Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Shaky Game

If you bought the cassette version of Shakin' Stevens’s 1983 album The Bop Won’t Stop (I didn't, by the way) you might have wondered what those strange sounds were at the end of the recording. The blips and beeps represented code for a game which could be loaded on to a ZX Spectrum 48K. It was called the Shaky Game. Basically you had to drive Shakin' Stevens’s car to the centre of a maze where you would find his ole house. In the process you had to avoid being bitten by bats. Heck, I’ll let the Welsh Elvis explain it all himself, here. Love the way he says “compuder”.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Over the past eighteen months Gideon Koppel’s beautifully shot documentary film, Sleep Furiously, has been delighting audiences across the land with its meditative portrayal of life in rural Trefeurig. The small concerns of everyday living set against the majesty and permanence of the landscape proved absolutely compelling. It’s an elegy for a passing way of life, of course, but ultimately a celebration of ordinary humanity, too. And it has got a great soundtrack.

In light of this I’m quite curious about a programme Koppel made for S4C back in 1994, entitled Ernest (see pic). It was, apparently, a docu-drama about Welsh psychoanalyst Ernest Jones – chum of Sigmund Freud and his chief propagandist. Richard Lynch starred as Jones and Philip Madoc as Freud. It was shot in b/w; had a Welsh-language narrative; and the drama was intercut with archive footage. The programme lasted an hour.

In creating his characters Koppel drew upon Jones’s autobiographical writings, as well as his correspondence with Freud. He also employed psychoanalytic techniques within the drama itself. At the time Koppel said of the programme: “I am intrigued by the idea of a Welshman becoming a leading light of psychoanalysis at a time when it was the exclusive preserve of Eastern European jews.” Koppel also wanted his programme to be given subtitles and shown to a wider audience.

Sounds like my cup of entertainment. It’d be cool if S4C repeated Ernest at some point or even made it available to view online.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alan Jenkins and Broken Arrow

Alan Jenkins, from Bridgend, was an early member of the Neil Young Appreciation Society. In 1984 he took over as editor of the society's floundering magazine, Broken Arrow. He would remain at the helm for the next 17 years (Issues 16 - 82), turning it into one of the best music fanzines around, enjoyed by a worldwide readership.

Jenkins became a fan of Neil Young in 1972 after hearing After the Goldrush. He then went out and bought every Neil Young record he could lay his hands on. As well as concert bootlegs, posters, tour t-shirts etc. The modest terraced house he shared with his wife in Bridgend became a shrine to the man. Even his cat, Zuma, was named after an album by guess who?

Not that one copy of a Neil Young disc was ever enough for Alan. "I must have had about 15 copies of Deja Vu," he said, "because the French version came out on a white sleeve, the Israeli one with a single sleeve with a rare photo on the back, and the Czechoslovakian version came in a completely different sleeve again!"

You can understand why Jenkins was soon acknowledged as one of the world's leading authorities on Young. For many magazine editors and radio DJs seeking info on the cult Canadian singer, he was their first port of call. Highlights of his Broken Arrow tenure included an interview with Young himself; and having the NYAS address printed in sleevenotes on his idol's albums Freedom and Arc.

Sadly, in 2001 Jenkins gave up his editorship of Broken Arrow and the whole Neil Young thing as it was all getting a bit much for him. He had been suffering health problems and decided to make a totally clean break. These days he prefers to concentrate on his other great musical love, opera.

*Neil Young and Broken Arrow: On a Journey Through the Past (see pic), is a collection of Broken Arrow articles compiled by Alan Jenkins. The book also includes a discography, set lists, and a list of cover versions. Published in 1994, only 2,000 copies were ever printed and it has now become a much sought after item of Young memorabilia.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christian Slater in Tenby

It’s Christian Slater sitting on a wall in Tenby in 1997. The Hollywood actor was taking time out from filming entirely forgettable costume drama, Basil, based on a Wilkie Collins novel. Over the years Slater has acquired something of a reputation for hell-raising. He has criminal convictions for drink driving, assault, and attempting to board a commercial plane with a gun in his luggage. One wonders what he made of Tenby’s colourful nightlife.

Julie Roberts

This is a painting of Jean Cocteau on his deathbed. The artist is Julie Roberts who is originally from Fflint. She studied at Wrexham School of Art, St Martin’s, and Glasgow School of Art. Her distinctive work is always worth keeping an eye out for. I can recall some interesting wallpaper she designed featuring sculptress Barbara Hepworth, for instance. She also sketched Jack the Ripper’s mutilated victims using original police photos as her starting point. Her successful exhibition, Child, consisted of an unsettling collection of drawings and paintings of children under duress. It was influenced, in part, by her own experiences growing up in children’s homes and foster care. Her works can be found in galleries everywhere from Washington DC to the Tate.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Taking the Mickey

In 1993 former Wrexham and Wales footballing enfant terrible, Mickey Thomas, was given an 18 month jail term for his role in a money forging scam. Instead of setting a good example to youngsters “the Pied Piper of football” was busy supplying them with counterfeit banknotes. Football apprentices being the chief recipients. At the time of his arrest spoof tenners began circulating in north Wales. They showed Mickey Thomas’s face superimposed over that of the queen (see pic). Don’t know about you but, given a choice, I know whose mug I’d prefer to see on my money.

Obsolete Nirvana Tickets

When Kurt Cobain blew his own brains out on April 5, 1994, he left his Welsh fans on the horns of a dilemma. Should they ask for a refund (£12) on their tickets for Nirvana's forthcoming show at the Cardiff International Arena (scheduled for May 9), or keep them as macabre souvenirs? Many people chose the latter option (see pic), viewing their now useless tickets as pop cultural memento mori. Nirvana's UK tour had already been postponed once after Cobain had gone into a coma triggered by an overdose of champagne and rohypnol in Rome. Welsh fans, however, were optimistic that he'd get his shit together before May 9. Unfortunately that optimism proved to be entirely misplaced.

Monday, March 07, 2011

John Lennon's Welsh Sketch

This sketch entitled His Beerness Keith (A Welsh) was drawn by an 17 year-old (ish) John Lennon in 1957. At the time Lennon was living with his aunt Mimi at 251 Menlove Avenue, Liverpool. Lennon’s aunt used to take in lodgers, one of whom was Keith Capron, a veterinary student from Wales who was studying at Liverpool University. He is the beer-bellied subject of Lennon's drawing. Capron would spend three years lodging with the family with whom he became very friendly. Lennon was an art student at the time but was also in the process of becoming a musician. John, Paul, George and Pete Best used to practice at the house. Although he got on well with Lennon, Capron wasn’t especially fond of the incipient Beatles: “I used to shout at them to stop playing while I was trying to work,” he said. The house is now owned by the National Trust and Keith Capron’s recollections form part of the audio commentary for visitors. After gaining his degree Capron returned to Wales and set up a veterinary practice in Pontypridd.