’70s in 8-bit

8-bit Paul McCartney in Give My Regards To Broad Street (1985, Commodore64)

Many times I wondered what I could have possibly found in common between my two greatest passions: the ’70s and video games. They always appeared to me as two distant realities, and yet I thought that the gap between the two worlds wasn’t as big as it seemed. In the meantime, the only thing I could do was to mute the game I was playing and put some good records on.

Just some time ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube comment where a user pointed out the incredibly resemblance between an early Deep Purple’s song (April, Deep Purple, 1969) and the main theme of one of the most iconic video game of all times: The Legend of Zelda.

So I was right!

I was excited beyond imagination and I had to find out more. Many searches and gameplays later, it was clear that honorable compositors such as Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu shared with me the same passion for the ’70s hard and progressive rock music. It’s not a coincidence that these two geniuses are both Japanese; the Nipponic Islands have always had a pivotal role in the pressing of top-quality records, therefore shaping the musical tastes of Kondo and Uematsu’s generation. Moreover, some of the most famous rock masterpieces are, in fact, concept albums, with different characters and intricate plots, just as video games are thought and structured.

I find these two great musicians particularly interesting for different reasons ­­- they composed themes and soundtracks globally recognisable, and thanks to their genius every gameplay is hundreds times more immersive than any other game (except Toby Fox’s Undertale, but that’s a story for another time). Plus, their hard and prog rock influences are definitely detectable in their works. Especially Uematsu’s work, which has a clear prediligence for progressive legends such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (me too, Mr Uematsu, me too), although his biggest inspiration resides in Elton John, who brought him to be not only the amazing composer he is, but also a great self-taught pianist.

I could spend hours listing all the big and little hints of rock references throughout the entire soundtrack of Final Fantasy series composed by Uematsu, from chapter I to IX, but “Dancing Mad” (Final Fantasy VI) and “Force Your Way” (Final Fantasy VIII) are probably two of the best examples of prog rock inspired songs. These two tracks were also included in the first album by The Black Mages (band formed by Nobuo Uematsu and other two SquareEnix’s composers, Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito).

On Koji Kondo’s side, while rock nuances are less evident in his compositions, he stated multiple times that some of his main inspitations come from the ’70s rock, specifically Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (yes, once again). It is no surprise that these two bands keep comining up in this article, since they have a huge component of Hammond organs and synthetizers, and Kondo too started his music career as organist in a jazz-rock cover band.

All this research on the matter led me to realise how rock music, but more specifically progressive rock music influenced fields apparently so distant in concept and time, making my two main interests closer than I’d have ever imagined. We all have passions that pull us towards polar opposite directions, but as Kondo and Uematsu showed us, they are all just part of what we are. It is up to us to find a Link between worlds (wink).


Back to the present ­- if you’re self isolating and don’t want to go Jack Torrence crazy, stay tuned for a selection of ’70s inspired video game soundtracks and much more to come on our socials pages. Follow the links at the top of the page, stay safe and look after other people’s safety, too ^^^

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980) by Stanley Kubrick