It’s a week of breakthrough tracks: Each of this week’s three DLC songs marked the first time that a great punk-inspired band got a taste of mainstream success.
The Clash — “Train in Vain”
One of everybody’s favorite Clash songs, this may have been the first “bonus track” in history — before CDs were even invented. The London Calling album was all ready to go before a last-minute, late-night session produced this track, sung by lead guitarist Mick Jones. One problem: The covers and labels for the album had already been printed up, so they stuck the song at the end of side four, with nothing to say it was there or what it was called. Most people thought it was called “Stand By Me”, and the soul/Motown sound was so faithful that many assumed it was a cover version of some long-lost ‘60s song. Since the tune was catchy as hell and not at all political, a lot of timid radio programmers had no excuse but to finally put the Clash on the air.
Blondie — “Hanging On the Telephone”
If “Train in Vain” was one of the great album-closers, here’s one of the great openers. Blondie’s third album, Parallel Lines was designed to break the band big and succeeded: Part of the strategy was to put this catchy rocker out as the first single, score a modest hit, then save “Heart of Glass” and “One Way Or Another” for the knockout. “Telephone” was actually a cover, written and first done by the LA pop band the Nerves; whose own version was only a cult-level indie single; it took Blondie’s Debbie Harry to make it truly sexy and fun. Play this on hard drums and you’ll realize why Clem Burke was always Blondie’s secret weapon; his fills and bass kicks simply don’t let up. (Trivia note: That’s an English telephone that opens this song, not an American one).
Sonic Youth — “Kool Thing”
It got people talking in 1990 when Sonic Youth, a band that defined indie-dom, took a major label deal with Geffen Records. And they wound up changing Geffen more than it changed them: One of their contributions was to help convince Geffen it might want to sign another weird underground band called Nirvana. The only single from their first Geffen album, “Kool Thing” wasn’t the first catchy tune in SY’s catalogue, but it was their sharpest mix to date of catchy tune, vivid production and subversive intent. How many bands could satirize the sexism of rap music and get one of rap’s major figures, Chuck D of Public Enemy to help with it? Staying true to the original, we’ve made sure that the drum part is ridiculously complex.
“I Want My, I Want My DLC!”
The songs in Rock Band are only the beginning. Each week we’ll be rolling out more downloadable songs, essential tracks (and sometimes whole albums) from every era of rock history. Check the Rock Band website to find out what’s new.
Tracks will usually sell for $1.99 each; with three-pack specials costing $5.49. (On the Xbox 360, that’s 160 Microsoft Points per track and 440 per three-pack). Occasional special or discounted tracks may cost a dollar more or less.
Downloadable content for the Xbox 360 is available through the XBOX LIVE marketplace. Downloads for the PLAYSTATION 3 version of Rock Band are available through the PLAYSTATION Network Store. In each case, the songs are downloaded onto your hard drive.
If you’re playing solo, you can start rocking right away. For head-to-head or multi-player online, all players will need to download the song.