STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, if there were rankings for rock groups, the Beatles would make many a list, and now the Beatles will have an entire high-profile video game dedicated to them. The game, "The Beatles: Rock Band" goes on sale today. The surviving members of the group decided that video games were a way to attract a new generation of fans. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.
LAURA SYDELL: Ask nine-year-old Jasper Nelson what's on his iPod and he sounds like a 45-year-old.
Mr. JAPSER NELSON: Pink Floyd, The Police, the Pretenders, then I have Led Zeppelin, Jet, Metallica, Michael Jackson…
SYDELL: Reading over Nelson's shoulder is nine-year-old Zara Jamie(ph). The two of them are in a band together called The Rotten Kids. They're not playing Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. Here they are at backyard concert taking a stab at Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" from 1968.
(Soundbite of song, "Sunshine of Your Love")
THE ROTTEN KIDS: (Singing) I've been waiting so long, to be where I'm going…
SYDELL: As with most kids, The Rotten Kids did not get their music from their parents. The band rehearses every Monday and Jamie says when they're done…
Mr. ZARA JAMIE: The whole bands move into Jasper's living room and we play video games because he has Rock Band and so we all just take our own instruments.
SYDELL: Rock Band is the game that now has a Beatles version. Players fanaticize about what it's like to be a rock star and they present to actually play the songs. But the first came of this genre was Guitar Hero, which came out in 2005. It had a fake guitar that let players feel like they were masking the music. You hit colored buttons on the neck that match notes that run across the screen. From the start, the song list was dominated by classic rock. Dan Rosensweig, the president and CEO of Guitar Hero, says a lot of the older rock just worked best.
Mr. DAN ROSENSWEIG (President, CEO, Guitar Hero): What is just great guitar music? Really, if you were sitting in your car and you were - the music came on, what would you air band too? Right? If you were hanging out with your friends, which song would you turn up just a little bit louder?
SYDELL: To many in the music world, it started to become increasingly clear that these games were bringing new audiences for old acts.
(Soundbite of song, "Black Magic Woman")
SYDELL: Santana's version of "Black Magic Woman" is on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
(Soundbite of song, "Black Magic Woman")
Mr. GREGG ROLIE (Keyboardist, singer; Santana): (Singing) Got a black magic woman. Got a black magic woman.
SYDELL: Adam Fells of Santana management says they saw Guitar's Hero impact as younger faces started to appear at concerts. What's really interesting, says Fells, is that it's turning shows by Carlos Santana, who led, a band that once played Woodstock, into family outings.
Mr. ADAM FELLS (Santana Management): And they say, oh, I play Guitar Hero with my kid - we're playing "Black Magic Woman" and now we took them to the concert and their favorite song is "Evil Ways." You know, we get emails like that.
SYDELL: Before video games, most young people learned about new music on the radio. Hits got made by playing the same song over and over. Certainly video games replicate that part of the experience. But the Beatles already have cross-generational appeal.
A poll by the Pew Research Center found that the Beatles ranked in top four most popular bands among every age group. Josh Randall, the creative director for "The Beatles: Rock Band" believes the game deepens the connection to the music.
Mr. JOSH RANDALL (Creative director, "The Beatles: Rock Band"): When you play the game, you feel like you're on stage with those guys, and stuff like that really, sort of immerses you into the band in a way that you sort of never experienced before.
SYDELL: At least that's what Randall is hoping will happen. For those who still want to experience the band without being in their shoes, today is always the release date for a box set that contains remastered versions of the band's entire album collection.
Laura Sydell, NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
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