The Spectrum surfer cover has some things in common with Issue Eight’s, the man diving into a pool: the cool blues of water, the surreal use of a computer as a surfboard. It heralded the arrival of the Spectrum+ at the height of summer. The primary task of a magazine cover is to stand out from the plethora of other titles on the newsagant’s shelves. When it came to using colour, strangely juxtaposed images and dynamic composition, Oliver Frey’s CRASH cover pictures were, and still are, among the best. They always make an immediate impact.
Surfers dice with danger in their sport; the cover was an apt symbol for the issue. In a fit of self-righteousness — which to be honest had always lain just under the surface of CRASH’s editorial stance, sometimes threatening to break out but usually contained — new Editor Graeme Kidd and his small team set aside four pages to lampoon rival magazine Sinclair User. And in a wave of what proved to be ill-judged enthusiasm for the project, everyone involved from editorial to art dived in to make it a perfect lampoon.
Events turned sour when Jeremy Spencer handed Sinclair User’s editor an advance copy of the issue. Within hours, Sinclair User’s publishing company, East Midland Allied Press, sought an injunction to prevent the issue being distributed. As many of the events which took place thereafter are still sub judice (going through the legal process), it is not possible to mention them here.
EMAP won its injunction and the issue had to be recalled, the four offending pages trimmed and a sticker placed on the cover stating briefly why they were missing before the magazines could be redistributed.
To avoid the possibility of a libel suit being filed against Graeme Kidd and Newsfield, the matter was settled out of court, and in the Christmas Special we printed an official apology.
Ironically, public feeling about all these goings-on appeared to run in CRASH’s favour and whether or not it had any bearing on the matter, from that moment on the magazine’s circulation spiralled rapidly upwards, from around 50,000 copies a month to over 100,000.
But before all this took place, while the edition was being prepared, the CRASH team treated themselves to some more innocent fun. Part Five of the Sinclair Story which we had been running dealt with Sinclair’s battery car, the C5. Seen as risible in many quarters, the C5 found an unlikely home in Ludlow when a local car-hire firm purchased several to act as sight-seeing buggies for the tourists who flock to the town every summer — strange when you consider how hilly Ludlow is, and therefore how much pedalling the tourists had to do to help the motor cope with the strain!
For the article several CRASH reviewers went down to the car-hire firm and took the C5s out for a reviewing trip. The resultant buggy wars on the market car park did a lot for the C5’s reputation among CRASH staff, but sadly failed to save it from its ultimate fate of obscurity.
More germane to the magazine, though, Ocean gave us the Spectrum version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, all icons, windowing, spoof games, puzzles and highly creditable graphics; what with this and Beyond’s Spy Vs Spy with its simultaneous split-screen presentation, it looked like hit games from now on were going to have to be complex and sophisticated to succeed — though of the two other Smashes, Imagine’s Hypersports was really more of the same only better done, and Nodes Of Yesod was more of a different same only done superlatively by Odin.
A newcomer’s advert is likely to arouse curiosity and Odin’s was very classy. It ran for two months before the game’s release, but Odin wasn’t really as virgin as everyone thought, it was just another name for Thor, whose high-tech Liverpool offices were situated immediately opposite the sad-looking, derelict windows of Bug-Byte — in the midst of death, there’s life...