Rock Band 4 May Have U2, but It's Still Missing Some Rock Essentials

Rock Band 4 May Have U2, but It's Still Missing Some Rock Essentials

Five world-class artists who deserve a place in Rock Band (and five bonus picks for expert mode).

As reported by Eurogamer, information leaked today revealing that two songs by U2 will be included with Rock Band 4 when it ships next week.

It's a huge coup for Harmonix; U2 has long been one of the big-name holdouts for inclusion in the rhythm series, and locking them down closes a critical gap in the Rock Band library. Love U2 or hate them — and these days, "hate" seems to be the popular consensus — but they're giants of the industry, one of the biggest live draws in the world.

However! U2 may be conquered, but the Irish supergroup was only one of a handful of rock legends who remain missing (or badly under-represented) in the Rock Band series. For Rock Band to be a truly comprehensive record of the medium's greats, Harmonix still needs to secure a few more elusive giants. It shouldn't be that difficult.

They got The Beatles, after all, and those guys have done everything within their power to cultivate the idea of their catalog as untouchable, premium content. Everyone else should be cake.

The Essentials

Towering giants of rock music, these bands' absence from the Rock Band series makes them seem more like myths than legends.

The Rolling Stones | "Satisfaction"

By far the most significant band on the list, the Rolling Stones continue to tour despite being the oldest rock stars walking the earth. They're as important in their own way as the Beatles, with the added bonus of not hating one another. The Stones aren't total strangers to Rock Band, but they may as well be: The group was represented by a single track ("Gimme Shelter") way back in the original Rock Band. Artists of their magnitude deserve much more than that; so why not start to put things right by securing the rights to the Stones' single most memorable guitar lick, "Satisfaction"? After that, well, there's quite a catalog to choose from...

Pink Floyd | "Run Like Hell"

Unlike the Stones, Pink Floyd has zero representation in Rock Band. Whether that's a result of haughty pride or simply a side effect of the nasty personal and legal disputes that tore the group apart in the early '80s, the results are the same: The artists responsible for the longest-charting rock album ever somehow remain absent from Rock Band. While there's a great deal of Floyd's library that would be far too plodding or drawn out for the game, several cuts from The Wall strike the perfect balance of (short) length and (high) energy. I'd start with "Run Like Hell," which is both less worn out and less lugubrious than the obvious pick ("Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. II").

The Eagles | "Hotel California"

The Dude hates The Eagles, and you probably do, too. But you have to admit, there's something awfully catchy about FM radio standard "Hotel California," from the mysterious lyrics, to the eerie atmosphere, to that funky little drum lick right after the line about killing the beast.

Cream | "White Room"

So far as I can determine, Rock Band lacks a single contribution by guitar legend Eric Clapton, and that's just not acceptable. Even if you're not a fan of his coked-out '80s work or his melancholy material from the '90s, there's no denying his '60s and '70s contributions to Cream and Derek and the Dominos deserve a place in video game history... and they'd be a lot of fun to play through in Rock Band, too. My first Clapton pick would be Cream's "White Room," which alternates deftly between wall-of-sound and psychedelia — it may lack the classic guitar riff that makes "Layla" so memorable, but it's also considerably less played out.

Dire Straits | "Sultans of Swing"

Dire Straits did manage to put in an appearance at long last in Rock Band 3, but it was a single song... and it wasn't the right song! If you're going to pony up for a license to get Dire Straits in the game, why not go for the band's masterpiece "Sultans of Swing"? Despite its contemplative, downbeat tone and pace, the song maintains a steady energy level throughout. It never amps up into flashy riffs, nor does it drop back to offer a breather. Rather, Mark Knopfler's bluesy licks constantly trade off back and forth with his vocals, making for a song that would be quite a demanding marathon as a Rock Band piece.

The Prog Rockers

Besides the missing bands above, the Rock Band series is also woefully underrepresented when it comes to progressive rock. Oh, don't give me that look. Some of these tunes would be incredibly fun to play in Rock Band.

Asia | "The Heat of the Moment"

Asia is "prog" in name only, an arena rock group that just happened to be comprised of refugees from some of the biggest art rock bands of the '70s. Together, they recorded music that was vastly more accessible and radio-friendly than anything they'd previously created. Take "Heat of the Moment," for example, which saw guitarist Steve Howe — known for his genre-bending fretwork — opening the piece with some huge, crunchy guitar chords. Intricate? Nah. But totally perfect for Rock Band.

Can | "Spoon"

Experimental German rockers Can recorded in relative obscurity throughout the ’70s, but they left a body of work that inspired countless indie and alt artists in subsequent decades. Much of their material was entirely too challenging (or improvisational) to make for good Rock Band fare, but the radio-friendly album version of "Spoon" — a far cry from the band's spacey, 15-minute live version — would be a great fit for the game.

Genesis | "Firth of Fifth"

A bit lengthy for Rock Band, not to mention somewhat keyboard-heavy, Genesis' "Firth of Fifth" would nevertheless make for a compelling Rock Band addition. The lengthy, atmospheric guitar solo that dominates much of the latter half of the song just begs to be turned into video game tablature....

King Crimson | "Red"

Red, King Crimson's final album of the ’70s kicked off with an incredible instrumental by the same name. Intense and droning, "Red" used musical repetition to great effect, building up layers of sound that should have been impossible for a rock trio to pull off on their own. It's also a great example of what Asia bassist John Wetton could do when he wasn't aiming for a clean, radio-friendly ’80s rock sound...

Yes | "Roundabout"

And finally, AOR radio staple "Roundabout." Like "Red," "Roundabout" featured a future member of Asia — in this case guitarist Steve Howe — creating much richer (not to mention more challenging) music in a former life. While "Roundabout" does run a little long and has a few agonizingly slow passages, the intensity of the rest of the song more than makes up for it.

Those are my picks; what other essentials, or wonderfully interesting non-essentials, is Rock Band 4 missing?

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