• : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.
October 24, 2007Glenn Turner

Ah, the fade out. In the 80s, you couldn't turn your boombox tuner without running into a song that ended with the it, with the song diminishing until it was unrecognizable. In lieu of coming to a snappy conclusion, these songs would endlessly repeat themselves until they were mixed down, recreating the same action any sane listener would do: "Yes, I've heard the chorus 20 times now, that's enough, turn it off – turn it off!" Sure, the technique has its place and can be effective but, often, it's a cheap cop-out for a song that's painted itself into a corner.

So it should probably come as no surprise that the technique, big in the eighties but now eschewed by labels, has resurfaced in Guitar Hero: 80's Edition. There's a sole representative of the fade-out, the master track of Scandal's 'The Warrior', that'll endlessly reappear whenever fans playthrough the game. They'll be rocking out to the rousing guitars & Patti Smyth's earnest vocals until, almost four minutes in, they'll experience the fade-out and possibly wonder:

Aren't we supposed to be playing a live song here?

Scandal - The Warrior - Original Video

See, the big problem with the fade-out is that it's awful for live venues. I'm sure more than a few slickly-produced bands have tried to pull off live-based fade-outs, but I'm also positive that it usually ended in nothing but sadness for the ticket holders. Simply put, it's weak, and performing such a technique on stage can only reinforce the limp conclusion to the song – you can't just have the sound engineer fade out when your fans are enthusiastically engaged in your music. It sends them into a state of confusion, they're left wondering if they're hearing correctly: "Does the band still think they're in the studio? Why are they annoying the throngs of dancing souls in front of them? Why are they going out with a whimper?"

This goes for virtual performances too, especially when a retro rock star simulator like Guitar Hero: 80's Edition is concerned. And master recordings are the exception in Guitar Hero, as Harmonix usually opt for a more malleable (and cheaper) cover version of the song, but occasionally they slip in original masters, like 'The Warrior'.

And sure, if Scandal belongs anywhere, I'm sure it's on the 80's Edition since, after all, a compilation of their singles is entitled 'We are the '80's'. But why retain the studio fade out? While a fan might be disappointed at hearing a track fade out live, imagine what the musicians (or faux-musicians like myself) feel like. To be intensely immersed in the song, putting your all into a performance, only to have your enthusiasm peter away, rapidly diminishing with the song itself – it's practically demeaning, even for someone wielding a toy-like plastic guitar. The first time I played 'The Warriors' track I couldn't believe my ears, I was appalled that they expected me to keep playing these notes as the volume retracted like a frightened cat, as if it was the most normal thing in the world for a live performance.

Scandal - The Warriror - Guitar Hero Run-through

What was the point? While I understand that the master track might have been used for time and/or budgetary reasons, whatever the reason, it was terribly detracting and had me scratching my head for the rest of the game. Just what perspective did Harmonix expect us to inhabit while we were playing this game? Did they believe that we would prefer the fade out instead of a new closer? That the player wanted to hear the studio version of the song, the song they remembered?

Are we as gamers playing for the studio, or to give the fans the best experience possible? Are we playing to hear ourselves recreate the tunes we listened to over and over on the radio, or are we playing to impart new sounds on old favorites to simulated fans? If we're playing for the studio, shouldn't we be playing in the studio? And, if we're playing for the fans, shouldn't we be putting a bit more spin on the tune than just lifting our guitars to the sky?

I'm playing for the fans, and I'm playing for the stage. I could care less about whether the track is a competent cover or the master recording. After a few playthroughs I'm not relishing the song itself, but it's in-game level design. The song's skeleton, its peaks and valleys, its notation, its rhythm, its intensity and the game's cued applause that occurs when I launch star power at just the right time. And I know the fade out is poor level design, it's an unsatisfying conclusion to all that's come before it. Scandal knows that, as their live show cuts 'The Warrior' off abruptly, satisfyingly, instead of letting the chorus linger on.

Scandal - The Warriror - 2006 Live Performance

But the studio version of 'The Warrior' wasn't meant for live renditions, it was meant for radio play, for easing transitions between songs for DJs. And what's best for the studio isn't necessarily best for the stage, live or virtual, even if that's what a fan remembers, even that's what a fan wants to hear. And as titles like Guitar Hero and Rock Star become bigger budget affairs, more and more master tracks are added to the roster. And certainly, as long as the studio sessions give a good live experience, there's no problem with that. But let's not see any more master tracks used simply for the sake of familiarity, let's hear more tracks with a live influence, let's hope that the track takes advantage of the stage instead of playing in a vacuum. Let us perform for those that turned out for the band, and let's not leave them disappointed by ending their favorite songs with a fade out.

2 comments for ‘Guitar Hero: 80's Edition - Fade Out’

#1 Fiddytree Dec 23, 2007 04:06am

That's a very interesting point you brought up. I do know that Message in a Bottle, in Guitar Hero 2, was another song that would fade out but in the game itself, it has a definitive ending. I personally would agree with you because I remember being a bit confused hearing a fade out in a Guitar Hero game, but I know there are a lot of people that prefer familiarity in a song. They'd prefer the master track to a cover because most people don't like the covers. I myself would agree with you but it really isn't a huge deal to me either way

#2 Lochness Monster Nov 10, 2009 12:00am

As a collector of rare music I personally enjoy listening to the unedited masters of pop rock songs. It's a real treat hearing a song from the count-off through the cold ending when the hit version cuts all of that out through the magic of editing and fades.

As far as GH or RB goes I feel the closer they are to the original single version the better for the gamer.