Here they are, the ten songs that I wish I could have played on either Rock Band or Guitar Hero. I’m not saying that the inclusion of some or all of these would have saved either franchise from the ax (that’s a pun, see?), but they would have added some legitimacy, zest, variety, and vigor to decent song lists that consistently fell short of greatness, hewed too close to a noise rock comfort zone, and included far too much that was disposable (I’m looking at you, Slipknot, and “Chop Suey” by System of a Down).
I searched the official websites of both series to see if any of these songs were available either as downloads or innate to any of the boxed games, and as far as I could tell, they were not. If I made a mistake, let me know, and more importantly, buy me that song.
1. Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (1987)
A bit of a “soft” choice, but all instruments are represented, including keyboards, plus there’s a backing vocal. And it's a great song for singers of either sex.
2. Erasure – A Little Respect (1988)
Synth-pop gets little respect in the rock world, but with the arrival of the keyboard in Rock Band 3, this song would have easily led the vanguard of keyboard tracks (though, as it turns out, this vanguard is now more of a funeral procession).
3. Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is (1984)
A real singer’s song, the kind of thing both series are short on. That made some sense in the pre-Rock Band days, but with the coming of the microphone and the acknowledgement that these games weren’t just for would-be power shredders, it would have been nice to have this song, the king of the power ballads.
4. Golden Earring – Twilight Zone (1982)
You can play “Radar Love” on Rock Band, and while that’s a fun song, “Twilight Zone” is the one I want. It’s like riding on the knife edge of insanity.
5. Guns ‘n’ Roses – You Could Be Mine (1991)
A classic, especially memorable from the Terminator 2 soundtrack, and the kind of song that these games were designed for. So what was the hold-up?
6. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (1971)
I’m no Zeppelin aficionado, and I would understand a little backlash in selecting this, a too obvious choice, and too lengthy a song. But I listened to it again the other day, and it is a truly marvelous piece of music. And I can’t think of any other Zeppelin song I’d choose over this. Let’s say it falls into the category of “missing definitives.”
7. Smashing Pumpkins – Ava Adore (1998)
Both series feature decent selections of Smashing Pumpkins songs, but neither features this, which I consider their best song. You can keep “Today,” which shows off the band at its most saccharine and user-friendly. “Ava Adore” is a song for the Gothic Nosferatu within.
8. The Sounds – Midnight Sun (2009)
A relative obscurity, and recent, but this list needs a representative of where music is going now. This is perhaps my favorite song from my favorite good-time band of the last several years.
9. U2 – Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984)
If you could have only one U2 track, which one would it be? As much as I love “One,” I wanted more of an earnest rocker than a ballad of yearning. So it was a toss-up between “Pride” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” While I think the latter is a more pleasing song, I’m going with the former because it’s more of a vocal challenge.
10. Veruca Salt – Seether (1994)
“Volcano Girls” is available as a download in Guitar Hero, and while that may be a more rocking song overall, “Seether” is their iconic hit, one of the defining songs of the 90s, and it should be here. Plus, it's nice to have the harmony vocal.
I suppose it’s no accident that this list is heavily populated by the songs of my childhood and adolescence. Take them for what they’re worth; they’re just one man’s opinion. All in all, I think Rock Band and Guitar Hero did a good job; it wasn’t exactly easy to make this list, and though I can think of many other songs I would have like to have played (Phil Collins and Rod Stewart, anyone?), the above are the closest to being essential.
So long, music games. You made a good show of it. I guess we still have karaoke night.