Below is a celebration of three songs that find their inspiration in unusual places and focus on alternative forms of gaming.
It is impossible to start anywhere other than one of The Who’s most famous tracks, ‘Pinball Wizard’. The song refers to, you’ve guessed it, pinball, and slots seamlessly into the band’s 1969 rock opera, Tommy. In order to provide respite from Tommy’s weighty spiritual themes, Pete Townshend decided to pen a song about the unlikely topic of pinball.
Bumpers, buzzes and bells all receive a shout-out in Townshend ode to the opera’s titular protagonist, written from the perspective of a local pinball legend. Townshend may not look back on it as his tightest piece of lyricism, while the song didn’t necessarily push the opera forward. Yet the song’s melody and distinct flair certainly helped to push the band forward in their career, quickly becoming a fan favourite.
Warren Zevon – Seminole Bingo
Bingo has rarely been at the forefront of rockers’ minds when it comes to writing their next song. ‘Seminole Bingo’ stands out as an exception and opens up Zevon’s ninth studio album, 1995’s Mutineer. The picture painted by Zevon in ‘Seminole Bingo’ is far removed from the bingo halls that most people associate with the game. It’s even further removed from online bingo, which allows players to enjoy the action from their home.
If you play bingo games at Lucky Pants Bingo, you don’t have to worry about being “down in the swamp with the gators and flamingos”. That is the world that Zevon’s bingo hall inhabits. Despite the narrator’s “Wall Street wiles”, he finds that bingo is a real leveller of a game. One of rock’s great storytellers, Zevon was able to find as much depth in bingo as the likes of Springsteen and Rogers found in casino games.
This one needs little elaboration. Seminal American punk band Bad Religion released their seventeenth studio album, Age of Unreason, earlier this year to the usual critical acclaim. With a career of such longevity, you’d forgive the band’s permanent singer Greg Graffin for forgetting tracks from the band’s deep catalogue.
One track that anyone would struggle to forget is ‘Frogger’, a 79-second lo-fi ripper recorded in the early 80s. Graffin bemoans how he’s “playing Frogger” with his life, a supposed reference to negotiating the LA traffic. Given that Bad Religion are renowned for their scathing political commentaries and verbose lyrics, ‘Frogger’ can’t help but stand out.
It is surprising that video games are not widely explored in more modern rock songs, given their prominence in society. Even board games have been given more focus as a theme, such as in Urge Overkill’s ‘Monopoly’. Perhaps in ten years, we'll have a string of rock bands releasing anthems based on Pokemon GO and Red Dead Redemption.