They came with the advent of a clever video game called 'Guitar Hero,' and later exploded with the game 'Rock Band.' What I speak of, are tournaments. Only a short decade ago the only thing one could enter into was an air guitar concert, but now, we can have massive Rock Band and Guitar Hero tournaments with lights, sounds, buttons and a living room full of people who could never play a real instrument if their life depended on it.
Guitar Hero came complete with a plastic guitar, buttons and a seemingly endless sequence of patterns that showed up on the TV screen when an Alice in Chains song was selected from the library of rock hits. Then, Rock Band upped the ante with multiple plastic guitars, drums, vocals, and all your other essentials for a completely virtual and synthesized band.
So, it is in this new environment that the likes of Eric Clapton are left to compete. Over the weekend in Devonshire, England, Clapton signed up with some of his old buddies from Cream to play in a Rock Band concert. The concert was sponsored by Little Winky's Videogame Megastore (a place where all people who lack real world skill can go to pretend they do).
First they went up against a 4th grader named Martin and his buddies from Rudyard Elementary. The first song up was "Sunshine of Your Love," and it promised to be in the bag for Clapton and his old band, having written it in 1968. However, it turned out that time away from playing together, and anything remotely approaching video game literacy allowed Martin and the Rudyard Elementary students to dominate the legend.
"I was really impressed by those kids. I think they have a bright future ahead of them in the rock business. That drummer they had was pretty kick ---. Ginger Baker was pretty jealous of him. That's all I'm going to say," said Clapton.
When asked how they felt to beat a rock legend Martin replied for himself and his bandmates:
"He looked pretty old. When he put those pills in his mouth and started spinning around the room I thought he was gonna croak. He didn't even hold onto the guitar right."
Second on the list was a group of soccer moms, one of which claimed to be Martin's mother. Slightly embarrassed, Martin slinked over to the corner of the room and claimed not to know her. Still primed and ready to roll, Clapton and the rest of Cream were ready for the next challenge. The next song seemed to be just as promising as the first. It was another Cream song as luck would have it: "I Feel Free."
Clapton was ready this time. During the break between battles he had attached some rubber bands to his Rock Band guitar so that he had something that resembled more of a guitar than a children's toy. Baker had grabbed an empty box to serve as his bass drum, and Jack Bruce taped a real mic to the video game one. However, the results were the same. Although the music sounded a little better, the soccer moms came off looking like Rock Goddesses.
"D--- man, I thought I saw a halo around at least 2 of 'em. That lady has pipes. I can see why her son's football team is undefeated," said Bruce.
Martin's Mom responded:
"It was fun. I'm glad to put Martin in his place. I told him if we beat his band he has to paint my toes and go to bed every night at 7pm."
In the end, Martin prevailed over his mother and Clapton and his mates went to a local pub for a nightcap. Neither had changed. And we can thank God for that.