Yes! It's still going strong - the column they tried to ban. Okay, let's face it, this column is absolute drivel and always has been - The only people who don't hate it are my mum and Jim. Well, the good news is that next month, for reasons which have to remain under wraps for this month, this column will be seen to improve greatly, but the bad news is that this issue I'm not going to make any attempt to write about games, because I fancy a change- Instead, I'm writing the biggest pile of self-indulgence you'll ever read- I'm going to tell you about the last time I saw my favourite band - the Manic Street Preachers- If you want to read on, please do. If you don't, who cares? I still get paid.
Fact number 1: There is more, much more to life than video games. Whenever I'm asked if I worry about kids playing games for eight hours a day, I say I don't give a monkey's. If you play for that long you're sad and neither I, nor anyone, can help you. Pick up a life on your way out. Many journos have tried to elevate games to some kind of art form, saying things like: "I am proud to be an Amiga owner." These people are sad. Why? Video games are just entertainment, great entertainment admittedly, but still entertainment. They may be causing record sales to drop, but they will never be the new rock and roil, because: a) they don't mean anything and b) you can't jump up and down and get all sweaty to Sonic the Hedgehog. Well, you can, but you'll get your head kicked in
for being sad, which leads me to... Fact number 2: Music is life. Well, just about. Everybody wants to be a rock star, even speccy saddos like myself who have to wear a crap red jacket in order to get on the telly. We've all played on our tennis rackets, we've all sang into the shampoo bottle in the shower, and when we've realised we'll never be rock stars, we join in adoration of those who are. You could take every game that's ever been released and bury them in a hole in the ground and I wouldn't bat an eyelid, but if you nicked any of my Manic Street Preachers CDs, I'd go round your house and kick your pets. The happiest moments of my life have been at gigs, especially those of the Manics variety.
Take their recent bash at Southend Cliffs Pavilion. I'd spent the day writing the GamesMaster Annual (which will be out this September in all good bookshops and will be a corking great read, full of behind the scenes facts and verbal meanderings from yours truly). Unfortunately I'd reached a bit of a standstill, as I was writing a chapter on GamesMaster Live! at the Birmingham NEC, and I was having difficulty remembering exactly what happened apart from the night Jim Douglas and I went to a really sad Indian restaurant. (See issue 2 for a full report). So, I'm a bit down, a touch frustrated and watching the minutes tick by until I can go to the gig.
Eventually it's time, so I catch the train down to lovely, laughing Leigh-on-Sea, where I'm staying the night with my mate Richard Eastor's (and his lovely partner Louise's) seaside semi. [snip wibble about Richard Eastor being someone to do with Steve Wright - like, hip]
Anyway, we all go off and have a 'swift one' at a nearby hostelry and head off to succulent Southsea. The Cliffs Pavilion is a strange place, with posters advertising Des O'Connor and Vince Hill all over the place. Things do not look good. Added to this is the fact that we're not sure what's happening after the gig, because when I phoned up the Manics' management they'd said, "we're not sure what's happening after the gig." Which means that either they're not sure what's happening after the gig or they are sure, but they don't want me there! We've shared a beer with the Manics a few times now, but it's always difficult in these situations as to whether they think you're a good bloke, or a bit of a saddo. However, when we go in we see Martin Hall, the manager bloke, who
dishes out spangly orange 'backstage passes' which mean we turn to each other and say things like: "I knew we'd get passes all along, didn't you?" Before we lie to each other any more, the lights dim, the guitar crashes in with the opening of Sleepflower and we're off.
I tend not to go to the front of gigs, because I figure it's a young man's game now and my knees can't take the strain of some over-exuberant youth leaping off his mate's shoulders using my TV -
friendly face as a landing pad. Tonight, I thought, to hell with it, let's join the sweaty mass, I could do with losing a few pounds. So, I'm right in there, jumping away beside a group of Smash Hits readers who I was exchanging pleasantries with when... disaster strikes!
You see, being a speccy four-eyes is a major downer when it comes to gigs, and small, round Armani glasses are not made for jumping up and down in the midst of a sweaty throng. In fact, it's a pretty strong possibility that £200 worth of spectacles are going to part company with your face at great speed. Which they did, about half way through the set, at a near vertical trajectory. It gets worse.
I suffer from Velma Disease, you know. This means that, just like the four eyed chick in Scooby Doo, if I lose my glasses I become completely blind! So, I'm crawling around on the floor, with three million 16 year olds jumping on my hack, as I try to find this tiny pair of glasses. It is as near to hell as I'll experience, and added to this, it look completely uncool. Then, incredibly, I feel them in my hands; I grab them just as a big pair of Kickers come crashing onto the ground, hut they're back, safe on my face once more (the glasses, not the Kickers boom, boom!), and I let the band know they can carry on with the gig. The only problem is, I'm so paranoid about losing my specs again that I spend the rest of the set jumping up and down with one hand holding my glasses on. Not big or clever.
The gig ends and I feel great. All my worries and cares have evaporated, because I'm funny that way, so we all make our way to the stage door, proudly flaunt our spangly orange backstage passes to the bloke on the door, and saunter into the dressing room to chat to the four most important people in rock history. Nick (bass player) is still wearing the dress he wore for the gig, a rather attractive floral number with fine floral print; James (singer/lead guitar) is walking around looking dead hard actually; Richie (rhythm guitar) is surrounded by adoring fans of the female persuasion, so I wedge myself in beside Sean (drummer/top bloke) who asks what my gaming recommendations are just now.
The Manics used to be famous Sega players. Now James hates them; Nicky is allegedly the best PGA 2 player in the world; and Sean (having got a Super NES on my recommendation) has just about every console game ever. And his mum's got every Game Gear game, er, ever. Dave (keyboards/producer) is seeing his mum and dad, who watched the gig, but he's still dead hard as well, alright?
Anyway, after a while we all jump into the bus and head back to their hotel. Richie disappears in an enigmatic fashion. I don't know where 'Nicky plus dress' got to, but Dave and Sean head to the bar with us, and James joins later. A free piece of advice, never go back to a hotel with a band you really respect. You're usually already a hit squiffy, but you feel you'll be a hit of a girl's blouse if you stop drinking. So, you drink even more than usual, get blind drunk, pretend you're really cool at playing the fruit machine even when you can no longer get the 'skill stop' right, start talking about things you've already spoken about half an hour before, then insist on hugging everyone (including the hotel porters), drive back to laughing Leighton on-Sea and throw up
in your mate Richard Eastor’s bathroom, then pretend that you didn't, that the reason you were in there for three days was because you had a gippy turn after the 17 vindaloos you had for breakfast that day. Or so I'm told.
Anyway, sad and self-indulgent as this is, it is more what life is about than playing Streetfighter 2, six months after it's unhip to do so. And that is especially relevant to the ginger-haired kid who whipped my ass at a shop opening in Inverness recently. Buy some Manics records, go to some gigs and stop embarrassing me.