One of the most popular video games of recent years, without a doubt, would have to be the Guitar Hero series. Considering the huge crossover potential between rock music and video games it is only a surprise that it has taken this long – with games in the series now devoted to bands such as Metallica, Van Halen and Aerosmith, and a very real likelihood that others will be immortalised in the same way very soon. However, it is important to remember that there were guitar heroes long before these bands, and this game, etched themselves on to our consciousness.
It is often said that the first real guitar hero was the troubled bluesman Robert Johnson. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil in order to be an accomplished guitarist. Although he played along with the story, it is believed that this was purely a joke on his part – in actual fact, he was a prodigiously gifted guitarist with a fine teacher. His influence is still felt today as it has been throughout the decades since his premature death in 1938. There are echoes of his playing in more recent guitar heroes such as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and a great many others.
One of the most seismic changes in the history of popular music was the move from acoustic to electric guitars. Perhaps most famously encapsulated by Bob Dylan’s decision to “go electric”, this has radically changed the kind of sounds you can get from a guitar. There are many folk musicians who, to this day, feel that Dylan crossed an unacceptable line that day.