Ever Since I Was a Young Boy, I’ve Played the Silver Ball…

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

By Anthony Montalbano

We all know video games and music go hand in hand to create and orchestrate feelings and emotions while simultaneously portraying what’s going on in-game and on the screen. Today, we’re here to talk about something a bit different but still within the realm of music and all it stands for!

To give you a pretty big hint of what we’ve got in store for you, I’m sure you’re all familiar with a little band called The Who and their song “Pinball Wizard” off their fourth studio album and rock opera, Tommy. For the unaware, Tommy was released in 1969, with a movie adaptation six years later featuring all the band members.

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out what we’re here for today. From the early days of pinball with their simple electro-mechanical displays to the LCD screens of today, music-related machines have been rockin’ the arcades for decades!

In this article, we’re solely focusing on rock and metal bands who have their own pins, although there are plenty of music-themed machines; that’s for another piece! So, in no particular order, here’s a countdown of the top five machines I’ve personally played, starting with 2020’s Guns N’ Roses by Jersey Jack Pinball. Each machine is subject to multiple editions such as limited, pro, and collectors, each featuring slightly different rule sets, artwork, and other minor differences.

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

Jersey Jack – Guns N’ Roses (2020)

Designed by Eric Meunier and Slash, Guns N’ Roses isn’t new to the pinball scene. Their first machine was produced in 1994 by Data East, in the 2020 edition by Jersey Jack. The limited edition version of this machine features tour posters on the cabinet sides and Slash’s iconic top hat center stage. It also shows other easily recognizable toys and gadgets, such as a Fender guitar headstock, Frank Ferrer Vater drumsticks, and guitar pick spinners!

Boasting a large selection of 21 songs to play during the multi-ball feature, the soundtrack includes music from four albums, Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion I, Use Your Illusion II, and Chinese Democracy. This game plays as fast as their music and is just as hectic. The LCD screen on the backboard features the band performing the following songs for whichever you choose to play!

  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
  • “Welcome to the Jungle”
  • “Paradise City”
  • “November Rain”
  • “Live and Let Die”
  • “Don’t Cry”
  • “You Could Be Mine”
  • “Civil War”
  • “COMA”
  • “Double Talkin’ Jive”
  • “Estranged”
  • “It’s So Easy”
  • “Mr. Brownstone”
  • “My Michelle”
  • “Nightrain”
  • “Out Ta Get Me”
  • “Rocket Queen”
  • “This I Love”
  • “Better”
  • “Chinese Democracy”
  • “Patience”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

Stern – Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast (2018)

Once you’re done rockin’ out with Slash and Axl Rose, head over to Iron Maiden! In this game designed by Keith Elwin, featuring Iron Maiden’s iconic mascot, Eddie, throughout, there’s a reason this game is loved by many pinball enthusiasts and metalheads, its easy rule set and beginner-friendly gameplay is an excellent choice for beginners and long-time players alike to hone their skills.

This game can be found in almost every arcade you come across and is also a great choice for those who collect machines! Playing as Eddie himself throughout the game, it’s your goal to defeat the Beast based on the mobile game of the same name. Featuring 12 songs in this Egyptian-themed table, Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast reflects Iron Maiden’s ferocity and legacy as the most influential metal band. The soundtrack for this machine includes:

  • “Aces High”
  • “2 Minutes to Midnight”
  • “The Trooper”
  • “Wasted Years”
  • “Can I Play With Madness”
  • “Number of the Beast”
  • “Run to the Hills”
  • “Powerslave”
  • “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  • “Flight of Icarus”
  • “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
  • “Fear of the Dark”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

Stern – ACϟDC (2012)

We’re going back a little in time with this one, not by much, though, enough to see technological changes between the eras of pinball. Unlike the last two machines we’ve gone over, this one doesn’t feature an LCD screen on the backglass but a dot matrix display. This is probably what you most associate with when you think of “pinball.” The hypnotizing amber-colored lights display a multitude of moving graphics.

In my opinion, this is when pinball took off with more advanced gameplay, rule sets, toys, gadgets, bumpers, and themes. With this generation of pinball, it became more important to use the backglass for information about the game and not just as a scoreboard. Not to say that prior years didn’t have this at all, but there is a definite and noticeable change between what we’re covering next vs. what we are covering now.

Designed by Steve Ritchie, this 2012 installment of ACϟDC’s already explosive legacy, each of the 12 songs featured for this ACϟDC pin comes with its own gameplay modes to achieve that sought-after multi-ball bonus or extra points. Features of this game include a “Highway to Hell” tunnel, swinging “Hells Bell,” a “TNT” detonator, and many more references to their music and the band itself! The soundtrack is as follows:

  • “Back In Black”
  • “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  • “Highway To Hell”
  • “For Those About To Rock”
  • “T.N.T”
  • “Hells Bells”
  • “Thunderstruck”
  • “Let There Be Rock”
  • “Rock ‘N’ Roll Train”
  • “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”
  • “Whole Lotta Rosie”
  • “War Machine”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

Bally – KISS (1979)/Stern (2015)

As promised, we’re covering a machine crafted during the second era of pinball of alphanumeric scorekeeping and information display. This pin is roughly a year older than the first era of flipping physical numbers as you score, electro-mechanical. Early solid state and a bit more capable and reliable than the predecessor, this display still displays simple scoring and info. It’s far less distracting than the aforementioned LCDs, so that you can focus solely on gameplay.

A simpler time in pinball history also calls for more straightforward gameplay, which isn’t a bad thing. This pin features four pop bumpers with each original member etched into the tops and a simple setup of bumpers, targets, and ramps; the machine actually features no music from the band itself. Due to its age and the technology at the time, which resembles old polyphonic ringtones of yore, the intro music is a few notes from “Rock and Roll All Night” and “Shout It Out Loud” as an outro.

KISS’s Love Gun era adorns this machine even though by the time it came out; KISS had dramatically changed looks when they opted for a more colorful garb. Not to mention the 2015 KISS pinball machine, also by Bally; this machine is based on the 1979 table with many similarities and artwork and features a large Gene Simmons head that spits the ball out of his mouth and ten tracks:

  • “Deuce”
  • “Lick it Up”
  • “Detroit Rock City”
  • “Hotter Than Hell”
  • “Shout It Out Loud”
  • “Calling Dr. Love”
  • “Rock and Roll All Night”
  • “I Love It Loud”
  • “Black Diamond”
  • “Love Gun”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons

Stern – Rush (2022)

Does Rush really need an introduction? The prog-rock legends have taken the world by storm since the late ’60s, and 50 years later, their music and reputation have finally earned them their own table. Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee provide custom vocals and sound bytes for this complex and elaborate machine. Touted as a “concert under glass,” Rush presents 16 songs and exclusive concert footage on the LCD backglass!

The Barenaked Ladies’ own Ed Robertson was a big part of this project as a creative director for the endeavor and did a fantastic job! Neil Peart, Lifeson, and Lee’s faces were emblazoned center stage, along with a time machine image and Clockwork Angels-based clock adorned Peart’s bass drum during their Time Machine Tour. This machine is an extremely busy, colorful, and hectic game to play with satisfying ramp and loop shots that coincide nicely with the choice of music that totals over two hours of music:

  • “Headlong Fight”
  • “Far Cry”
  • “One Little Victory”
  • “Working Man”
  • “2112”
  • “Tom Sawyer”
  • “The Spirit of Radio”
  • “Freewill”
  • “Cygnus X-1 (Book One: The Voyage and Book Two: Hemispheres)”
  • “The Big Money”
  • “Subdivisions”
  • “Limelight”
  • “Fly By Night”
  • “La Villa Strangiato”
  • “Bastille Day”
  • “Red Barchetta”

What are your favorite music and band-related pins or just tables in general? Pinball has come a very long way since its nearly 40-year ban in New York from the ’40s until 1976 to what we have today. So, go out and support your local arcades, have fun, and rock on!

Anthony Montalbano is a contributor for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at anthony17882001@gmail.com

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