Back in the mid to late 80’s I was quite active in the Commodore 64 demo scene, as Knatter of XAKK. That ended in 1990 when I got an Amiga and ventured into a period of game development.
I still like to keep track on what goes on with the old C64. There is a quite active demo scene, mostly consisting of men in their 40s and early 50s, hellbent on pushing the 8 bit boundaries even further.
Once in a while something really impressive is released, like this fresh new demo from Bonzai, called the Phoenix Code. Recorded on a real C64. Everything is great with it. The overall design and graphics, the coding and of course the music, oh the music.
Something called the Unepic Stoned High SID Collection has been recording over 50000 tunes made on the Commodore 64. Since I was very much a part of that scene from the mid 80s to early 90s, naturally all my tunes are included. I made a playlist with all of them for your chiptune enjoyment. I put what I consider to be my best tunes from back then at the top of the list.
As some may or may not know I was pretty deeply involved in the so called Commodore 64 scene from around 1986 to 1990. I was the co-founder and musician/graphics guy of a Swedish demo and cracking group called XAKK. Rob Hubbard was one of my major inspirations for my music back then. Here is my personal top ten list of the best pieces of C64 music created by the one true SID-god, Rob Hubbard.
Edit: Actually there are 11 entries on the list since I originally forgot to include one of the best Hubbard tunes – Zoids.
11. Thing on a spring
This was one of the first games I played on the Commy. Even though the tune by Hubbard isn’t as good as the other ones in this list, it still holds a lot of sentimental value to me.
10. One man and his droid
This is another amazing high energy piece by Hubbard that makes you want to dance. It builds and builds with different variations on the same theme. There are some really crazy arpeggios in there.
9. International Karate
The game was great and I played it a lot back when it was released. The slow title tune by Hubbard borrows quite a lot from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Forbidden Colours” from the movie “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”.
Another one of the classics. The melody is almost melancholic. It has a really cool break with hypnotic noisy beats and a haunting melody. I played the game a bit when it was released. It was pretty decent for a budget game.
Another game that I never really played. The tune by Hubbard is a slow piece with hints of sadness and almost despair in some parts. Note how the melody always goes down, down. Masterly programmed.
6. The last V8
A simple and catchy melody. I like the way the background sounds melt together with the chords. It’s a tune that makes me happy. The game was easily forgotten but the music still holds to this day.
The game itself was a pretty standard vertical shooter but the music.. Atmospheric and epic. One of most toned down tunes from Hubbard. Still gives me the chills listening to it now, almost 30 years later.
4. Sanxion (Loader)
I remember I was totally blown away when I heard this piece of music for the first time. The intro was so unusual – building up for something, and then BAM, a complex bassline and an almost oriental sounding lead. A very avant garde game tune at the time.
This track is actually based on “Ancestors” from the Synergy album Audion. I remember I bought the LP back in 86 or 87 and instantly recognized it. So Hubbard borrowed quite o lot at the time.. Still this is one of his best, powerful but with lots of feels, especially around the 2.00 mark. That melody gets me every time.
One of the best demonstrations of the, for the time, complex sounds that Rob Hubbard could squeeze out of the SID-chip. There are so many things happening in this track. I like how the melody and the arpeggio chords always match perfectly together, and how he throws in all these effect sounds here and there and still manages to keep everything working as a whole.
Delta is still considered by many to be one of the top five games ever released on the Commodore 64. Developed by Finish programmer Stavros Fasoulas, it had this killer title tune by Rob Hubbard. After so many years, this one still gets me all misty eyed. Such a simple but effective melody. Still the number one C64 tune for me.
So that was my top 10 list of the best Rob Hubbard tunes ever created. If you are interested in the music I created on the C64 in the 80s you can listen to it here.
If you missed the exhibition you can catch it again and again since it’s a travelling exhibition. Next up will be in Vilnius, Lithuania and the National gallery of art, the branch of the Lithuanian art museum, between Oct 10 and Nov 9, 2014.