Legend of gaming: Themes from the NES

I love video games.  You’ll hear me say that a lot here.  I’m pretty sure that Ms. Pacman on the Atari was the first game I ever played.  But I don’t remember much about that.  What I do remember was the first Nintendo console.  My life was forever altered with the purchase of that system.  I went from a kid that watched tv or read all day to one that ate, slept, lived, breathed and bled video games.

I know everyone salivated over these games for the sheer awesomeness of the gameplay.  So was I, but what also got to me was the kick ass music.  Listen to the little ditty from the first Super Mario Bros.  What person on planet earth under 60 does not know this theme?  It’s one of the most recognizable themes in history.  It’s timeless.  Classic.  The beginning.  I had no idea that music in games could be good.  No idea that it could and would get better.

Now though I loved this music from everyone’s favorite plumber, my love of gaming music was solidified with the first Legend of Zelda.  Oh yeah, that game changed everything.  I love this theme.  Now I may be biased as it is my favorite series, but there it is.  This theme has been mixed, remixed, altered, lengthend so many times and every time it gets even more epic.  That is the key to the music of the series.  The word ‘epic’.  Hearing that music I just knew I was going to be blown away by an awesome adventure.  The Ancient Heros remix in particular gives me the absolute chills.  The guy who did it totally understood the series and its unwavering epicness and with this mix nailed it.

Only way to listen to these great tunes back then was to play the game.  Now and thank God for this, there are soundtracks and youtube.  I can listen to any theme I want for as long as I want.  Now I get to hear music from games I didn’t get to hear as a kid.  In particular the themes from Castlevania, like Vampire Killer.  Though I didn’t play the original Castlevania, the first time I heard this theme is when Konami remixed and reused it for Dawn of Sorrow.  After going back and listening to as many soundtracks as I can find, I see that Konami has done this often in the Castlevania series.  Various different themes are almost staples and they reuse them time and time again.  And I have no problem with this because the music kicks so much ass.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have tons of gaming soundtracks that I’ve actually spent money on and have to this day.  How can I not.  The ones I’ve spoken of here alone are enough to realize that game music is just as great as any other kind of music.  It just gets better and better.  With upgrades to technology happening almost every five minutes, musical theme from games can only improve.  Over time I hope that I won’t be alone in professing my love of that Jungle theme from Contra.

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Amy Winehouse

As no doubt everyone has heard by now, Amy Winehouse has passed away.  She was found dead in her home at the age of 27.  You can read the story here if you wish.  It’s always sad to see talent like hers get snuffed out so soon in life.  Even sadder is that she will be remembered more for her troubled life then she will be for the great music she gave us.  It’s unfortunate, but we all saw it coming.

I felt it would be fitting to touch on her today.  As per usual it is her music that I will be focusing on here.  I was first introduced to Amy’s music by my auntie in 2006.  Her ‘Back to Black’ album had just come out and auntie played it for me while we were driving to the mall.  I loved the song ‘Rehab’ even though I didn’t relate at all to what was being said.  I think everyone loved it was a huge hit.  It was also a prophetic sign of art imitating life.  What I liked about it was it’s obvious influence of jazz.  I could have the instrumental of this song and I’d be happy as a pig in slop.  My favorite song off the album was her other hit song ‘You Know I’m No Good’. I call that my song cause I believe this song totally describes me in my dealings with guys.  Another song which in hindsight now also seems pretty prophetic.

So of course she was someone who I had to keep on my musical radar.  She hadn’t produced anything new since I first heard her, so it was only natural to go back to her first album ‘Frank’.  And hearing that album now makes me sad cause this girl had soul.  She really could have been bigger than she was.  Again, the jazz  influence she has in her music is what makes me love her music.  The music for the song ‘In My Bed’ was fantastic.  I can listen to that song all day.  ‘Take the Box’ is a great song cause it reminded me of Diana Ross in the movie ‘Lady Sings the Blues‘. It’s such a beautiful soulful melody and her voice knocked me flat-out.

It’s a shame.  In this age of music she was a rarity.  She had a style that was old school, but she used it to her advantage and made it new and fresh.  She will be missed.  Her passing has left a whole in the music industry that hopefully won’t get filled in with more pop fluff that is so dominant now.  Rest in peace Ms. Winehouse.  May you have found the peace and serenity where you are that you weren’t able to find while you were here. Til Thursday, peoples.

Classically Classical

 

As a teenager in the 90s, I was subjected to the public school interpretation of music appreciation.  I remember in the 7th grade we sat around the music room and got to experiment with different instruments to decide which we wanted to learn to play.  For the record, I chose the clarinet.  For those of us that had the aptitude for it, we worked and practiced tirelessly in the hopes of being the special few to join the school band.  Good times.

Why is this important?  Well also during this time of discovery we were all exposed to classical music.  Every day we’d come in and the music teacher would have a composer of the day to talk to us about and let us here one of said composers musical pieces.  We were introduced to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Chopin, Lizst and many others.  And I loved it.  I ate it up with a spoon and asked ‘Please sir, can I have some more?’   Needless to say my appreciation for classical music was now carved in stone.  It was so new, fresh, exciting and unlike anything that I was used to.  Like a lot of people, I didn’t grow up in a household where classical music was even known, let alone heard on the boombox.

Now back in the 90s we didn’t have the internet that we know and love today.  No Youtube, no Itunes or MusicMatch, so I had to get my classical fix from school and wherever else I could find it.  Which was mostly tv.  Movies and commercials played classical music all the time.  And to my surprise, so did cartoons.  I had seen most Looney Tunes cartoons so often that I knew a lot of them by heart.  So imagine my surprise when vegging out in front of the tube, a Merrie Melodies cartoon called Rhapsody in Rivets came on and started playing Franz Liszt ‘Hungarian Rhapsody #2’…and I recognized it!  I felt so awesome and ‘learned’.  That particular piece was used multiple times in cartoons.  I saw a Tom and Jerry one and Bugs Bunny used it too.  I became obsessed with trying to see what composers and pieces were used in other shows I watched.  It was like a game to me.

Needless to say, years later, my love and admiration for classical music is as strong as ever.  And I haven’t even heard them all yet.  There are thousands of composers out there that have great music.  Heck, even modern-day popular music uses touches of these classical pieces.  A guy named Walter Murphy remixed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack.

Classical music is all around us and it’s influence is still strong.  Next time you watch a movie, hear a commercial tune or even watch a cartoon.  Really listen to the music and try to see if you know where it came from.  Let it speak to you, let it move you or like me, inspire you.

Music is magic!

Music is the sweet, sweet sound of life!  Well, at least that’s what Jem and the Holograms told me when I was 8.  And you know what, they were right.  Music is pretty magical.  It makes you happy when you’re sad, gets you pumped before a big game or a workout, makes you think of a loved one, it’s so many things.  But why is that?  What is it about certain types of music or songs that give us that lift, makes us want to dance like crazy or even make us mad with biting rage?

I find myself in a minority among the people I know and love in the sense that I like all music.  Yes, all of it.  I know some people who say that, but then they hear a country tune, rap, or classical and be all ‘eww, what the heck is this crap’. I genuinely do have a love for all things musical.  I have multiple different artists, bands, genres on my ipod.  From Tupac to Korn to Beethoven to Jodeci to Martina McBride. Hell, I’ve got the entire Star Wars original trilogy soundtrack and a bunch of anime and gaming music.  I feed on all of it.  And though I am one of the rarities in my circle, I find that I’m not the only one in the world who is open equally to all types of music and genre.

So hence the purpose of this blog.  I want to find those other people.  People who are open to music in all its forms.  I want to let people know that we are out here and that it’s ok to love more than one type or genre.  And if I can convert, educate or open a someones mind to something new, then that would also be fantastic.

So there it is.  Twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll post on whatever random topic comes to my head or get something off my chest and link it musically and hope that I can do some good or just entertain myself and possibly someone else too.