"Whoever thought we'd end up as androids?" quipped Paul McCartney on the demonstration stage, with Ringo Starr at his side. After a pregnant pause, a few hundred hands timidly went up.
In a bizarre and thematically troubled orgy of product placement and music history, The Beatles: Rock Band, the umpteenth installment in the video game series that lets thousands of off-duty mortgage bankers pretend they're musicians, was unveiled yesterday, and surviving Beatles McCartney and Starr were on hand to usher it in, as were Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.
Every so often, there comes an event so riddled with fissures that it makes even our level heads spin like tops.
There are easy targets here, of course: Yoko Ono taking a few hours out of her life as an unfathomable conceptual artist to help Harmonix sell a few units being just one (doesn't Ms. Ono have an incomprehensible film of people's butts to screen somewhere?).
But the real disheartening image is that of Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney standing before a crowd of tech geeks, awkwardly brandishing Rock Band's fake plastic guitars.
We're as excited about Rock Band as anyone. And we're especially excited that, actually, the Beatles installment looks pretty ambitious and sincere.
But let's not mix our Rock Band with our rock band. How especially repugnant must be that uncanny chasm as McCartney gazes upon his CG self, at once looking back into a facsimile of his own past and also upon the certainty of his future, air strumming a hollow plastic toy guitar all the while.
It makes dopes and schleps out of McCartney and Starr, if only for the brief time they spent on-stage before the panel of tech geeks who looked more intently upon the huge video screen behind them, which streamed a demo of "Back in the U.S.S.R." from the game, than upon the song's original composers, who were nearly a secondary presence at the E3 demo stage.
It's bizarre, this whole thing. We love these games. But it's sad to see the real be devoured by the artifice. Like someone being murdered by their own shadow. And seeing a wizened McCartney on stage, blanched by an animated version of himself, forever frozen as a 17 year old kid playing the Cavern, didn't make us want to play the game, or listen to Revolver. It just made us sad.