Saturday 20 November 2010

MODS & ROCKERS by Gareth Brown

1964 was a year without much news. Well, there was the Alaskan earthquake; an American warship was attacked by three torpedo boats off the coast of North Vietnam; the price of beef had shot up; Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus was 'shopping' for arms and Kruschev was in the selling business of arms to Egypt.
Only one of these stories would, eventually, erupt into headline news - Vietnam.
But for most of 1964 all these stories would be squeezed aside for the home-grown war between the Mods and Rockers on the beaches of Clacton, Brighton, Margate and Hastings.
And therein lies a bit of irony.
Part of the reason that the Marlon Brando movie 'The Wild One' was banned in the U.K. was because it showed two gangs meeting up in a small American town for a fight.
Therefore, to discourage impressionable teenagers from copying this the powers that be thought it best that we did not see it.
Well, there you go.
'Mods & Rockers: The Origins and Era of a British Scene' by Gareth Brown does a pretty good job of back-tracking this very British phenomenon to the early days of Rock 'n' Roll and the Teds along with the emergence of the teenage culture.
Like the splitting of a single cell the Mods and the Rockers emerged from the Teddy Boy era.
On the whole Gareth Brown's book is an informative excursion into the background of two clashing cultures. However, the book falls into two mythological traps.
The first is the musicality of the era.
Here Gareth Brown cites R & B and the Tamla Motown sound as Mod music and pure Rock 'n' Roll to the Rockers. Music of the period was universal. Martha and The Vandella's 'Dancing In The Street' is one example that got air time in Rocker cafes.
And Rockers would stomp with gusto the The Honeycombs' 'Have I The Right'.
The Beatles, too, played Rock 'n' Roll music.
In 1963 two songwriters, John Lennon and Paul MacCartney, wrote a ballet score that was performed by the Darrell Western Theatre and Ballet Company. It was called 'Mods & Rockers - a take on Romeo and Juliet.
The other trap was that Mods and Rockers simply hated each other.
OK, so Rockers thought that Vespa's and Labretta's were a bit effeminate - hair dryers is the name that we gave them. Yet, the mods had to be admired for the work they put in on them. Mirrors, headlights and the chrome work - they personalised their scooters.
The 'hate' was engineered. Hindsight makes things clearer.
Before Clacton the press made a big deal out of the mods. Their dance moves; how clean they looked and how mods came from the middle-class and worked in offices etc. Whereas, the Rocker was dirty, greasy, lower class and all out villains - if the press were to be believed.
Of course, when everything kicked off, the press painted both sides with the same brush.
While the Rocker tradition lives on it has to be said that the Mod culture died within a year of the battles on the English beaches. Yet without them there would not have been a very British scenario and one that would change everything from attitudes and the very freedoms that we have today. Though there are times when I think that, maybe, we also got some things wrong.
For a good insight into the history of these two cultures then Gareth Brown does a pretty good job. Like The Beatles ballet this piece of English history is overlooked even by the media that created it - guilt perhaps?
The book is published by Independent Music Press at £12.99 - or at HMV for £6.


Today saw the release of the latest 'Need For Speed' game from EA Sports who have joined forces with Criterion Games (creators of the 'Burnout' series).
At first glance this marriage has produced a game that could be called 'Need For Burnout Takedown'. My first impression.
If, as I did, read what the magazines had put across, you would have got the impression that the career mode was either as a racer or a cop. This is not the case as both careers run in tandem. Have to admit that there is more fun in taking out a cop car with spikes than vice versa.
As an added bonus there is a way of competing online with your friends. One problem there is that all my friends have elected to buy 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops' also released today and not on my 'to buy' list.
So, maybe, bad timing for this game's release.
Still this game can be described with a few 'f' words like fast, furious, fun and, at times, frustrating - but only when I don't come in first.

To me the true test of a game - and a player's skill - is taking the whole experience on-line. At last, a game with a level playing field where a 65 year old Brit can beat the younger generation at their own game. Four wins out of five - not a bad score.
This game is worth it just for the on-line experience alone.

The next game in this series - 'Need For Speed: Shift 2' will be coming out in 2011.

Friday 19 November 2010

SMACKDOWN vs RAW 2011 - Update

Just an observation and not quite sure what happened.
Played a Road To Wrestlemania. On completion went back to Universe mode and found that my character was still involved in a storyline that appeared to connect back to the RTWM story.
OK, I thought, where can I take this.
With some manipulation and imagination the game's weaknesses can be used to give it strength - and the player's storylines can be acted out for real.
I don't think that the game was meant to be played that way but there you go.

Monday 15 November 2010


November 1990.
Twenty years ago.
He came from the shadows of time; from the graveyards of the mind to make an impact in the World Wrestling Federation.
He came dressed in a black coat and a black wide brimmed round crowned hat - a mortician brought from the old west into the modern world of wrestling. Slow and cautious with cold calculating eyes The Undertaker seemed impervious to pain.
Accompanied by Paul Bearer and a magic urn The Undertaker took on an imposing persona.
Over those twenty years he has possibly Tombstoned every Superstar on the rosters. Taken every belt on offer and more (with the exception of the Cruiserweight Belt, obviously).
Until a couple of years back two things had not been acheived at the Royal Rumble. Neither The Undertaker nor anyone who entered at number 30 had won the Royal Rumble.
The Undertaker drew no.30 and defeated Shawn Michaels to win that year's Royal Rumble.
And noted too for various types of matches from the early Body Bag to Buried Alive, Coffin matches, Boiler Room Brawls (remember the deranged Mankind), Concrete Crypt and the notorious Hell In A Cell.
And the classic Inferno Match with his brother Kane.
To sustain a character for twenty years is no mean feat.
To do that a character has to evolve and when I look back I am still surprised at the way that the Undertaker has evolved. Whether as heel or hero, The Undertaker, is still as fascinating to watch.
Nor has The Undertaker been truly defeated. He's been put in the coffin and buried alive and taken the 3 count - but has not rested until the perpetrator has been 'laid to rest'.
And that is a key part to the persona of the man.
Another part is the fact that The Undertaker has appeared at 18 Wrestlemanias and won on each occasion. An impressive tally.
Of course, this has not been a career without injury but each time that he has 'rested' The Undertaker has returned bigger and stronger.
Many critics say that his time as the 'American Bad Ass' biker was a mistake. Maybe, but he was still the Undertaker in human form and his transformation was like someone revealing their true character.
Today, there is a touch of the Ministry era but without the Acolytes.
Of course, over the years there have been others who have come from the Darkside like Papa Shango, Manotor, Damien DiMento, The Boogeyman and the white clad Malachi. All of these were unable to stay the course.
Over the years The Undertaker has dispatched the good, the bad and the ugly of the wrestling world. Giant Gonzales, King Kong Bundy, Bret Hart, Edge, Randy Orton - one hell of a long list of Superstars. Some like Razor Ramon just ran away rather than fight the 'Dead man' or 'The Phenom'.
Outside of the ring The Undertaker has appeared in graphic comics and a couple of novels.
I have heard that there was a poster that was designed similar to a poster for 'A Few Dollars More'. Wonder if that was why Clint posed the way he did on the cover of 'Unforgiven'? An Undertaker pose.
Such is the legacy of The Undertaker that the legend will live on long after he rests in peace.

Wednesday 10 November 2010


It is that time of year again when THQ bring out the latest edition of the long running Smackdown vs Raw games for various game consoles.
Each year the claims grow bigger and bigger - this year it is 'This is your moment'.
Right, ok.
On the positive side the graphics are better and the game play is easier - in fact, too easy.
On the other hand the career mode is now known as 'Universe' and appears to be restricted to the Unified Tag Team Championships, US and Intercontinental Championships and the World Championships. Unlike the previous games the player has to earn the right (as in the real world of WWE wrestling)to compete for those titles.
Along the way other Championships are unlocked but cannot be competed for. For a player who does not have Xbox live the only way to get around this is to make a Championship Scramble match.
Although this game has a lot going for it - it could have been a lot better.
The 'moves' content appears to be restricted with a few superstars repeating the same moves.
In fact there are a lot of moves missing - like Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka's Jumping Axe Handle - from the list.
There is no point in creating Tag Teams as the 'Universe', like the WWE policy, insists on breaking up these teams. Still you can gesture like Stone Cold Steve Austin at the 'Universe' and re-make the team.
As a game to pass the time - yes.
As a game to be taken seriously - no.
Value for money? I wish I had waited for the cheaper Platinum (half price) version.