Despite exaggerations to the contrary, very few video gamesactually portray sexual assault. Sure, there’s a ton of murder, and definitely lots of gendered violence, but games that write in actual sexual violence are quite rare, which is actually sort of surprising when you learn about Custer’s Revenge.
The game, which came in in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and cost a whopping $49.95 (making it the priciest of Atari games then on the market), had a very simple premise: you are a naked, erection-wielding General Custer and you must avoid a volley of arrows in order to to rape a Native American who is—as indicated by the cover art—tied to a pole. Yeah, that’s it.
Custer’s Revenge was an early attempt to create and market “adult” video games, but promotion was difficult, especially since Mystique, the publishers and developers of the game, made it very clear that the game was “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.” In order to drum up publicity, Mystique actually showed the game to women’s and Native American groups, who were quick to give them free press with outraged protests. Feminist Andrea Dworkin even argued that Custer’s Revenge “generated many gang rapes of Native American women,” a claim that is difficult to prove, to say the least. Compared to say Pac-Man, the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, which sold 7 million, Custer’s Revenge was small potatoes, only selling 80,000 total. Regardless, the backlash most certainly helped move copies that might have otherwise simply collected dust on the shelf.
So how does Custer’s Revenge hold up nowadays? Despite the stomach-turning “plot,” the game actually manages to be so very comically low-rent that it falls very short of anything that is actually visually lurid. I mean you really have to use your imagination to connect those abrupt little pixels to the historic atrocities of the sexual violence and genocide exacted against Native Americans. They just didn’t quite have the technology to really depict any detail at the time, a fact which allowed game designer Joel Miller to maintain plausible deniability, claiming that the woman was a “willing participant” (this despite the game’s title and cover art). Nonetheless, Mystique later released a companion game, General Retreat, featuring the Native American woman attempting to rape Custer under cannonball fire, which, I guess, was an attempt at equality?
Ah, such innocent times! When the libidinal horrors of entertainment were technologically limited to blocky little boners and booties!
It’s possible that protests eventually staved off sales of the game, but what’s more likely is that no one really wanted to play it. PC World magazine named it the third worst game of all time, adding to the obvious objections that it was extremely difficult to play and it just looked terrible. The underground infamy of of Custer’s Revenge outlasted the game itself, inspiring a much more graphic remake in 2008, which was notably protested by a indigenous activists, including a female game designer and a video game journalist. Eventually pressure from activists got the game removed from the internet in 2014 (though I doubt too many people felt its loss).
The Associates were a band that should have conquered the world. In fact they almost did. They had had the music in them and a sound that was uniquely their own. Formed in 1976 by the dovetailed talents of musician Alan Rankine and singer Billy MacKenzie, The Associates produced three first class albums between 1980 and 1982: The Affectionate Punch, Fourth Drawer Down and the magisterial Sulk. They had a clutch of hit singles and a fanbase that believed The Associates were the future of music.
Then, at the height of their fame in 1982, it all fell spectacularly apart on the verge of a million dollar record deal and their first world tour. Rankine quit. MacKenzie carried on as The Associates. Neither quite ever reached the creative highs and popular success they had so easily achieved together. This is Alan Rankine’s story of The Associates—egg-slicers, chocolate guitars and the legendary Billy MacKenzie.
It could have been all so very different.
If Alan Rankine had been a few inches taller he could have been a tennis player. A world class tennis player. A champion. Hitting grand slams for breakfast.
“When I was nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, I was heavily into tennis. I was really, really into tennis. Big time. I was beating people when I was twelve and they were sixteen. I was really pissing them off—especially when I was beating them in front of their girlfriends.”
Winning was easy for Alan—but he became aware he had one fatal drawback to ever making tennis a lifelong career.
“I was a midget. I was a bit of a shortarse. I could see the writing on the wall—as tennis got more powerful because of the rackets and the strength of the rackets—no one was going to win anything unless they were six foot two. I was never going to be more than five foot eight, and I was proved right.”
Rankine dropped tennis and started looking for something else, something better to master. He liked the guitar. Beat bands were in—The Beatles, The Stones, The Who—so playing guitar seemed the obvious thing to do.
“I remember I annoyed the hell out of my father. You know these little egg slicers you get that’s got a scooped out bit for the egg and it’s got ten strings? Well, I’d go around the house behind him plucking on this thing—Buy me a fucking guitar, buy me a fucking guitar—annoying the hell out of him for weeks. ‘Okay, okay, anything to make this stop.’ On my eleventh birthday he got me a guitar.
“It just seemed right. I started playing the guitar the whole time—I just never stopped. I was either playing along to records or playing along to the radio—just switching between channels and listening to everything. Then I got an electric guitar, then a better electric guitar and just kept on going and going and going. It just seemed easy.”
As he had found with tennis, Alan had a natural talent for the guitar. He practiced in his room for six hours at a time getting the songs he liked down pat—until he could play them note perfect.
“Pretty soon I moved on to my granny’s piano—Christ, this was easy too. I thought this was the way it was for everyone. It was just so easy.”
His father could play the violin. Badly. His uncle played French horn with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. There was no other notable musical talent in the family—that is until Alan picked up the guitar. It was the first move towards his legendary career as one half of The Associates.
Alan Rankine was born in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, Scotland in 1958.
“I stayed in Dundee from the ages of five to twelve. I stayed in Broughty Ferry—the posh part. Then I came to Glasgow, Newton Mearns—the posh part. Then Linlithgow—fairly posh.
“My dad always used to ask me—‘Who are you playing with? Where do they stay? Are they from council houses?’ I got this the whole time—he was always very, very protective. But I always seemed to gravitate to the people from the council houses.”
“I was in Linlithgow. I was fifteen years old. As you do when you’re fifteen turning sixteen you try and get into certain pubs because you want to be a man and have a pint and all that stuff. And there were certain pubs out of the twelve or thirteen that went along the one main street in Linlithgow where you could go and you know a nod’s as good as wink and get served.”
“I went into one and there was a band playing. I said, ‘Christ that guitar is shit.’
“I went up to the lead singer after their set—they’d been playing all this Steely Dan stuff—and I said, ‘Your guitar is shit.’ He must have thought, ‘What’s this little cunt coming up to me and saying this for?’
“I said, ‘Look, come up to my house tomorrow.’ He came up to my house and I just ripped off “Kid Charlemagne” and all these Steely Dan numbers. Note perfect. Sound perfect. Everything. I got the job with that band.”
Alan’s first taste as a gigging musician was playing cabaret clubs and miners welfare clubs. He moved to Edinburgh. Every week on a Sunday the band learned to play six new songs—chart songs, hit singles, stuff from the catalogs of Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb. When not playing the cabaret circuit, the band was booked for “real gigs as a band” playing some clubs across the city.
“These other people in the band—no detriment to them—they were into Yes and Genesis and it was all too much wanking your plank to no avail.”
“If you’re going to do something have a point. I’m reminded of that line when Steve Martin said when he was berating John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: ‘And by the way, you know, when, when you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea. Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!’”
Not long after he joined, the band’s lead singer went “a bit loopy.” The search for a replacement brought Alan to a club in Edinburgh where he heard this voice—this utterly amazing voice. The club was jumping. Alan was at the bar and couldn’t see beyond the dozens of people crowded around the stage—faces upturned, happy, joyous, glistening with sweat watching the singer on the stage: a young man called Billy MacKenzie.
“I got the person who was booking our gigs to contact the person who got that gig for that venue. Within four days of that call, Bill was getting out a taxi in Edinburgh. Two days after that he staying on the sofa bed in my girlfriend’s and I’s flat in Edinburgh.
“We just hit it off like that.”
Billy MacKenzie was born in Dundee in 1957. He was one of those wild boys Rankine’s father warned him about. At just nineteen, MacKenzie had already experienced a far more exotic and adventurous life. He quit school at sixteen. Moved to New Zealand then Australia. Worked as a driver of forklift trucks (“Can you imagine Billy doing that?”). At seventeen, he traveled to America where he outstayed his travel visa. In order to stay longer in the States, Billy married a young woman called Chloe Dummar—the sister-in-law of one of his aunts. He described his wife as “a Dolly Parton-type.” Billy later claimed that during their wedding ceremony the minister spent most of his time flirting with him. The marriage didn’t last. Billy returned to Scotland and rekindled a childhood passion for singing. He joined a band and started gigging across the country.
Billy was a star. He was camp. Fey. Beautiful. With the voice of an angel.
When I got to San Francisco, the Summer Of Love was in full effect and I was crashing at a pad on Waller street in the Haight. There were a couple dozen of us in a large multi-room apartment sleeping on the floor, on couches, wherever we could find a few unoccupied square feet. I had a nice setup in an oversized closet. I knew the guy who rented the apartment (we had gone to junior high together) and so I got some preferential treatment. Everyone in the place were pilgrims from all over the United States and we were all under twenty. And, like I said, it was the Summer Of Love. So a lot of fucking was going on.
Everything you’ve read or heard about “free sex” in the Sixties is pretty much true. It was a love fest and the worst that might happen is that you got the clap or crabs. No one was dying. And for awhile no one that I knew was having babies, either. It was as if God had said “go for it.” And we did. I’d lie in the black light glow of my closet tripping on acid and listening to the zipping and unzipping of sleeping bags as young lovers migrated from one to the other, their giggles and moans mingling with the steady drone of KSAN radio playing the soundtrack to our lives.
In the world of commerce, far from Hippie Hill and Panhandle Park, the free sex “thing” was a great way for newspapers and magazines to sell product. There was an international explosion of hippie-themed publications that dealt with sex, politics, art, etc. Some were legit. Some were pure exploitation. Some were both. A lot of periodicals actually contained the writings of well-respected thinkers like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary and were read by the counter-culturists they were intended for. Others were designed to appeal to the gawkers and the “raincoat crowd.” Hippie shit sold and there were a bunch of easy angles for marketing it: sex, drugs and rock and roll. If you didn’t have the balls to be a part of it you could always imagine. Burn some incense, put on some sitar music and pull your pud as you pictured yourself surrounded by a bunch of flower children wearing beads, headbands and patchouli. Your very own hippie oasis in a rec room tricked out in plywood and shag carpeting. Walter Mitty as imagined by R. Crumb.
Here’s a collection of covers that run the gamut from authentically cool alternative press publications to some really goofy softcore pulp. As I was compiling these it became quickly apparent that putting naked hairy dudes on the covers was never part of the marketing plan. The free love movement still had some old school hangovers from Playboy magazine.
Nine Inch Nails’ Broken (also known as The Broken Movie) is a 1993 short film featuring four music videos from the Broken EP with wrap-around segments shot in the style of an amateur snuff film. The extremely graphic film was directed by Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, and Hipgnosis design group fame.
The NSFW video has never seen an official release (perhaps because no label would want to put their name on it?) and has to this day been a difficult piece to track down.
The terrifying, violent, and unforgettable film was originally “leaked” by Trent Reznor himself via hand-dubbed VHS tapes in the ‘90s. The original tapes were given by Reznor to various friends with video dropouts at certain points so he could know who redistributed any copies that might surface. Reznor, later implied in a comment on the Nine Inch Nails website that Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers was responsible for the most prominent leak of the original tape.
In 2006 and 2013 the film was briefly “leaked” to the Internet, many believe by Reznor himself. In both cases, the film disappeared quickly. In the case of the 2013 “leak,” the entire video was made available for streaming on Vimeo via the Nine Inch Nails Tumblr account, but was removed by Vimeo almost immediately.
For the time being (in other words, WATCH IT WHILE YOU CAN), Broken has been uploaded to Archive.org under fair use laws.
It’s not for the squeamish, so we’re tucking of after the jump…
“Boyd Rice is one of the most influential and controversial figures of modern American counterculture,” begins Brian M. Clark’s Boyd Rice: A Biography. While that grandiose statement may oversell Rice’s cultural importance, it’s certainly true that Boyd Rice is a household name in a lot of weird households.
Rice is a prolific American sound experimentalist, author, artist, actor, archivist, and prankster. He also tends to be a polarizing figure in countercultural circles.
Boyd Rice a.k.a. “NON”—breaking records
I became familiar with Boyd Rice beginning in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s. It seemed for a time that any esoteric interest I began exploring, Boyd Rice’s name would pop up as someone who had been there to document it or be associated with it first. My initial exposure to Rice was his work on the Incredibly Strange Films book released by RE/Search in 1985. In the late ‘80s, this was perhaps the most-thumbed reference book on my shelf. Rice turned up again on my radar in 1988 as a talking head on Geraldo Rivera’s sensationalist Exposing Satan’s Underground TV special. I was deeply interested in Satanism at the time, and here was Rice as one of its chief defenders and spokesmen. As I became interested in the bizarre records I was finding at thrift stores, particularly fake Hawaiian recordings, I began finding articles written by Rice about his love of “exotica” music. When RE/Search’s Pranks book came out, I became obsessed with that volume, particularly Rice’s chapter. I got the accompanying video as soon as it was released and found the interviews with Rice quite charming. Around this same time I was starting to get heavily into noise and industrial music and there was Rice too—at the forefront with his ground-breaking work as NON. And there was Rice on Current 93 records. And there was Rice in Lisa Carver’s fantastic Rollerderby magazine. And then there were the hysterical tapes of his appearances on evangelical minister Bob Larson’s radio call-in show, which were de rigueur tour van tapes while playing in bands in the ‘90s. Rice was seemingly everywhere, all over everything I found fascinating in the ‘90s—and he was always there a few years ahead of me as its champion. Who was this industrial man of mystery?
More on this contentious character after the jump…