The Sega CD is a fascinating piece of hardware. A CD addon for the Genesis, it added full motion video and other assorted features. I got a second hand Sega CD off a classmate back in freshman year of High School. I was bored in class and was looking at Sega CDs on eBay, and my friend offered his for $15. I couldn’t pass it up at that price.
It came with the pack-in title Tomcat Alley as well as the abysmal Double Switch, a Night Trap-esque game by Digital Pictures starring the late Corey Haim, Blondie’s Deborah Harry, and R. Lee Ermey. It honestly isn’t that great, and can be beaten easily in an hour. Trust me, go watch this longplay of the game instead, it’s better than wasting time trying to figure out the game’s plot while trapping random criminals.
I wonder if these actors thought they were doing something amazing or were just there for a paycheck.
While I was perusing for some other Sega CD games to buy, I had stumbled upon this little gem, and it’s not even a game: Rock Paintings, a CD+G sampler featuring a multitude of Warner Bros. Records artists — Chris Isaak, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Information Society and Little Feat.
While it’s advertised as a Sega CD product, any console that supports CD+G — from the Philips CD-i to Sega’s successor CD console the Saturn — can play this. Hell, if you got a karaoke machine lying around, it’ll probably play this disc too.
I thought this was simply just a silly little CD compilation, but it’s so much more.
CD+G is a short-lived media format used to show graphics on your television while listening to music CDs. The concept was that you’d hook up a CD+G enabled device into your television set, insert any supported CD+G disc, then listen to the music with video playing in the background.
The only record label that bothered to care about the technology was Warner Bros. Records, as a gamut of their offerings from 1989-1992 feature the CD+G tech. However, it was not popular enough, so it got shelved in the early ’90s. While the original purpose for CD+G died, the system would later be used for karaoke machines. Though the CD+G used in those isn’t 100% compatible with the traditional CD+G in most cases, which is a shame.
The Rock Paintings sampler features two tracks from each artist above, with embedded CD+G tracks for each, plus a blank audio track for disc information. For the most part, they were little more than just tacky screensavers. For example, the samples they used for Information Society being somewhat informative and goofy (as seen above), while Jimi Hendrix’s Smash Hits brought us this wonderful gem:
Rock Paintings also came with a second, non-CD+G disc titled Hot Hits, which featured a sampling of other artists on the Warner label. Most of them are a bunch of unknowns I hadn’t heard of — The Wolfgang Press, Saigon Kick, Throwing Muses — while the rest are artists with minor hits but bizarre track choices. For example, They Might Be Giants, one of my favorite bands is featured on the compilation. They used “Mammal” from Apollo 18. Of all the songs from that album they could’ve chose, they chose the worst track of the bunch. I guess executives wouldn’t have appreciated a compilation having a song titled “The Statue Got Me High.”
While doing my brief research for this article, I found out there is actually a site dedicated to chronicling all the CD+G media ever released. It’s called The CD+G Museum, and it’s worth a look into the weird history that was CD+G technology. They even catalog the CD+G graphics themselves on a YouTube channel, so you can experience the tracks for yourself. It’s great someone is cataloging this obscure piece of tech history
Now I wanna find those CD+G versions of some of these albums, just for kicks. Though, I definitely want Hendrix’s Smash Hits so I can Experience Hendrix the way it was meant to be: on a Sega CD in mono audio.
Updated on 7/21/2019 for grammatical changes and updated links.