Wednesday, 13 April 2011

We Have Moved


Exciting News For Optimists

Depressing News for Pessimists

I started this weblog exactly two years ago, and it’s given me a lot of pleasure to share all this odd stuff with the world even though, for the first six months at least, there was very little evidence that anyone else in the world was watching.

Over time, however, the blog gathered momentum and a fair few followers, and it felt a very worthwhile activity, a sort of online scrapbook, a way of recording some of my daft obsessions and passing phases in an almost therapeutic way. But despite your support and some great comments, standard blogging remains an essentially solo activity, and it requires the individual to be motivated and excited and brimming with ideas they want to communicate. For me, my motivation, excitement and ideas now all focus on ‘Island Of Terror’, my other blog, so I will be suspending this blog and moving all activity over to there.

If you currently follow this blog, or look in occasionally, it would be great if you would bookmark or follow ‘Island Of Terror’ instead. It’s less general, or rather more specific, but I’m still behind every post, so you can expect a similar approach and some familiar subject matter: I’m too old to change.

Thanks to everyone that ever read this blog and liked it, special thanks to people who read it regularly. I don’t see this as a funeral, I see it as wedding announcement, a merger, much in the same way that Valiant merged with Vulcan, Battle merged with Action, 2000AD merged with Starlord, then Tornado (well, maybe not Tornado, it was rubbish).

All content will remain here for future generations of nerds, and all links will, I hope, remain live. Let me know if they don’t. Thanks again, and I hope to see you on The Island.

Paul Bareham (aka Ray Wittering)

To see us out, a stone cold fucking classic, and that's swearing.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Disco Wrestler

Every seventies icon needs their own record and although not speaking didn’t stop Marcel Marceau from recording an LP, Kendo Nagasaki decided to let others pay tribute rather than blow his own trumpet.

Lloyd Ryan is a drummer, and a good one, or a bad one when you consider that he taught Phil Collins to play. Impressed by a mighty Kendo television appearance in 1975, he recorded ‘Kendo’s Theme’. It wasn’t a hit, despite a lot of airplay, but Kendo liked it and used it for his entrance music for several years. Lloyd later became Kendo’s manager.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Kendo Attitude

Kendo Nagasaki is one of the great enigmas of British wrestling and, as such, also counts as a cultural icon of that wonderful, awful decade, the 1970’s.

Televised wrestling was hugely popular in the seventies, although most of the stars were grizzled old hands from the national circuit, veterans of a thousand bouts, some of whom had been plying their trade since the fifties.

Kendo Nagasaki was a different type of wrestler entirely.

Rather than the usual costume of a paunch, boots and briefs, Kendo came to the ring in Samurai regalia and fought in a full face mask. He never spoke, he rarely acknowledged the crowd. No-one was quite sure if he was a goodie or a baddie, although, in full flow, he was a pretty scary individual regardless of his motivation. He always won, or got disqualified. No other wrestler could defeat him. Under the management of the flamboyant ‘Gorgeous’ George Gillette, Nagasaki became one of the shining stars of the sport, a massive success.

His mask first slipped (or rather was ripped off) in a 1971 bout, but Nagasaki successfully covered his face and the fight was ended. In 1975, hugely popular tub of guts Big Daddy got the better of Nagasaki (as if) unlaced his mask and tore it off on live television but, instead of settling a mystery, only deepened the enigma. Nagasaki’s face, half glimpsed between Nagasaki’s covering hands, was very odd indeed. His hair was long but shaved at the front and sides. There was a tattoo on the top of his head. His eyes were jet black. It was a disorienting and disturbing experience. I was glad when he put his mask back on.

In 1977, apparently fed up with being famous and unknown at the same time, Nagasaki arranged an elaborate and ridiculously overblown public unmasking: very public, as it was televised live on World of Sport to a massive, eager audience, including me and my Nan. It was, ultimately, an anti climax, but the anticipation was very exciting.

Nagasaki spent most of the late seventies retiring and un-retiring. He acted a little, and had his portrait painted by Peter Blake, a process captured in a memorable BBC Arena documentary. The popularity of WWF in the nineteen nineties gave British wrestling a little boost, and Kendo returned to the ring. Unbelievably (or quite plausibly given the limited actual physical demands of a staged wrestling match), Nagasaki was still wrestling up until 2008 when, by conservative estimate, he would have been in his mid-sixties.

I met Kendo in 2005, at a book signing in Leeds for ‘The Grapple Manual’. Even sat down, he’s a formidable looking figure and, of course, he had all the gear on. He didn’t say anything, or even look at me, he just signed my book very, very slowly. When I looked at what he had written I had a very familiar reaction to this most enigmatic of sporting legends: confused and slightly scared.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Exile On Planet Gonk

Ever since I started looking at the work of Robert Hartford-Davis I knew that this awful moment would come: 'Gonks Go Beat'.

Regular readers will know that Hartford-Davis' work is of, how shall we say, variable quality but 'GGB' really takes the piss.

The premise is that intergalactic ambassador Kenneth Connor is sent to Earth to resolve the ongoing conflict between two rival states, Beatland and Balladisle.

Beatland, as you may have guessed, is full of polo necks, sunglasses and hair that touches collars, and Balladisle is all ties and hushpuppies and songs with spoken middle eights that make you want to be sick. If Ken doesn't manage to heal the rift he'll be exiled to the Planet Gonk, a fearful place apparently inhabited by close cousins of Humpty Dumpty from 'Playschool', i.e. the sort of flammable spike concealing soft toys they fill the grabbers with at the fair.

It's one of the most stilted productions I've ever seen. You can get Connor and people like Frank Thornton to say 'swinging' and 'groovy' but Hartford-Davis can't get them to look anything other than deeply pained when they do. The budget is virtually non-existent, and most of the scenes look like they were shot in The Beachcomber Bar in Butlins Bognor Regis. Most of all, though, it's the awful, awful music and the ugly, ugly people, a string of sub-standard fourth division groups and singers performing derivative, boring and old-fashioned songs (the worst are co-written by Hartford-Davis himself), culminating in an appearance by Lulu. I fucking hate Lulu.

Here's a couple of clips which should settle the whole 'come on, it can't be that bad' debate. The first takes us inside Kenneth Connor's head for a while to watch the aforementioned toxic toys and a dated dance routine. Una Stubbs must have been out when they called.

The second clip comes at the 'climax' of the film, and, despite a nice array of vintage musical equipment, more than supports the maxim 'war is hell'.

That concludes our business with Robert Hartford-Davis. Thank Christ.