This is going to sound really
sad, but I can honestly say that working on Zzap! 64 - alongside Rignall,
Penn and, later, Brennan - were the happiest of my working life. When I joined
the mag we were kings of the C64 market. PR people used to fall over themselves
to get product in the pages, and I really enjoyed the attention we used to
get at events and shows.
The first time you see your own written copy (not to mention a stupid drawing of you) in a mag is just amazing. Like being on TV, but in some ways even better (you don't have to look good in the morning to work on a mag).
I was also really happy doing what I was doing: playing games and reviewing them. And, more importantly, playing the latest games before anyone else! When I became deputy editor it was even better - I got to do all the good stuff (features, reviews, trips) without any of the proper 'editor' nonsense that's bogged me down ever since (commissioning, payments, deadlines, production, staff problems).
In the 14-odd months I worked at Newsfield, I had a great time and shall never forget it (my thanks must go therefore to Gary Penn and Roger Kean who took me on). I doubt whether I'll ever be able to recapture the very particular experience of working in that office, with that eclectic group of people and at that time in the C64's life. It was organised chaos, the office politics were often maddening, and we worked far longer hours than we ever got paid for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ahh, the good old days...
NEWSFIELD: My first full-time
job and also the first time I'd lived away from home (admittedly at a B&B
that also included dinner - which was very, very typically: faggots, mash,
peas and gravy followed by something with custard). My arrival meant that
there were now four people in the Art Department producing Crash and Zzap!
A few months later the art department consisted of only Mark(ie) Kendrick
and myself. The sudden exodus, I believe, was due to some fall-out from Graeme
Kidd and Gary Penn's departure and not to any poor hygiene standards on my
part. Mark(ie) and I would start work at 8am and sometimes wouldn't finish
until 2am the next day. We did this for a couple of months before finally
recruiting Mel and Yvonne. We would lay out pages using a metal ruler, a surgeon's
scalpel, a setsquare and lots of hot wax. No we did, honest. This was before
Macs, you see. A double page spread, from start to finish at full ("quick,
the van's coming to pick these pages up!") speed would take us less than 20
minutes. Full speed usually meant the loss of a section of fingernail to a
hastily drawn scalpel - we quickly learned to keep fingers behind the ruler's
edge - well, everyone did except for Stumpy Fisher (who eventually, bit by
bit, trimmed his digits back a safe distance). The art department was duller
after that. No more sudden and unexpected bursts of wild-eyed, flappy-armed
activity-"Yeeaarrghh!" "Quick, get the plasters!" "Don't bleed on the artwork!"
"Ooooh, it's a gusher". Not having enough text and pics to fill a page would
mean drawing a picture directly onto the artwork board (Oli was brilliant
at this, but he often wasn't around or was too busy - if you messed up it
still got printed: 100,000-odd times!). The people were what made that time
special - Steve, Mark(ie), Julian, Mel Fisher (how are you?), Yvonne Priest
(and you?), Paul G, Gordon, Kati, Maff, Paul R, Sam, Nikki, Katy etc.
FONDEST MEMORIES: Being paid for all that overtime (bye, bye old student loan). The final Leaving Newsfield Drinksfest at the Bull. DeGrays bacon (or sausage) and egg sarnies. Almost getting punched twice-both times Mel Fisher appeared at exactly the right/wrong time and got punched instead (thanks Mel). The surprise kiss on the lips from the very cute 18yo Katy Mountford at a Newsfield party.
WORST MEMORIES: Katy telling me directly after that kiss that she'd spent the previous hour being terribly, terribly ill in the ladies. Mark(ie)'s taste in music. The time someone in the art department discovered that if you secretly removed the blade and then threw the scalpel handle at someone you could find out if they had any serious heart problems. Putting a bag over my head and allowing myself to be photographed (Thanks, Gordon. See early issues of Total! for how long this haunted me) The faggots, the mash, the peas, the gravy and the bloody awful followed by something with custard!!!
FINAL THOUGHT: Zzap! and Crash were produced by a bunch of people who hadn't long left school-imagine a magazine produced now by the same people! With all we've since learned about the craft of magazines! Admittedly it would be a magazine about haemorrhoids and hair-loss, but I bet it would be a jolly good one. Well, probably it would.