Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Week 2 Recap (Days 10-16)

Another busy week online for #RPGaDAY, though I'm expecting it to quieten down for a bit while everyone goes to the gaming event of the year - GenCon.

Meanwhile, I'm still home and posting videos. Here's a recap of days 10-16...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Week 1 (Questions 1-9)

We're already on Day 9 of #RPGaDAY 2017, and I've been absolutely blown away by the response. So many people all over the world posting, chatting, and discovering games new and old. It's been amazing. Thank you everyone.

Rather than bombard you all with multiple posts various things, I thought I'd just do a few recap posts so you can see any of the daily video responses you may have missed.

It's not too late to get involved, feel free to jump in at any time. Just go to this post to find the graphics, the list of questions as text, and the questions in different languages.


So, without further ado, here's the first nine videos I've posted for #RPGaDAY 2017.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


It's August, and #RPGaDAY is underway. There seems to be a lot more people involved this year, with my Facebook and Twitter feeds filled with the cool gold infographic that Will Brooks kindly designed for us again this year.

#RPGaDAY was, as I mentioned before, a reaction to some of the negativity that was going around online when it came to our hobby, and gaming in general. Inspired by BookaDayUK, it hopes to get people talking about tabletop gaming in a positive way.

But there was another ulterior motive behind me starting this. It wasn't a conscious one at the time, but it must have been in the back of my head when I started putting plans into action. I wasn't busy besides the day job in retail, and subconsciously my mind was desperately searching for distraction.

2017 marks the fourth year that #RPGaDAY has dominated my head in August. Today, the 3rd of August, also marks the fifth anniversary of losing my mother. It seems to be the way I deal with things like that. When my dad died in 2003, it was just a week after I signed a contract with Eden Studios to write four 100k+ word books for Conspiracy X 2.0. He had been very ill for a while, and proud of my writing. I don't thing he read any of it (after all, it was boring roleplaying rules) but it didn't stop him taking a copy of them with him to show various relatives, or showing my books off when there were visitors at home. I think the last few things I told him, was that I was going to be writing some books for a company in New York, and that Debs and I had gotten engaged. I dealt with his passing by immersing myself in writing, aliens and conspiracies, seldom coming up for air. The real world just hurt a little too much.

Me, my mum and dad, at my graduation in 1995
When mum died, five years ago, there was the initial busy-ness of sorting the house and moving my remaining belonging out of my childhood home. When it was sold, there was a strange double sense of loss. Not only had I lost my mother, but the house I grew up in had gone.

The idea of #RPGaDAY spreading a little love around the world, getting people talking and communicating in a positive way seemed to be a great plan. I didn't consciously think "Oh this is a great distraction," but somewhere subconsciously I think my brain welcomed the rush of activity. And while I don't think my parents would have understood half of what I was doing, they'd have been glad to see that I was encouraging people to talk in a positive way with each other.

So, in essence, this post is a thank you. Thank you everyone who has taken part in #RPGaDAY in the past, and this year. Thank you for filling my head with tales of adventure and excitement. Fantastic quests and daring escapes. Reminding me of a time when I gamed with my old group in that childhood home (I think my parents really liked that I was playing D&D rather than becoming a drunk layabout).

Thank you for spreading the word of how much fun our hobby can be, and how we can make friends through gaming that can last a lifetime.

And thank you for taking my mind off of the real world for a little while, just when I need it.

Above all, thank you. Keep writing those blog posts, recording those videos, and sharing the fun. It means a lot to me.

Stay multi-classy.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Announcing #RPGaDAY, again!

A few years ago I felt there was a negative undercurrent in our hobby. Sorry to say that, but I felt it was there, and inspired by one of those "aDay" things for bibliophiles I thought that I could try to get the world talking about tabletop RPGs in a positive and encouraging way. I know, it's sappy and you probably think I'm being ridiculous, but it's all positive and it's a bit of fun - just trying to get people talking in a good way about tabletop gaming. After all, it's a great hobby that gets us talking in person, socially, without staring at a screen. It stimulates the imagination, forms bonds and friendships that can last a lifetime, and gets you thinking outside of the box.

So, I came up with a list of 31 questions for August (GenCon month, seeing as I couldn't go and I wanted to feel involved in some way), and the internet joined in. Well, a few did, anyway. All over the world, from America to Australia, from Brazil to Berlin, people were joining in the conversation, hashtagging everything #RPGaDAY so you could see what people were saying on the various social media.

If nothing else, it got people blogging and vlogging.

The following year, I thought I'd run it again with new questions. I also managed to get cool people from the gaming industry to join in on my daily videos, and it was great.

Last year, I was a little busy. I thought about not doing it, but Anthony Boyd and the RPGBrigade stepped in and said they'd run the event for the month. It gave them some publicity (which is great, as their BrigadeCon raises money for charity) and the few posts I did do that month reached a lot further than I could alone.

So this year, while I'm not massively busy, I thought I'd let Anthony and the RPGBrigade run things again. Hopefully I'll join in as much as possible.

I recorded some video footage to join with Anthony's to announce this month's event.

You can download the infographic, brilliantly designed again by Will Brooks, from the images below... (click the images to embiggen them!!)

There's also a high definition if you it find easier to read -

More information can be found at the CastingShadowsBlog here. and check out the Facebook page here.



For a plain text version if you'd prefer, here are the questions for August:

1st) What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?
2nd) What is an RPG you would like to see published?
3rd) How do you find out about new RPGs?
4th) Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?
5th) Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
6th) You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!
7th) What was your most impactful RPG session?
8th) What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?
9th) What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?
10th) Where do you go for RPG reviews?
11th) Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?
12th) Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?
13th) Describe a game experience that changed how you play.
14th) Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?
15th) Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?
16th) Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?
17th) Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?
18th) Which RPG have you played the most in your life?
19th) Which RPG features the best writing?
20th) What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?
21st) Which RPG does the most with the least words?
22nd) Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?
23rd) Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
24th) Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
25th) What is the best way to thank your GM?
26th) Which RPG provides the most useful resources?
27th) What are your essential tools for good gaming?
28th) What film or series is the most-frequent source of quotes in your group?
29th) What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?
30th) What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

31st) What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

Here are the questions in French, with thanks to Sébastien ‘Nolinquisitor‘ Allard:
1) Quel JDR en circulation désiriez-vous jouer en ce moment?
2) Quel JDR aimeriez-vous voir publié?
3) De quelle façon découvrez-vous de nouveaux jeux de rôle?
4) Quel JDR avez-vous joué le plus depuis août 2016?
5) Quel JDR capture le mieux l’esprit du jeu?
6) Vous pouvez jouer tous les jours, pendant une semaine. Décrivez ce que vous faites!
7) Quelle a été la session ayant eue le plus grand impact?
8) Quel JDR est bon pour des sessions de 2 heures ou moins?
9) Quel JDR est bon pour environ 10 sessions?
10) Où allez-vous pour vos critiques de JDR?
11) Quel “jeu mort” voudriez-vous voir renaître?
12) Quel JDR possède les plus inspirantes illustrations intérieures?
13) Décrivez une expérience de jeu qui a changée votre façon de jouer.
14) Quel est votre JDR préféré pour les campagnes ouvertes et sans-fin.
15) Quel JDR aimez-vous le plus adapter et modifier?
16) Quel JDR aimez-vous utiliser tel quel?
17) Quel JDR possédez-vous depuis le plus longtemps mais que vous n’avez pas jouer?
18) Quel JDR avez vous jouer le plus dans votre vie?
19) Quel JDR présente la plus belle écriture?
20) Quelle est la meilleure source pour trouver des JDRs épuisés?
21) Quel JDR accomplit le plus avec le moins de mots?
22) Quel JDR vous est le plus facile à faire jouer?
23) Quel JDR a la mise en page la plus renversante?
24) Partagez un éditeur de “Pay What You Want” qui devrait charger plus.
25) Quelle est la meilleure façon de remercier son MJ?
26) Quel JDR offre les meilleurs ressources?
27) Quels sont vos outils essentiels pour faire une bonne partie?
28) Quel film ou série est la plus grande source de citations pour votre groupe?
29) Quel a été la campagne de financement participatif la mieux dirigée que vous avez appuyée?
30) Quel mixage de genres aimeriez-vous voir en JDR?
31) Qu’est-ce que vous anticipez le plus pour 2018?

Here are the questions in German, thanks to Michael Jaegers (click the link).

For the questions in Portuguese, click here for the list thanks to Felipe Holzmann.

Roberto Micheri  has kindly translated the questions in to Spanish (below):

Preguntas para un Juego de Rol al Día 

Agosto 1: ¿Cuál juego de rol ya publicado desearía jugar en la actualidad?

Agosto 2: ¿Cuál sería un juego de rol que le gustaría ver publicado? 
Agosto 3: ¿Cómo se entera de nuevos juegos de rol? 
Agosto 4: ¿Cuál es el juego de rol que más ha jugado desde agosto 2016?
Agosto 5: ¿Cuál portada de un juego de rol captura mejor el espíritu del juego?
Agosto 6: Puede jugar todos los días por una semana. ¡Describa lo que haría!
Agosto 7: ¿Cuál fue la sesión más impactante de un juego rol?
Agosto 8: ¿Cuál es un buen juego de rol para una sesión de 2 horas o menos?
Agosto 9: ¿Cuál es un buen juego para jugar aproximadamente 10 sesiones?
Agosto 10: ¿Donde va para reseñas de juegos de rol?
Agosto 11: ¿Cuál juego “muerto” le gustaría ver resucitado?
Agosto 12: ¿Cuál juego de rol tiene el arte interior más inspirador?
Agosto 13: Describa una experiencia en un juego de rol que cambió como juega.
Agosto 14: ¿Cuál juego de rol prefiere para una campaña sin un final definido?
Agosto 15: ¿Cuál juego de rol disfruta más modificar?
Agosto 16: ¿Cuál juego de rol disfruta tal como está escrito?
Agosto 17: ¿Cuál juego de rol ha tenido por más tiempo sin haberlo jugado?
Agosto 18: ¿Cuál juego de rol ha jugado más en su vida?
Agosto 19: ¿Cuál juego esta mejor escrito?
Agosto 20: ¿Cuál es la mejor fuente de juegos que se encuentran fuera de publicación?
Agosto 21: ¿Cuál juego de rol hace más con las menos palabras?
Agosto 22: ¿Cuáles juegos de rol son más fáciles de correr para usted?
Agosto 23: ¿Cuál libro de juego de rol tiene la diagramación más impresionante?
Agosto 24: Comparta una casa publicadora que ofrece sus productos al precio que el cliente desee pagar, pero que debería cobrar más.
Agosto 25: ¿Cuál es la mejor forma para agradecer al GM o director del juego?
Agosto 26: ¿Cuál juego de rol provee los recursos más útiles?
Agosto 27: ¿Cuáles son sus herramientas esenciales para un buen juego?
Agosto 28: ¿Cuál película o serie es la más citada en su grupo de juego?
Agosto 29: ¿Cuál ha sido la campaña de mecenazgo mejor dirigida que ha apoyado?
Agosto 30: ¿Qué combinación de géneros de juegos de rol más le gustaría ver?
Agosto 31: ¿Que anticipa mas para los juegos en el 2018?

(Hope that helps!!)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Change, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon...

Announcing the 13th Doctor - Jodie Whittaker
It was only to be expected - an albeit brief post about Doctor Who. Today, they revealed the new face of the Doctor, the 13th (or is it 15th?) incarnation, in the form of Jodie Whittaker. All I can say is - AWESOME!

I haven't been this excited about the future of Doctor Who since I was sat in the BBC offices with Dominic McDowall-Thomas (head of Cubicle 7) and we were given the scripts for Series 5 (Matt Smith's first series) to read in preparation of the new edition of the RPG, Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (as it was then - now it's just Doctor Who The Roleplaying Game). We weren't allowed to take the scripts out of the room, but we were allowed to make notes, and I remember reading "The Eleventh Hour" thinking "This is going to be brilliant".

I remember we knew we weren't going to get through all the scripts in one day, so we split the pile randomly. I still have my notes somewhere. I remember one particular line, I was so disappointed they cut from the episode "The Beast Below" where Amy asks the Doctor what it must be like in his head. His reply was simply - "A rollercoaster of geniuses, all going Wheeeeee!!!" (or something like that - I have it written down somewhere in that notebook).

I loved Matt Smith as the Doctor, and while I thought the stories weren't as strong as his tenure gave way to Peter Capaldi, this last series (series 10, or season 36 if you're being like that) has been bloomin' brilliant. Bill (Pearl Mackie) has been a great companion, and even Nardole (Matt Lucas) has surprised me with how good he's been.

That said, Doctor Who is all about change, and the brilliant casting of Jodie Whittaker (who was great in Broadchurch, and that really haunting episode of Black Mirror - "The Entire History of You") is certainly a great change in its fifty-plus years.

I'm really excited to see what they do with her Doctor - new TARDIS? What will the companions be like? Chris Chibnall has stated it's going to be a new approach, and I'm very intrigued!

I, for one, will definitely be watching.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Next time, Indiana Jones, it will take more than children to save you...

I'd been thinking about writing a blog post about Indiana Jones for a little while now, and today being the date of the release of the original movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, waaaaay back on the 12th June 1981, it felt like today was a good day to do it.

I have very vivid memories of seeing Raiders for the first time. I was 13, and I remember my grandparents were up in Yorkshire visiting from their home in East London. They came to stay for a week, and the first weekend they were up they sent "the kids" off to the cinema to see Clash of the Titans on its last week of its run. The trip went well, and we enjoyed the film loads. So the end of their visit, at the end of the week, they sent us off to the cinema again to see a new film that I knew nothing about called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was from the makers of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind so it was bound to be good, and it had Han Solo in it. What's not to love?

This will probably have been the Friday 31st July 1981, opening weekend in the UK. It was a bit of a shock to me as, after Star Wars, I mostly watched science fiction or fantasy stuff, so I wasn't really expecting a traditional action adventure. Needless to say, it was ace, but I do remember being a little freaked out by the more horrific elements - the impaling of Satipo, the gross crypt of skeletons, and, of course, the melty nazis. I was only 13, and wasn't really a horror watcher, and the image of Toht's face melting off like a candle would remain in my unconscious for many years.

But it was great. Not a clean cut, perfect hero. He was bruised, tired, and a little quick to leap into foolishly dangerous situations. I bought the book (which was something I had a habit of doing - after all, you couldn't rewatch the video so you bought the book and reread the movie), and the comic adaptation. When my parents bought our first VHS recorder, Raiders was one of the first movies to come out at a price that was affordable to buy - £20 if I remember rightly. I bought it straight away after many weeks of saving up pocket money for it.

And that first time on VHS... when I put the cassette in and the first thing you saw was the red line going over the map, telling you where they were filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom... awesome.

Strangely, despite being criticised for being more violent and darker than Raiders, I actually loved Temple of Doom more. Possibly thanks to its relentless pace and crazy action scenes (the mine-cart sequence is still brilliant, as is the final bridge scene). I was such a fan of Temple of Doom that I asked to buy the VHS of it when it came out to rent. Our local rental store agreed to sell me a new one at cost (£55 if I remember correctly) which I paid for in weekly instalments before its release.

Heck, Temple of Doom is one of the only reasons I passed my English at school - part of the exam was to do an oral element, reading aloud from a book. I picked the section from the novel of Temple of Doom with the bug filled corridor ("We... are going... to DIE!!") and it went down far better than my previous attempts.


You know where this is leading don't you? Yes. My obsession with licensed RPGs. The same year as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984, TSR released the Adventures of Indiana Jones roleplaying game. I loved TSR - Star Frontiers was the first RPG I purchased. The prospect of playing daring adventurers punching nazis around the world sounded awesome, and I managed to pick up the game from my not-so-local game store (hidden above a picture framing shop an hour's bus ride away).

The Adventures of Indiana Jones boxed set - (1984)
Yes, this is still the same one I bought way back then. Scuffed, and loved.
The game came in a boxed set, with a rulebook, Judge's Screen (Gamemasters were called Judges), character sheets for the main characters, dice, and 3D cutout "minis", as well as a map of the world, the reverse of which doubled as a square grid for the minis.

The Judge's Screen (a bit marked by sellotape), the main rulebook, and the slide-rule that helped
calculate the results of your roll.

The minis were a bit of a gimmick, as I really didn't use minis for any of my gaming, but I had a bit of a laugh trying to put them together (rather badly, using tape and UHU). Most of them, though not the more complex pieces like the truck and jeep, have survived the years in storage in a cake tin.

The Indiana Jones minis: Sallah, Willie and Indy face off against a Nazi (tm), Mola Ram and Toht.
In the foreground is a tent, and a rather square motorcycle-sidecar.

We played a few games, but the biggest frustration was the lack of character creation rules. The game expected you to play as the main cast of the first two movies, with some secondary characters in the mix like Jock the pilot.

I guess this may be where my RPG writing first started. Equipped with a typewriter, film magazines they gave away at the cinema, a pair of scissors and a glue-stick, I set to creating a supplement for my own use that was mostly character creation.

My character creation rules from 1984 - do excuse the bad pun.
I even discovered if you laid out the character sheet using graph paper, and letraset, when you photocopied it at the local library the squares didn't come out. This way, you could create character sheets that had straight lines, and looked fairly neat.

Handmade character sheets, and the master sheet, along with gun stats.
The character was Bragi's character, Joan Wilder, based on the character from
the movie Romancing the Stone (1984).
Of course, a year later the Judge's Survival Pack came out and rectified the lack of character creation rules, bringing in the official way to create new heroes for your adventures. But the Judge's Survival Pack had a couple of even more essential elements - the random ruins tables and charts, and the endless chase flowchart. The chase charts in Indiana Jones were brilliant, and only surpassed by the James Bond chase system (which I think I used the Indy flowcharts for to help with the scenery).

The Judge's Survival Pack, and the epic chase flowcharts! (1985)

Along with the Judge's Survival Pack, they released six adventures. The first two were the obvious Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The adventures for The Adventures of Indiana Jones

The remaining four were considerably thinner and shorter - The Crystal Death, The Golden Goddess, Nepal Nightmare and The Fourth Nail. The Golden Goddess and some elements of the last two adventures featured the "Magic Viewer" system which obscured the text - the whole of the text in the case of the Golden Goddess adventure (designed for solo play) - unless you held a small piece of red plastic over it to clear the red mess.

The inside of "The Golden Goddess" showing off how the pages looked without the Magic Viewer!

The actual adventures for IJ3-IJ6 were based upon the Marvel Comics "The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones", so players who had read the comics kinda knew what was coming.

However, it didn't last, and besides a set of metal minis (which I didn't get - never been much of a minis person) that was all for TSR's Indiana Jones RPG. Of course, the game has gone on to be immortalised. Legend has it when the license expired, all unsold copies were destroyed and employees at TSR had some of the burnt cardstock minis encased in perspex. Only part of the name survived in the perspex, and it became the trophy for the coveted "Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming".

Indiana Jones would return to the tabletop ten years later, in 1994 with West End Games' "The World of Indiana Jones". I really wish I'd picked it up, even though the Masterbook system that powered it wasn't something I'd tried, and it was West End Games (who produced two of my favourite games ever - Ghostbusters and Star Wars). However, I'd moved city, was in the middle of my degree, and the only game I was playing involved brooding vampires, and reality shifting mages.


With the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull released in 2008, I was half expecting someone to take another crack at the whip of Indiana Jones roleplaying. Alas... nothing. But with Lucasfilm being taken over by Disney, and them doing such a fantastic job of breathing life into Star Wars - pleasing fans old and new - you have to wonder, with a new Indiana Jones movie scheduled for 2020, will someone try again to bring Indy back to the gaming table?

Monday, May 22, 2017

It is happening again...

As the 80s turned into the 90s I became obsessed. My first experience of the genius of David Lynch came with Dune, adapted from a book I hadn't read. I loved science fiction, so checked out anything remotely SF, and the movie of Dune was a visual masterpiece. My friends in the old D&D group pointed out the differences between the movie and the book, but while I didn't *get* bits of it, I still loved it.

Off of the back of that, and when most (but not all) of my gamer friends had gone off to university, I rented Blue Velvet. Hell, I rented just about everything from the local video store. I had time to kill. But Blue Velvet was a complete mind-frell. Hey, it had Paul Atreides in it, so it should be good. Oh, it's the same director as Dune. Cool...

After that, I was a bit obsessed. I checked out David Lynch's other works, and being late to the party it wasn't long before I discovered a VHS tape called Twin Peaks at the video store. A "made for TV" movie.

I remember watching it with one of the guys from the D&D group. It was weird, intriguing, and had a strangely sinister feel that was very reminiscent of Blue Velvet. But, what would be known as the International Pilot, wrapped everything up with Laura Palmer's killer, and had a weird epilogue dream sequence that provoked "huh?"s. This was before the internet, so I knew nothing else of it. It was a strangely mesmerising little video that captured my imagination, and I thought it was over.

My parents used to buy the TV guides (remember the days that you bought the Radio Times for BBC listings, and the TVTimes for ITV and Channel 4?) and every week we used to go through the four channels and highlight the programmes we were interested in. One fateful week in 1990 I picked up the Radio Times and found that cover...

(I think I still have that issue somewhere in the loft) ->

That little "made for TV" movie was actually a TV series. There was a diagram in the magazine to introduce the characters for this new soap opera that had taken America by storm. I was ready for it. I bought a pile of blank VHS tapes, and every week on Tuesday nights I would sit there, tuned to BBC2, with that agonising wait through the last ten minutes of Alan Bennett's monologues that seemed to last ten hours. Fingers poised over the record button on the VHS machine to record the latest episode.

(Yes, I still have the VHS tapes of those recordings).

I was quickly obsessed. I wore my Agent Cooper trenchcoat all the time outside the house. I bought a dictaphone. I bought the books, the soundtrack, and rewatched the series on tape.

At art college one of the big projects was to create something to explain something to a newcomer. Whether this was "how to fold a paper plane" or "how to bake a pie", I decided to explain Twin Peaks - taking that initial, simple diagram from the Radio Times and incorporating every character into a massive flow diagram / relationship map. I passed, but I don't think it really explained anything...

When Twin Peaks ended, I was a bit lost. That cliffhanger...

I filled the hole in my entertainment life with The X-Files. It shared a lot of sensibilities. FBI agents investigating the weird, mentions of Project Bluebook, and it had the guy who played Denise Bryson in it.

I never thought I'd see more Twin Peaks, or ever discover the aftermath of that cliffhanger...

Who'd have though it?

Twenty-six years later, I've just watched the first two parts of Twin Peaks season 3 (or Twin Peaks: The Return as it's sometimes called). The first two parts, being the first two hours - shown as one feature length episode. Thanks to Sky Atlantic, they're showing it at 2am in the UK, the same moment the States gets to experience the wonderful and strange.

No, we didn't watch it live - we recorded it and watched it at 9am this morning, with a large box of donuts, and hot beverages - just as Twin Peaks is intended.

I had that moment just before we watched it, and I said to Debs, "What if it's rubbish? I've waited over 25 years for this, what if it's no good?"

In my head I had worked out what I wanted from a Twin Peaks revival.

1) A new murder case. Things should start with a murder case, just like the original Twin Peaks, and the FBI (and Gordon Cole's strange division) should get called in to investigate. That way you can start afresh, and resurrect elements of the original series as necessary to tie things up.

2) Lots of new characters, with a sprinkling of the originals.

3) Some Black Lodge stuff, so we can resolve some of the cliffhanger from season 2.

That was about all I'd hoped for really. And thankfully, all of those boxes were ticked.

Needless to say (and I'm keeping this spoiler free for those of you who are going to watch it on Tuesday night on the normal primetime broadcast slot - ah, 9pm on a Tuesday, it's just like 1990 again) I loved it. Every confounding, uncomfortable, sinister, hilarious, bizarre and mindblowing second of it.

I'm already itching to rewatch it. I'm worried that Debs is going to witness another strangely obsessive phase for me where I sit and stare at the glass for hours watching for something to happen...

Probably not the last post you'll see from me about Twin Peaks in the coming weeks...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Live and In Stereo

This blog post is about audio tapes. I know it's a strange topic to pick, as I've not really discussed music here before, but it's mostly inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy and its "Awesome Mix". With the release of the second movie just a few days away, what better time to talk about Awesome Mixes, mix tapes and cassettes in general.

A few of my old tapes (yeah, very Goth) and my wife's old Walkman (that still works - mine died long ago)

This was also partly inspired by both my lovely wife deciding to sort out part of the spare room for her projects and stumbling across our boxes of audio tapes (and a couple of old personal stereos), and also by watching Th1rteen R3asons Why on Netflix - a series that stunned, shocked and left me in an emotional puddle on the floor. Before you complain and say "doesn't that glamorise suicide?" I'll stop you there and say I don't think it does. It's horrible, traumatic, but is getting people talking, and that's a good thing.

Anyway, this post isn't about Th1rteen R3asons Why. I may come to that in a later post.

This post is about audio tapes. Remember those? I do. Yes, I'm old. Audio tapes for me had double the use as not only where they a great way to record music, and even voice recordings, but they also held data for my old, trusty ZX Spectrum. Nothing quite like the old days of waiting thirty minutes for your game to load from the screeching sound of data transfer.

But Guardians of the Galaxy really made tapes popular again. Maybe the combination of that and Th1rteen R3asons will bring a new renaissance of tapes, just as vinyl is now the go-to media for real audiophiles?

Guardians of the Galaxy's Awesome Mix (vol 1) is the tape that Peter Quill's mother gives him before he is abducted from Earth. They're tunes his mother loves that she has selected for him, and so have an emotional resonance as well as being great choices of music.

At my day job, we decided to take this one step further. While I can't get my parents to make an Awesome Mix for me anymore, we decided we'd each try to create our own Awesome Mix. The rules were simple:

1) Select 12 songs that have an emotional meaning for you - remind you of your childhood, your parents/guardians/friends/family.
2) The first 11 must be songs that you listened to before you started buying your own music.
3) No duplicate artists.
4) Compile them into a list - an Awesome Mix - think carefully of the running order.
5) The final song on your Awesome Mix should be the first single you ever bought for yourself, not bought for you.
(That last rule is one I added, not everyone at my day job has stuck to that one)

There you go! Your very own Awesome Mix (vol 1).

So, without further ado, I present my own Awesome Mix for your audio enjoyment.

1) Jive Talkin' - The Bee Gees
May 1975 - RSO Records

My dad was a huge Bee Gees fan. He seemed to play them constantly in the house and in the car. Our old house had a "front room" which was only really for when the weather was good, but it was where dad had set up the record player and during the summer the big bay windows would open onto the tiny street outside and the Bee Gees would fill the air (probably to the annoyance of our neighbours).

2) The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Feb 1977 - Warner Bros

I remember my sister saying to my dad, "Have you listened to Fleetwood Mac? They sound a bit like the Bee Gees and it's the music from Formula One?" My dad used to watch a lot of motor sport (hell, he used to watch a lot of sport), and I think this was my sister's way of getting him away from listening to the Bee Gees constantly. Thankfully, it worked. The Chain is still a work of genius (and it's no surprise that it appears on the official Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Awesome Mix).

3) Nightflight to Venus - Boney M
July 1978 - Atlantic

My dad used to play the drums. Not professionally, but he was in the "work band" at the hospital where he worked as a nurse. I knew he played the keyboards a little, but I didn't realise his musical background until we found his piano qualifications from the London Academy of Music when we were clearing my parent's house.

Anyway, being a drummer, he loved this. Probably because it owes a lot to one of his favourite singles, "Dance with the Devil" by Cosy Powell.

So that gets an honourable mention, but isn't on my Awesome Mix.

I do have a distinct memory of going to a "do" that was being held at the hospital where he was working. A Christmas do or something like that. I can't remember. I just remember it being in a big hall, with a stage for a band, and dad letting me sit behind the drum kit - but I wasn't allowed to touch them. Last thing they needed was an out-of-tempo racket ruining their evening. It was so cool. Shame I can't drum very well (if my playing Rock Band is anything to go by).

4) Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town - Kenny Rogers
1969, Reprise Records

My mum had a bit of a liking of country music. Well, both of them did really. I remember them videoing the Country Music Awards every year so they could rewatch the good bits - not that I remember them actually watching the tapes. I remember my mum liked Kenny Rogers, and for some reason this one always stuck in my mind. While I preferred "The Gambler" myself, this one stuck in my head for the bit about taking his gun and shooting her. Even as a youngster that sounded shocking.

5) Do You Wanna Dance? - Barry Blue
1973, Bell Records

You're probably thinking "WHO?" In 1973, this guy had a few hits including Dancin' on a Saturday Night, and this one. It was very glam, very over the top. Dad had the album - I remember it had a weird label in the middle of the vinyl that looked odd when it was going around. I can't remember much more than that, but after researching this Awesome Mix I've had this song stuck in my head for two days...

6) (I Lost My Heart to a) Starship Trooper - Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip
1978, Ariola Hansa

I was so obsessed with Star Wars when it came out, that I have a distinct memory of going to a department store with my parents and my dad deciding to buy a record. One of those compilation albums (long before the "NOW" series ever started). He picked out a few, and couldn't decide which one to go for and asked me to have a look. I knew a few of the tracks on them thanks to listening to the Top 40 on a Sunday evening, but Starship Trooper stood out as it was kinda sci-fi. So the album with that on it became the album of choice. This leads to the next one...

7) Denis - Blondie
1978, Chrysalis 

We put the aforementioned album on when we got home, and the first track on side 1 was "Denis" by Blondie. I can't remember what the second track was, but I remember my dad said that I'd picked the one with lots of punk on it, but he didn't mind the first one as his name was Denis, even spelled that way. And I would grow to be quite a fan of Blondie.

8) The Ballroom Blitz - The Sweet
1973, RCA

Not inspired by my parents' music choices this time. This one's thanks to my childhood friend from school who I'll just call Jinx incase he doesn't want to be named. Jinx was his nickname, though I don't think he liked it much. Jinx started with the whole "buying records" before me, and I remember going 'round to his house and him putting this on. I think his music tastes, and him buying singles, is what inspired me with my first music purchase, but that's a way off yet... Good choice of single, Jinx.

9) Misty Blue - Dorothy Moore
1975, Malaco

Not my usual music choice, but this one brings back fond memories of my dad. For some reason, he really wanted to listen to it, but he didn't know if he had it. Of course, I didn't know who sang it, dad proceeded to sing a bit of it for me, and I set to looking through all of his vinyl, every track on every compilation album looking for it for him. I don't think he had it in the end, but I know he always loved that song.

10) Tiger Feet - Mud
Jan 1974, RAK

Mum, however, liked her music a bit more up-tempo. While she couldn't dance due to her disability, she loved anything with a good beat that she could bop around to - and Tiger Feet by Mud was one of her favourites.

11) Summer Night City - ABBA
Sept 1978, Epic

As for choosing my own music, I do have a distinct memory of listening to ABBA (This was before I had my own music to choose from). My parents had a really cool "Best of ABBA" album (Greatest Hits Vol 2) and I remember listening to this on my folks' stereo in that front room. That was before I bought my own first single and everything changed.

12) Eighth Day - Hazel O'Connor
1980, A&M

Before this, I'd had a few records of my own that had been bought for me. I had a couple of singles (ELO, the Theme from Monkey, etc.) and a few albums (mostly Bond themes, Star Wars and War of the Worlds), but the first single I remember going out and buying for myself, with my own pocket money, is Eighth Day by Hazel O'Connor. Probably inspired by Jinx (who had Breaking Glass as an album if I remember correctly) and that music video that looked like Tron before Tron even happened (though I don't think I've ever seen the movie Breaking Glass)... It was epic, sci-fi, and unlike anything I'd ever heard before.


There you go. My Awesome Mix (Vol 1).

What would yours be? And what rules should constitute a Volume 2?

Until then, listen to music, dance, watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, and enjoy.