Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Sega Power magazine had a brief implausible dalliance with 90s musician (and later song-writer) Cathy Dennis, culminating in a cover-mounted Compact Cassette with her reading aloud game tips, over her (then) latest album, Into the Skyline. This page contains more information on this unusual relationship.
As part of a listing of "famous Sega addicts":
She's back! Cathy Dennis, the girl who started her singing career crooning merry tunes with her family, has got a new LP on the way. And now we hear that Prince wants to work with her too... Hmm, is that all?
When she's not tearing from Tokyo to Toronto, there's nothing she likes more than to settle down at home with her own Sega system. We'll be running her full story very soon...
The latest in the line of Sega converts, Cathy Dennis joins John Cantlie for an afternoon of grinnin', spinnin', jumpin' and hump... (Oops, cut!- Andy)
She's sold over 3.5 million records worldwide, she's won Best Female Artist and International Newcomer awards twice, and she packs out stadiums in the States, Japan and the UK. She's been on the Oprah Winfrey show and joined the Gap Girls. "But my music isn''t a business thing at all - it's for me primarily," says Cathy Dennis, the quietly-spoken redhead from Richmond who's also getting in on the Sega groove. She's a girl who can keep her cool when the heat in on...
The studio is sticky, and Cathy Dennis is looking uneasy. She has one "look" that can shut you up at 20 paces - and then, seconds later, another that invites you to relax and chat. She's either on or off, and the switch is moving the wrong way.
The the photographer says something, everyone laughs, and all is well again. Under the glare of the photofloods and the photographer's flash, it's got to be at least 32 degress centigrade in here, and the make-up and PR people are flaked out on benches, sucking Pepsis...
But not Ms Dennis, who's still giving everything she's got to the camera like it's all she knows - even if it does mean sweating like a turkey at Christmas.
"My greatest fear is of losing my hunger to be the best at whatever I do," establishes Cathy, pulling another pose for the camera.
"I know it sounds like a cliché, but if I was a cleaner, I'd aim to be the best cleaner in the world..."
Such is the 23 year old's simple but admirable philosophy - an approach that has seen her music career growing steadily while others' have slid down the slippery slope. "I don't know if I'll ever be satisfied with what I've got - it's just the way I am," she says.
Originally known for fronting UK rap group D-Mob with hits like "C'mon and get my love" and "Just another dream", Cathy then went solo and made it big time - especially in the States where she's joined the major celebrity league.
She's done the rounds on the Oprah Winfrey Show, been signed up as one of the Gap Girls ("Not bimbos, you know"), and now even Prince himself is pushing to work with her.
"I think he has a thing for 'deep' women," said a Record Executive. "First, Sheena Easton, then Martika - and now possibly Cathy. They're all space cadets."
Anything to say, Cathy? "Yeah, I guess I'm a pretty intense person," she confirms. "I keep everything inside until a certain time - and then I'll just go off on one! But, you know, I don't want to make people's life hell - just as I don't want them to make my life hell..."
Certainly, the energy and intensity you witness when Cathy performs live on stage is typical of her Jeykll-and-Hyde character. You meet her backstage and she's ever so quiet and stuff, and the you see her up on the set and think: "Look at her go!"
Having just completed her new album "Into the Skyline" - she write and produced it herself in both the States and the UK - Cathy's now acquired a whole new image. And believe me... that schoolgirl voice hides a character of huge strength.
"I have elements of excitement in me - if that makes any sense," she admits. "On the last album, I went for extreme colours to create one mood. One the new LP it's a different feeling totally. More subtle, I guess."
Well, that may all be true, but can she cut it on Taz Mania (Sega Power 33: 89%), eh? Let's face it, anyone who's anyone is getting in on the Sega tip today, so what does Cathy make of the console craze that's ripping through the nation like a forest fire?
"Sega? Yeah, I think it's great for people to have as many interests as possible, but I don't think it's good if kids are getting totally obsessed with them. I mean, everyone's got something they're into, right? But sometimes, you get the idea that console games are too addictive for their own good."
Boo! Well, when you come right down to it, that's exactly what your average Sega's about, but not convinced that Cathy was giving it her fullest attention, he dragged her off to the Garage Studio in London to see just what she was made of. If it has been any hotter, the scene would have sizzled. As it was, we were quietly smouldering...
"Aha, you want me to do that?" she enquires... There's an eyebrow raised and I'm getting that look again as I show her the way through level one on Taz Mania.
She picks up the joypad and gets stuck in. "I've hardly played these things at all you know," she sidelines as way of an excuse, and then proceeds to spin and grin her way through the first three levels without so much as the wipe of a sweaty brow.
"Hey, this is great," she squeals. "The whole thing's so cartoony. The jumping and the geyser things are really tricky, but it's such a blast to play.
"It's like everyone has this idea of computer games as aliens and guns and stuff, right? And here's this cool, cool character moving across the screen. And when he gets impatient - it's so well done.
"Hmm, you know, I could get into this." And she did too. Having never so much as seen the game before, Catherine Roseanne Dennis blitzed her way upwards to the ACME factory level - until the heat just became too overpowering.
But aren't you used to the heat Cathy? I mean you're pretty huge out in Japan and Tokyo, right?
"I've got a large following out in Japan. It's a really mixed and fickle market, but I've done pretty well out there." Modesty is another one of her virtues - and she makes every effort to keep her business life out of her private goings-on. "Yeah, I separate myself from this marketing product 'Cathy Dennis'. You've got to. Otherwise you end up believing you're this superhuman. Sure, I decide how I want to be presented, but I'm not into myself.
"Cathy Dennis the signer is another part of me - that's why I can let it all out on stage and get a real kick out of it.
"And as to my favourite musicians, she isn't in there!
"Stevie Wonder has got to be number one, then there's mixers like Tony Humphries and David Morales (Hey, someone's got some real taste round here - John). Garage is really my thing. I've never been into the rave scene."
Good stuff - and it gets better by the minute. She goes on to reveal that: Spinal Tap are her heroes, (yess!). "Batman Returns" was crap (yess!), and that she drives her Audio Cabriolet motor "much too fast" (err...!).
Cathy Dennis is seriously sound, and when she became one of the first to play Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Sega Power 37: 89%), she was, as one might expect, mightily well impressed.
"This is so quick. The pictures are really beautiful, especially the background stuff... And the way Sonic moves! It's like watching TV on a Saturday morning. It's hard to control, but I never knew console games were like this."
Can't say I ever make it out of bed early enough to confirm the Saturday morning bit, but she's got a point! There are two relevant captions...
Caption: Getting a lift from a rock monster in Taz Mania. Cathy was told this was a bad idea, but did it anyway. "Hey, I'm still learning."
Caption: Fortunately the Mega Drive sees sense after a wave of Withering Stare from Cathy. If a console responds this way, think what it does to your average human... Dennis one, Sega nil. Way ta go!
This is the issue with the cover-mounted audio cassette.
Irresistible! Cathy Dennis and Sega Power join forces to provide you with a tape of tips the likes of which you've never ever heard before!
Our Cathy's pretty good with the old vocal chords - and she's well into Sega too (she takes her Game Gear with her wherever she goes y'know). Who better then to reocrd a tape packed to the beams with helpful advice on everything Sega? Dean Mortlock takes you through the trials and tribulations of the recording session...
The script was written... The tips were compiled... Surely nothing could go wrong - or could it? After months of conversations, planning and hard work (Er, really? - Andy), things finally came together on Wednesday 23 December - the day I headed off to London with the Sega Power Crew to record the Cathy Dennis Tips Tape.
It couldn't have come at a worse time. Christmas was just two days away and things had been pretty crazy in the Power offices. Cathy had only just come back from the ol' US of A, shot her latest video and was trying to wind down for a well-earned Christmas break. Would she be in the mood for a crazy day with the bods from Sega Power? We hoped so...
We left Bath in a bit of a rush (thanks to all the usual last-minute disasters), but luckily our publisher's car (big, Japanese sports-type-thingy) made up for lost time.
Realised with a growing feeling of terror that no-one in the car knew exactly where the studio was. London, as you probably know, is not the smallest place in the world and trying to find this studio was like, well, trying to find a very small studio in a very large city.
After hunting through the "A-Z", ringing up Directory Enquiries and speaking to a few people who didn't have the faintest idea what we were talking about, we managed to find the place...
We entered the dimly-lit basement studio ("ooh, very compact and bijou" remarked Andy) and began preparing for Cathy's imminent arrival.
And talk about sardines! The place was packed! Apart from ourselves there was also the photographer, his equipment - as well as the important studio and record company bods.
...And now the nerves started. What would Cathy think of the script? Would it be long enough for the tape? When was I going to find time to de my last-minute Christmas shopping? And could we get away with pinching some of the booze on that trolley without anyone seeing us?
At last, everything was set up! All the studio technicians were fully briefed on the layout of the tape and, after many confused looks and scratching of heads, we finally managed to sort out the final details. The microphones were in place and enough tape had been fed through the machine to last for about ten hours - nothing could possibly go wrong!
More nerves as we wait for the main girl. John Cantlie was in fine form, busy organising the photographer (what kind of shots we needed, lighting positions etc...). By this time, I'd eaten away all my nails and started on my fingers. I'd also given up trying to scrounge any of the booze - mainly 'cos John had guzzled it all himself - and was drinking the plentiful orange juice like it was going out of fashion.
Cathy Dennis arrives. She's had the rough script for a couple of days, but hasn't really had a chance to go through it with a fine-toothed comb yet.
With a large glass of orange juice in one hand and half-a-dozen half-eaten mince pies in the other, I mumbled a "hello" - and then we got straight down to recording the tape.
Cathy went into the sound-proofed room, read the script through into the microphone - and we were off!
While the photographer worked around us and the studio engineers handled the editing of the tape, we ploughed quickly through the script, correcting mistakes as and when necessary.
I continued chewing my fingers while Cathy did her best to make some sense of the words I'd given her.
Finished! Despite all the problems, Cathy had finished reading the script - and it sounded pretty good too.
While we were all feeling chuffed about how it went, the photographer decided it was a good oppurtunity to run off a few more photos - and just as we were struggling to sort out the editing of the tape and work out what all the flashing lights on the mixing desk were supposed to be doing too.
Thankfully, Cathy had some experience of these mysterious creatures and helped me look as though I knew exactly what I was doing. I didn't have a clue really!
With the tape finished and all the photos taken, it was time to relax. After sighs of relief, we chatted about the tape, finished off the mince pies and orange juice - and then said our goodbyes.
We started the long journey to Bath and left Cathy to do the rest of her shopping. The poor soul who had to edit the tape were probably up 'til the wee hours getting it into shape. Fine job, chaps!
The interviews seem to undermine all assertions that Cathy Dennis was remotely interested in video games, suggesting that perhaps this was instead a callous marketing stunt, although it's unclear who was supposed to benefit. In return for some excessive, gushing praise in the magazine, the star gave about an hour of her time to read some stuff into a microphone, and licensed a free giveaway of some songs she'd otherwise hope to sell. It probably didn't sell any more magazines, and most readers probably played the tape either one or zero times...