This cover bore the CRASH Sampler cassette. Often cover mounts simply obscure the artwork underneath, but Oliver had always argued that if we did one, the mounted object would have to blend in as much as possible. The image itself could be anything, but there wasn't room for a full-blown painting based on the issue's contents; it was Roger who suggested returning to the monster that adorned the cover of Issue 1, only closer up, and have it hold the cassette in its claws. Oliver obliged with actinic light and machine-oiled fangs. It is fascinating to hold up the two covers and compare them.
The reference to CRASHes past on the cover was not entirely inadvertent. It already seems an age of its own now, but this was the first issue in which I began recalling the CRASH History of four years. And once again Roger Kean was on the move - well, almost, for he became Editorial Director of the three computer titles, while Barnaby Page became Managing Editor of CRASH. It wasn't much change for CRASH, where Barnaby had been running large sections of the magazine for some months anyway, but the simple change in titles was a sign of the year's third upheaval at Newsfield.
It would be wrong to publish many of the confidential details, so suffice it to say that there were serious problems with the way THE GAMES MACHINE was run by its two editors (fortunately they didn't show in the finished product), and shortly after the completion of its first issue Graeme Kidd and Gary Penn were asked to leave the company. That didn't cause any catastrophes itself, but when ZZAP! Editor Ciarán Brennan decided a few days later to leave Ludlow and return to London a reshuffle was essential. Roger Kean assumed Graeme Kidd's role of general overseer, which job he had been effectively doing for several months at King Street anyway; Barnaby took over CRASH,. Julian Rignall became Managing Editor of ZZAP!; and Dominic Handy became a full-time Staff Writer at CRASH.
A few weeks after all these changes, Newsfield left for the annual shebang at Olympia, the tenth PCW Show, where all the company's upheavals were soon subsumed under the chaos of meeting software houses, signing autographs, selling CRASH T-shirts and fighting a spirited sticker war against Your Sinclair. In fact the only long-term casualty of Newsfield's internal changes was Fear & Loathing; John Minson, who had been a personal friend of the dismissed Graeme Kidd, was no longer happy with writing for CRASH.
However, a new writer and a new section arrived. Paul Evans, a CRASH reader from Liverpool, had written to Barnaby asking if he might try doing a column for CRASH on modem communications. The magazine's policy had always been to give anyone a try - and it had often had useful results - so Paul's column started in this issue, and soon became a regular feature.
Et Al also made its debut, the video section having transformed itself into this motley collection of videos, books, games and offbeat little snippets.
And as for the games... given the general mood at the time, one could be forgiven for thinking that Virgin's How To Be A Complete Bastard might have been made a Smash, but in fact the real problem with it was describing it in the magazine, given the language used in the game. I thought the review was as tasteful as could be, but we still got letters complaining, and even a notification from the Press Council about parental complaints. Sometimes you can't even call a spade a trowel.