I’m standing awkwardly in that purgatory between bands’ sets when it comes on the speakers, faint in volume but nonetheless deafening. Perhaps a few others recognize this tune as something more than a filler, but externally, they don’t let that recognition show. Then again, I’m trying my best to act natural as well, save for the tapping of my fingers against my thigh. While initially apprehensive, the tapping slowly increases with added intensity as the song continues. Yellow. Red. Green, green, green. Yellow, red, green-green-green. I look around the room again, curious. Nobody else seems to recognize that this simple riff may very well be the greatest contribution to art since Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”.
Nobody else seems to appreciate “Slow Ride” by Foghat.
Although the admission feels blasphemous, “Slow Ride” is probably not the most groundbreaking song in music history. But, for me, it helped mark my personal transition from “casual music fan” to “I just bought the same record in 3 different colors” to “oh my god, is it weird that I just bought tickets to see the same band five times on the same tour?”
I remember “Slow Ride” as the first song on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock*.
If you asked me today for my favorite modern band, I’d quickly say The Strokes. I’m relatively outspoken about my love of The Strokes’ music not only online, but also through my bank account (I once attempted to compile a list of all the money I’d invested towards seeing The Strokes and purchasing their merchandise, but quickly abandoned this list out of embarrassment). A few months ago, the supreme voice of reason, Kylie Jenner, prophesized that 2016 would be the “Year of Just Realizing Stuff”. Although many ignored Kylie’s divine premonition, several weeks ago, I found myself realizing things that I had never expected to realize. At last, her prophecy had been fulfilled.
I realized that the only reason I got into The Strokes was because of Guitar Hero III (for those unseasoned to Guitar Hero III, “Reptilia” is one of the unlockable songs on the game).
I realized, upon further reflection, Guitar Hero III was probably responsible for the vast majority of my music taste, from Sonic Youth to Bloc Party to Marilyn Manson to the Sex Pistols.
I realized my entire life is completely indebted to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
Guitar Hero III came out in 2007, and it ended up under my family Christmas tree that same year (after begging Santa – my younger self’s first introduction to the concept of a “Sugar Daddy” – via handwritten letter). I remember obsessing over an alleged quotation from Kevin Jonas that playing Guitar Hero was harder than playing actual guitar (while I cannot verify whether Kevin actually said this, I’m going to pretend that he did). With this logic, I reasoned that if I was good at Guitar Hero, I was basically a rock star.
Unfortunately, I was never particularly good at Guitar Hero. I was also terrible at real-life instruments (trust me, I’ve tried them all), but I interpreted my ability to play “Through the Fire and Flames” on Easy as enough talent to make it successfully in the music business. A child’s self-worth should be completely dependent on whether they can complete “Through the Fire and Flames” at varying levels of difficulty.
Guitar Hero III gave me lifelong heroes, from the little kid down my street who could play “Through the Fire and Flames” on Expert to Casey Lynch, the poorly-CGI’d blonde character wearing a bra. I always played as Casey Lynch, not only because I was also a blonde, but because I felt badass playing guitar in a virtual bra and giant stomach tattoo in front of my parents.
This past Halloween, I purchased all the materials to dress as my beloved Casey Lynch for Halloween (from ‘Gothic Renaissance,’ the local goth superstore). As I excitedly explained my costume to uninterested friends, I painfully realized that most people had no clue what I was talking about. Not unlike the people in the room where nobody cared about “Slow Ride”, nobody in 2016 cared about Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, a forgotten cultural phenomenon of the mid-00’s. I nixed the costume at the last minute, blaming my change in plans on the cold weather, even though it was actually out of pity for my uncultured, incompetent peers. (Instead, I dressed as PJ Harvey on the September 1995 cover of i-D magazine, but nobody understood that costume, either.)
I’m finally coming to term with the impact Guitar Hero III has had on my entire life. While it’s difficult to realize that other people in 2016 aren’t still similarly moved by successfully playing the “Reptilia” guitar solo on Medium, I still think Guitar Hero III is mankind’s unparalleled greatest-contribution-to-the-history-of-the-earth. It’s the game that got me spending my iTunes giftcards on Slayer and Heart; it’s the game that properly introduced me to The Strokes (for better or for worse). It’s the game that had me glued to my red iPod nano for days at a time, and it’s the game that got me hooked on rock ‘n roll. Today, I credit my unintentional education in AFI and Slipknot for all of my successes in life. To Guitar Hero, I am forever grateful.
Thanks Kylie, for helping me realize stuff in 2016. Here’s to a 2017 of less realizing and more Guitar Hero III.
*I am obligated to differentiate the third installment of Guitar Hero from its counterparts because it is clearly the best, just as Sims 2 trumps all other iterations of the Sims franchise. Don’t even think about comparing Guitar Hero III to the significantly inferior Rock Band franchise. Your argument is already invalid.
Here’s a playlist of Megan’s favorite Guitar Hero III songs that you can use to DJ your next party for confused Gen-Z kids, relive the adrenaline of playing “Through The Fire and Flames” on Expert, or never listen to again.
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