on the game’s web site, with “Hey Jude” and “We Can Work It Out” seeming to be the front runners. I say: not even close.

The 44 titles that have been revealed are now posted on the home page of the forthcoming game. So the guessing revolves around which of the missing 150 or so other Beatles songs from the official canon it might be.

Nobody I spoke to in interviews for the feature story coming in Sunday’s Arts & Music section would tell me, so I have no inside knowledge. But I’ll hazard a guess based on a little common sense and chutzpah.

First, it has to be a song that works in the Rock Band world. So despite the absence on the list of 44 of such iconic Beatles numbers as “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Fool on the Hill” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” I’ll rule all those out because they aren’t heavy with the kind of prominent lead guitar lines that Rock Band thrives on.

I’m also eliminating “All You Need Is Love” because it’s previously been announced that it will be available as a bonus Rock Band track only for those with Xbox Live systems.

It’s also a no-brainer that they won’t be giving this kind of prominence to missing songs that reside deeper in the repertoire, either early cover tunes such as “Anna,” or “Chains” or non-hits like “Little Child,” “Dr. Robert,” “Honey Pie” or “Only a Northern Song.” And forget ever seeing "I'm a Loser" in a game where people want to win points.

What’s left? “Help!,” which I could envision as the centerpiece of a little promo campaign of its own to underscore how much “Help!” the group’s music has given -- and continues to give -- the world almost 40 years after the Beatles disbanded.

The big caveat: It’s not rife with guitar riffs like many of the other songs.

The playful side of me would like the final song to be “The One After 909.” It’s always been one of my favorites, a spirited rocker that John and Paul wrote in the '50s shortly after they met and first began writing songs together, revisiting it more than a decade later during the “Get Back/Let It Be” sessions. So it touches the alpha and omega of their career, and given the release date of 9/9/09 for the video game and the remastered CDs, I’d love to see a little of the old Fab Four jokester spirit come through with the choice of this one. My main reservation: It’s not one of the top echelon Beatles classics.

In the end, I’ll cast my vote for “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” from “Abbey Road.” This medley that concluded the final studio album that John, Paul, George and Ringo recorded -- even though it was released before “Let It Be” finally saw the light of day -- has always been a guitar lover’s dream. Even though it opens with Paul singing over a solo piano accompaniment, it quickly brings in bass and guitar parts that will get players involved, especially when it kicks into Ringo’s only bona fide drum solo, which is followed by that celebrated round of traded guitar solos among John, Paul and George.

It would make for a surefire feeding frenzy among players. And it culminates in the iconic line that says so much about what the Beatles still represent all these years later: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” Sequentially at least, that was the group's last official word to the world, and one that would be an appropriate choice for moving the group's remarkable legacy forward yet another time.

With that, I invite readers to share their own guesses, or share your comments if you think I’m way off base, and give us your reasons.

I'll also mention that although I included the list price of $250 for the limited edition premium bundle of The Beatles: Rock Band in my Sunday feature, the basic software available Sony PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox game systems, without the replica instrument game controllers, lists for $59.99, while the individual guitar controllers will be listing for $99.99. (The premium bundle includes the replica of McCartney’s Hofner bass and the kit modeled on Starr’s signature Ludwig drum set; die-hards who also want to get their hands on the replicas of Harrison’s Gretsch Duo Jet or Lennon’s Rickenbacker electric guitars will have to pony up for those separately.)

To all those Pop & Hiss readers who have asked for more information about exactly what versions of the remastered CDs I auditioned at Capitol Records recently, I’ll note that I heard 14 tracks on an A:B disc created by the engineers at EMI Records who have overseen the remastering process. The first four  (“Twist and Shout,” “Till There Was You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Eight Days A Week”) were presented in the mono version from the old Beatles CDs released in 1987 side by side with the stereo versions from the newly remastered CDs.  That’s comparing apples and oranges in many fans’ eyes, but the qualitative differences I noted were unmistakable.

For the remaining 10 tracks, from “Yesterday” through “Come Together,” the comparison was apples and apples: the old stereo versions against the new stereo tracks, and my comments on the differences between the two may be read accordingly. I'll also reiterate that the new CDs are remastered, not completely remixed the way the 1999 reissue of "Yellow Submarine" was, nor as George Martin and his son Giles did in mashing up songs for the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil Beatles-centric show in Las Vegas, "Love."

So these are not the total reworking of the recorded catalog that some fans have been lobbying for, but remastering was as far as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison were willing to go.

It's also worth noting for the benefit of the techie types out there, even though I didn't go there in my story for general readers: The Abbey Road engineers have created new digital masters using today's state-of-the-art 192kHz, 24-bit sampling rate. This represents about a five-fold improvement over the 44.1kHz, 16-bit rate that was the best available in 1987 when the first digital masters were taken from the first generation Beatles tapes.

The qualification today is that the compact disc still uses the 44.1kHz, 16-bit digital rate for playback. If the new Beatles CDs were also available on Blu-ray discs, listeners would get the full benefit of the higher resolution rate of the new masters. EMI Records officials say there are no plans to issue them on Blu-ray.

Lastly, a few readers have asked whether engineers used compression--in the U.K. it's called "limiting"--in remastering  the new CDs, a process that compresses the dynamic range of music, the difference between the loudest and softest sounds. Guy Massey, one of the Abbey Road engineers overseeing the remasters I sampleds at Capitol, said that compression was used "sparingly, hopefully very transparently" in creating the stereo remasters, making those mixes about 4 decibels louder than the mono versions.  Allan Rouse, project coordinator, was adamant that no compression whatsoever was used on the mono CDs, because they are considered the definitive versions of the Beatles recordings.

--Randy Lewis

*Update: An earlier version stated that "All You Need Is Love" would be available only to Wii system users. It will be an exclusive download through Xbox Live.

Photo: The Beatles. Credit: Apple Corps.