SID-licious #2: Arkanoid

SID-licious is a series of blogs where I post Commodore 64 SID tunes every week. They'll be available for download until the next entry goes up, when I'll be pulling the previous week's files down. I'll probably have the mp3 floating around, though, so if there's some tune(s) you're reading about in a past blog and want to grab a copy, shoot me a PM.

This week's snack-sized SID song is Martin Galway's bitchin' title music for the C64 conversion of Arkanoid. It's actually got a bit of history attached to it, too: it was the first piece of published C64 music that contained samples. From the man himself:

I figured out how samples were played by hacking into someone else's code... Ok, I admit it... It was a drum synthesizer package called Digidrums, actually, so you could still say I was the first to include samples in a piece of music. [...] Never would I claim to have invented that technique, I just got it published first. In fact, I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime – which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in 'Arkanoid'.

Going back further, Galway actually stole the idea for Arkanoid's main theme... from another song he'd written himself. Galway's tune for Cobra on the Spectrum may not sound as good as the C64 offering it gave birth to, but they're obviously pretty much the same song.

[ Here's where the music was. I've probably still got the mp3 if you wanna PM me! ]

36 Comments
37 Comments
Posted by buzz_clik

SID-licious is a series of blogs where I post Commodore 64 SID tunes every week. They'll be available for download until the next entry goes up, when I'll be pulling the previous week's files down. I'll probably have the mp3 floating around, though, so if there's some tune(s) you're reading about in a past blog and want to grab a copy, shoot me a PM.

This week's snack-sized SID song is Martin Galway's bitchin' title music for the C64 conversion of Arkanoid. It's actually got a bit of history attached to it, too: it was the first piece of published C64 music that contained samples. From the man himself:

I figured out how samples were played by hacking into someone else's code... Ok, I admit it... It was a drum synthesizer package called Digidrums, actually, so you could still say I was the first to include samples in a piece of music. [...] Never would I claim to have invented that technique, I just got it published first. In fact, I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime – which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in 'Arkanoid'.

Going back further, Galway actually stole the idea for Arkanoid's main theme... from another song he'd written himself. Galway's tune for Cobra on the Spectrum may not sound as good as the C64 offering it gave birth to, but they're obviously pretty much the same song.

[ Here's where the music was. I've probably still got the mp3 if you wanna PM me! ]

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Posted by Napalm

That font is old as fuck. I had that shit installed on my old-ass computer from eight or nine years ago. I didn't know it dated back this far.

Posted by Getz

Holy shit! This is amazing. It blows modern chip-tune music out of the water.

Posted by Mento

It's odd. I played all these games you're covering on the Atari ST, so it appears I got a better visual experience at the expense of a weaker soundtrack. Then again, I'm not too familiar with most game music composers, so maybe Atari employed some good ones too.
 
Weird to think they threw out these great tunes when porting these games to the 16-bit system, and replaced them with less memorable ones made with the better technology.

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Posted by buzz_clik

@Mento: I'm only really any sort of expert on Commodore 64 stuff, although I know a lot of C64 music legends went on to create music for platforms such as (among others) Amiga, NES, Mega Drive, SNES and yep, Atari ST. I'm specifically thinking of Tim Follin and Rob Hubbard, although I'm pretty sure there are a bunch more.

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Posted by kalmis

Oh I remember this. Used to play tons of this C64 Arkanoid back in the day. Strangely haven't managed to get the same experience in any platform since that. Maybe Shatter comes closest gameplay wise. The song itself is not my personal favourite Galway track, the ending gets bit funny for me. Still, iconic song. Keep this coming mate.

Posted by buzz_clik

@kalmis: Yeah, I'm winding up into the more epic songs as I go; Galway's Wizball soundtrack and his mind-bending title tune for Parallax are definitely in the cue.

Probably the most interesting version of Arkanoid I own is the DS version, if only for the paddle peripheral that comes with it.

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Posted by WhatKateDoes

Nice post :) 
 
for the record the 16-bit ST had quite an inferior sound solution compared to the C64, producing quite a metallic, cold sound, cleaner - but it still produced some nice tunes and some great composers.  By contrast the Commodore Amiga had technically superior sound via the use of 4 channels of PCM playback, but kneecapped @ 8-bit sample resolution, similarly producing less warm sounds, better suited to the developing dance/trance music genre of the era... but also creating a genre all of its own - the DemoScene music genre :) 
 
If you want a good comparison of these three giants at work: 
 
From the genius that is Tim Follin - Ghoulsnghosts: 
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ha6HeyI2BI ST
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBnJA9QhijA C64 
  
Unfortunately the same tune is not replicated on the Amiga:  
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3jrCkq69rs but the music is *still* great :)

Posted by Mordi

Nice to see someone spreading the SID-love.

Posted by ZombiePie

So this means that you are slowly but surely working up to making a re-mix of the Parallax intro theme right?

Because that intro music lasted for OVER TEN MINUTES!

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Posted by TwoLines

Christ, that tune is fucking amazing.

Posted by Mento
@WhatKateDoes: That is surprising. For some reason, the way I've always had it - probably from back in the day where every other ST or Amiga magazine article tried to prove its superiority to the other system - is that the ST had the Amiga on sound and the Amiga had the better graphics. Those comparisons certainly say different though.
 
Damn if that Amiga soundtrack isn't a little too atmospheric and serious for Ghosts and Goblins though. I'm not saying it isn't fantastic; it's just kind of weird compared to how goofy fun the original Capcom music is. How somber can you possibly make a game about a knight that jumps around in his underpants?
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Posted by Xpgamer7

Aw man I have to play this in audiosurf.

Posted by Phished0ne

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! 
 
always loved this tune and the the theme to Mail Order Monsters.

Posted by buzz_clik
@WhatKateDoes: Yeah, apart from Fred Gray's Mutants (which I kicked this series off with) Tim Follin's Ghouls 'n' Ghosts soundtrack is my favourite on the C64. The intricate and organic sounds Follin could squeeze out of three channels of SID has never ceased to dazzle me, even after decades of listening to them over and over. Dude is the Rick Wakeman of the C64. Only, y'know... better. 
 
No idea if you've ever heard it, but Binster's remix of Follin's level 4 GnG music is amazing. Oh, and your comment was so great that it's garnering you a Follower and some hot lime-flavoured Quest action. 
 
@ZombiePie said:

So this means that you are slowly but surely working up to making a re-mix of the Parallax intro theme right?

Because that intro music lasted for OVER TEN MINUTES!

Sir, I will be posting the Parallax opening tune in its entirety. Strap it on.
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Posted by ZombiePie

@buzz_clik: See if you find as many of the Ocean Loader intro tunes. There are a ton of them and they are all great.

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Posted by buzz_clik
@ZombiePie: Yeah, got 'em all. I'm an Ocean Loader 2 kinda boy, myself - love that tempo change at the 45 second mark. That said, although I never owned any games that used it, Peter Clarke's Ocean Loader 3 (AKA Ocean Dries Up) is a pretty good one and has a cheeky twinkle in its eye during the intro.
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Posted by buzz_clik
@Mordi: I'm trying to remember which demo your avatar is from and it's killing me.
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Posted by Mordi
Posted by buzz_clik
@Mordi: Ah, so it is! Thanks, it was bugging the hell out of me. Awesome music in that one, too.
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Posted by Mordi
Posted by kalmis

@buzz_clik: Actually there was no such controls for the C64. Not sure why is it so hard to play that kind of game again. At least for me. That DS paddle controller looks sweet. Shame that I don't have DS Lite.

Posted by Von
@ZombiePie said:

So this means that you are slowly but surely working up to making a re-mix of the Parallax intro theme right?

Because that intro music lasted for OVER TEN MINUTES!

There's a lot of remixes of that song right here, and for those interested the actual SID file is downloadable too separately.
Posted by buzz_clik

@kalmis said:

...there was no such controls for the C64.

Actually, the C64 did have paddles, with Arkanoid being one of the few titles having the option to use them. If memory serves, though, it made the player's bat quiver in a very distracting and unsettling way. For me, though, the classic C64 title that used paddles was Commodore's own Lemans. Man, I could zone out and play one game of that for ages. It was like my Geometry Wars as a kid.

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Posted by kalmis

@buzz_clik: Interesting, didn't know C64 had paddles as well. Must have not been a big deal in the Europe. Tac-2 was good enough for Arkanoid back then. I remember Lemans as well. It was a really good and simple game. Back then the day-night cycle was impressing.

Edited by buzz_clik

@kalmis said:

I remember Lemans as well. It was a really good and simple game. Back then the day-night cycle was impressing.

Yep, your car's headlights switching on and the silhouettes of the oncoming traffic looked so cool! As you say, a simple game (your mission: don't crash) but it had loads of cool features, great controls and perfectly-pitched gameplay.

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Posted by WhatKateDoes
@Mento said:
@WhatKateDoes: That is surprising. For some reason, the way I've always had it - probably from back in the day where every other ST or Amiga magazine article tried to prove its superiority to the other system - is that the ST had the Amiga on sound and the Amiga had the better graphics. Those comparisons certainly say different though.  Damn if that Amiga soundtrack isn't a little too atmospheric and serious for Ghosts and Goblins though. I'm not saying it isn't fantastic; it's just kind of weird compared to how goofy fun the original Capcom music is. How somber can you possibly make a game about a knight that jumps around in his underpants?
I think that came from the fact that the ST had midi-ports, and was therefore popular with musicians... what a shame too that there wasnt a cheap midi-module solution back then (a la early PC roland/ad-lib hardware) as the ST would have totally owned game soundtrack/audio.  As it was tho it was outfitted with the same chip prevalent in the Spectrum 128, and whilst it could play Amiga-style audio, it was at a heavy CPU cost, whereas the Amiga did it with its eyes closed.  To my ears though that audio was still very harsh and metallic (8-bit sample resolution and the fact that 4 channels was just not quite enough lol)  For me, the C64's more natural analogue synthesis was a warmer more rounded sound.  2 things would have rendered the C64's sound beyond legend... more channels... or a DSP to add reverb/echo etc.  I blogged my own fave 10 C64 tunes recently and stated a wish that some clever manafacturer had invented a cartridge you could plug in to do just that lol 
 
Here's what might have been with Ghouls'n'Ghosts! : http://www.whatkatedoes.co.uk/Ghouls_n_Ghosts7.mp3  
Posted by takua108

Has anyone ever rapped over this, or mashed it up with a rap song? It seems like they should have by now.

Posted by SeriouslyNow

@WhatKateDoes: A music fan after my own heart. I've remixed Maniacs of Noise' Hawkeye Theme and a few other classics including Head over Heels. SID2MIDI ftw. About the closest PC to what you talked about re: the ST and a WT synth module in one would be the Konami MSX based Panasonic FS-A1GT with the SCC module installed. There's also some dudes who a couple of years ago did everything you discussed for the C64 in software, including making it possible for the machine to output stereo! This was some new kind of tracker they made and even released at some point but its name escapes me entirely.

Posted by Rowr

Everything about this is awesome.

Posted by amomjc

That tune is awesome, haha.

Posted by Maleverus

Ah, good stuff. Brings back memories. Damn I wish there was a way to grab an RSS for a Giant Bomb user's blog, as I'd love to follow SID-licious closely.

Posted by MikkaQ

I love these old c64, amiga and atari ST soundtracks, there's a great sound to 'em. Also all the weird hacker groups and demo scene dudes made some pretty sweet songs.

Edited by buzz_clik

@XII_Sniper said:

Also all the weird hacker groups and demo scene dudes made some pretty sweet songs.

Yeah, I've always intended to do a couple of specials here and there, devoted to rounding up some favourite tunes from demos. Watch this space!

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Posted by MikkaQ

@buzz_clik said:

@XII_Sniper said:

Also all the weird hacker groups and demo scene dudes made some pretty sweet songs.

Yeah, I've always intended to do a couple of specials here and there, devoted to rounding up some favourite tunes from demos. Watch this space!

Sweet, I remember doing a whole section on them for a highschool presentation on software piracy 4 years ago, it blew their minds. Dubmood is a personal favorite.

Posted by Gnubberen

The Commodore 64 just had some sweet sweet tunes... I think my personal favorite would have to be the main menu music from The Great Giana Sisters.

Posted by buzz_clik

@FlemmingM: Yeah, I'm definitely going to include some Chris Hülsbeck tunes during this blogging project. The soundtrack for Great Giana Sisters brings back so many memories for me every time I listen to it; my personal favourite is that stirring dungeon theme.

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