Beatles playing for keeps with "Rock Band" game

Fri Sep 4, 2009 11:50pm EDT
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By Antony Bruno

DENVER (Billboard) - Paul DeGooyer is tired -- for good reason. It's about two weeks before the September 9 release of MTV's "The Beatles: Rock Band," and DeGooyer, senior vice president of electronic games and music for MTV Networks Music Group, has been traveling to New York, Boston, Los Angeles and London since 2007 to work on the project.

He's conducted delicate negotiations with surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison; hammered out essential licensing deals with executives at Sony/ATV and EMI Music, which treat the Beatles catalog with almost reverent care, and overseen the development of new technologies to meet the high expectations of all involved.

"It's been a bit of a blur," he says, the fatigue obvious in his voice as he speaks from his New York office.

To all involved -- MTV, its game development subsidiary Harmonix, EMI, Sony/ATV, the remaining band members and the families of all -- the result of all this time, effort and frustration is much more than just a videogame. It's the latest contribution to the hallowed canon of what many consider the world's greatest band.

"It's really about a new way to play with the Beatles' music than it is a new 'Rock Band' game," DeGooyer says with quiet humility. "If we did our jobs right, it is an authentic piece of the Beatles' catalog of work, and that sounds kind of crazy because it's a videogame."

This point became crystal clear to DeGooyer when, after first pitching the concept to the band and surviving family members two years ago, they insisted on including music from every stage of the Beatles' career -- something that wasn't as easy as it sounds, given the primitive way the band recorded its early work.

On "Taxman," for example, the drums and guitar were recorded on the same track. But "Rock Band" needs to devote a separate audio track to each instrument, so MTV had to figure out how to split those tracks into separate files in order to include the earlier songs in the game. Failure would mean losing the band's blessing -- and thus the project.

ALL TOGETHER NOW   Continued...

<p>Members of The Beatles tribute band Sgt Pepper's Only Dart Board Band recreate the iconic "Abbey Road" album cover photograph on its 40th anniversary in London, August 8, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>