Friday, January 15, 2021

#31 The Alarm (+ celebrating the set's 30th anniversary)


The Alarm makes the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards SuperStars set at card #31. While I've enjoyed songs from the band over the years, honestly I don't think I've ever seen them before this. So that's cool. Interesting shot of the guys in a studio. Wonder if this was taken during a rehearsal or recording session or what. 

The big black box of the logo seems especially intrusive here, partially covering the bassist's face.


The back photo here was taken very near the same time as the front. I got a kick out of the guy in the middle who hasn't moved at all between shots. Must've been deep in thought! Or maybe he's just patiently waiting for the photographer to finish up so they can get to the next song.

And how about that write-up? If you weren't familiar with the band before reading it, you'd have to assume they do Bob Dylan-inspired self-help songs about Welsh pride.

This is the Alarm's only MusiCard in the set(s)-- not in the UK edition despite having more success on the UK charts than US. And it's funny that they're in the pop section of the checklist, not the rock section, but I suppose they could go either way as a new wave pop band.

The Alarm - "The Stand"

The band's origins begin in '77 with a punk band called The Toilets before eventually morphing into The Alarm in 1981. They had early minor hits with "The Stand" (inspired by the Stephen King novel) and "Sixty Eight Guns", and the band opened for U2 on the War tour in the US. They kept busy touring and recording throughout the 80s, scoring their lone US Top 50 hit with "Sold Me Down the River" off 1989's Change. That album had an alternate Welsh-language version, which is what the quote on the back of the card was talking about. The band suddenly broke up in '91, but eventually reformed by the end of the decade and.. wow, are still active today.

The Alarm - "Rescue Me"

The radio station I listened to as a teen (91X) played a lot of The Alarm, so I grew up on their hits in the 90s, but I was always a little confused about how they weren't more popular. I don't recall ever seeing their videos on MTV, for example. But yeah, tunes like "Rain in the Summertime",  "Love Don't Come Easy", and "Rescue Me" are all classics in my book. But I'm more like a "Greatest Hits" fan, as I don't think I've ever dived into their back catalogue, but maybe someday I'll give them a deeper listen.


This Month in 1991: January

Here's a new feature for the blog in 2021 where I'll celebrate the 30th anniversary of the set by looking back to 1991.

The big news of January '91 was the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. Hit songs topping the charts included Madonna's "Justify My Love" (I never liked that one much), Bette Midler's "From a Distance", and Damn Yankees' "High Enough". Home Alone was king in theaters-- feels like its legacy is a Christmas movie, premiering the previous November, but it held the top spot at the box office until February '91.

In baseball, the Hall of Fame announced Rod Carew, Ferguson Jenkins, and Gaylord Perry had been elected to Cooperstown by the BBWAA on January 8th. Current free-agent ace Trevor Bauer was born January 17, 1991.

As for me, I was a middle school kid into video games, baseball cards, and MTV.


And baby animals? Turns out I've still got the wall calendar I used in 1991, so I thought it'd be fun to look back at what I was doing 30 years ago.


Not only did I mark upcoming events, but also used my calendar as something of a journal, often writing down notable happenings in my 13-year old life. Let's take a closer look at my January '91...

The year started off well with the the last few days of winter break. 

On the 3rd, I ordered some Sega games. I think that was a Sega Master System, but at some point I also got a Sega Genesis. Perhaps upcoming months will provide clues to figure out which Sega console I was talking about here. You can see I estimated the games arriving sometime between the 8th and 13th (Sunday? Dummy. This was pre-Amazon, of course!), but my estimate was a little optimistic, as they didn't actually get delivered until the 16th.

Another video game I bought-- must've been spending that xmas/b-day gift money-- was the NES game Little Nemo: The Dream Master on the 6th (Probably at Target). I do still love that game (despite a few frustrating parts), and in fact played through it again a couple summer's ago (7/21/19, to be exact.. yes, I've started keeping a video game journal in recent years.)

My favorite band at the time was Def Leppard, which explains the "Steve Clark Dies" notation for Jan 8. He was the principal songwriter and lead guitarist for the band until his alcohol-fueled death. That was a major bummer. Def Leppard doesn't have a MusiCard, but I'll have to cover them on the blog at some point.

Jan 15 was notable not just for MLK's birthday, but also for being the first time I beat the NES game Maniac Mansion.

I had gotten the cartridge 3 weeks earlier as a Christmas gift. To this day, I'd say it's my all-time favorite video game, or at least tied for the top spot with Bionic Commando. It's a lot of fun and the music's great, too. Any other Maniac Mansion maniacs might appreciate that younger me tried to mimic the font used for the game's title. I've played through the game 5 times already just since I started keeping track of my video gaming about a year and a half ago. These days I can finish the game in one evening, but you can pick different characters to play as, and there are different strategies you can use to complete the game depending on which kids you picked, which helps with replayability. Some people know Maniac Mansion from the 90s TV show of the same name, but the show doesn't really have anything to do with the game. Oh, and the NES game has some notoriety for being known as the game where you can explode a hamster in a microwave, a naughty bit of violence that managed to slip by Nintendo's overzealous censors at the time. But I just think the game is a lot of fun, plus as I say, I love the music in the NES version, and playing that game for me is very much like listening to a favorite record.

Maniac Mansion soundtrack

Like I said in the tweet, to me, the hardest-to-get, longest, and best ending is to get both Sandy and the Meteor Police at the talk show. That's the ultimate way to beat the game, if you ask me, and plus I love the music at the talk show, so I often try for a talk show ending. That ending requires killing off Wendy and Bernard. But I'm just nerding out on Maniac Mansion now, ha.

I'm not usually a "clever t-shirt" guy, sticking mostly to a boring, nondescript wardrobe, but a few months ago I got this shirt featuring an image from the hint poster that came with the game. Not sure if anyone will ever get the reference should I be wearing it out and about, but I think it's incredible.

Ok, enough about Maniac Mansion; back to the calendar... Friday 1/18, I had no school ("N.S.") and apparently my Uncle Ed and Aunt Karen were in town from Chicago. That's nice. Haven't seen them in years, sadly. They had a bit of a falling out with the rest of the family around the turn of the millenium, though I'm still on good terms with them at least.

Saturday the 19th was highlighted by pulling a Kevin Maas minor league card-- a big deal at the time! He was coming off his impressive 1990 debut where he hit 21 taters in half of a season, so obviously that translates to 40+ HR every year for the duration of his career, right? LOL-- and then a sleepover at my best friend Doug's house. Those childhood slumber parties were some of the best times of my life.. having fun hanging out late into the evening and occasionally getting up to mischief under cover of darkness.

Looks like I had a 5-day weekend as the month came to a close, thanks to a sickness (very possible I was exaggerating a minor discomfort in order to play hooky). I've noted Super Bowl Sunday Saturday?, but I didn't give a shit about football at the time, perhaps evidenced by the squiggly writing, which I think was meant to convey eye-rolling. But anyways, that game was Scott Norwood's heartbreaker, with the Giants squeezing by the Bills, 20–19. Whitney Houston sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and it became a hit single.

So that's how my life was going 30 years ago. Hope that wasn't too self-whatever-ing on my part and you readers got a kick out of the look back, because I hope to do the same for the next 11 months as we get to them.

MusiCards 30th Anniversary Celebration Extravaganza

In addition to the '91 calendar series, I've got big plans for a special reader appreciation event this year to help celebrate the MusiCards milestone. Basically it's a contest/giveaway with your comments over the year being key for getting cool stuff. Hopefully it'll help motivate some lurkers to chime in with their thoughts regarding the artists/cards/etc we cover here. I always appreciate hearing what you all think. Anyways, I'll have more details on this contest thing later on.

That'll wrap up this post. What were you up to in early 1991? Ever play Maniac Mansion? Any thoughts to share on The Alarm, or favorite songs or specific memories of the band?

Monday, December 7, 2020

#30 Adamski (+ Adam Sandler, Adam Snyder, and Dick Allen)

Adamski is back with the second of his two cards in the 1991 ProSet SuperStars MusiCards set at card #30. I think this is the tightest headshot we've seen in the set so far, with his face taking up about half the card.

Ha, and that's probably the weirdest back write-up in the set so far. I think the bit with Pro Set claiming Adamski is a extraterrestrial would be known as "kayfabe" in wrestling-- going along with the made-up storyline for the benefit of the fans.

The comments on the previous post pretty much confirmed my suspicions that the vast majority of North Americans aren't familiar with him, but he was big in the European rave scene in 1990. "Killer", a collaboration with then-unknown Seal, went to #1 in the UK and Belgium, #2 in the Netherlands and Germany, and #5 in Ireland and Sweden.

But before we go labeling him a one-hit wonder, well, the follow-up single "The Space Jungle" went to #7 in the UK and broke into the top 30 in a few other countries, so I guess technically there's another Adamski hit. Despite the title, the song is effectively a modernized cover of the old Elvis Presley tune "All Shook Up" (written by Otis Blackwell in 1956).

CUSTOM CORNER

I was thinking maybe Otis Blackwell for today's custom, but instead let's pencil him in at #237, pairing him with The Smithereens, a band Otis toured with in his later years.

Adamski's real name is Adam Tinley, so I thought I might try to think of other Adams in popular music. Musicians with that first name popping to mind for me are Adam Ant, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, and U2 bassist Adam Clayton... all of whom are featured on MusiCards already.

I took a look in my iTunes library and found songs from a couple Adams in my music collection.

Adam Sandler has had quite the career, getting his start as a popular cast member on Saturday Night Live in the early 90s and going on to a successful string of comedy films. His lowbrow humor might have worn thin for many by this point, but he still cranks out projects on a regular basis, and received universal praise for his dramatic turn in 2019's Uncut Gems

It's easy to forget Sandler sold millions of CDs in the 90s. They're All Gonna Laugh at You! (1993) and What the Hell Happened to Me? (1996) were both huge, while What's Your Name? (1997) and Stan and Judy's Kid (1999) also went gold. His albums are a mix of comedy skits and humorous songs.

At some point I ended up with his first 3 albums. I may have bought one of them, but the rest were hand-me-downs from friends who stopped listening to them.

"The Chanukah Song" is probably his best-known song, debuting on SNL's "Weekend Update" and later featured via in-concert recording on What the Hell Happened to Me?

Another song off that album, "Ode to My Car", got some censored radio play on the main station I listened to back then, San Diego's 91X, and I liked it well enough to buy the CD. Or maybe a friend of mine bought it and I just borrowed it.. hard to remember at this point. Another favorite song is "The Goat Song" from What's Your Name? which is kind of a rock opera callback to an earlier skit ("The Goat" from What the Hell Happened to Me?).


Switching from a very well-known Adam S. to an obscure one, Adam Snyder is the other Adam to feature today. Not to be confused with the football player with the same name, this Adam Snyder was the keyboardist in Mercury Rev for a stint and helped create their most successful record, 1998's Deserter Songs. That's how I'm familiar with him, but my curiosity lead me to check out some of his solo demos, which I think I got on CDR from a guy who was friends with him. Turns out when left to his own devices, Adam comes up with Americana folk songs. Don't sound much like Mercury Rev (one of my all-time favorite bands), but some quality ditties none the less. He went on to release a couple records, Across The Pond (2001) and This Town Will Get Its Due (2006). The albums feature a full band, though honestly I think I prefer the earlier versions I first heard where it was just him singing while playing acoustic guitar. Those recordings sound super intimate, perfect music for when you're not 100% awake, like late at night or early in the morning. My favorite songs of his are "Leaves of Grass", "Until it Comes", and "Thru Til Morning" off that early demo CDR titled Until it Comes. But the finished versions aren't bad either. If you're into mellow folk music, might be worth giving a listen.

Not sure what Adam Snyder is up to these days, though in his career he's worked with luminaries such as New Order and The Waterboys. Looks like he had a band called The Red Cars in recent years, though I can't find much about them.

That'll do it for today. I'm excited for the next post... where we sound The Alarm.

Last minute addition...


I was heartbroken to hear of Dick Allen's passing today. He's one of my favorite baseball players to collect, as has been documented over the years on my main blog, Baseball Card Breakdown. Hurts to lose him. Man, what a rough year. :(

This above MusiCard custom isn't as far-fetched as you might think. One thing I learned about Dick Allen recently is that he had a brief recording career. Yep, in the 60s he sang lead with a doo-wop group called The Ebonistics. They performed in the Philadelphia nightclub scene and occasionally had a high-profile gig, such as halftime at a 76ers game.


"Echo's of November" was the group's biggest hit. 

The guy won NL Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, and had a successful recording career on the side. That's pretty impressive. Rest in peace, Mr. Allen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

#29 Adamski

 
Card #29 in the 1991 ProSet MusiCards SuperStars set features the first unfamiliar name for me so far. I can say as I type this opening paragraph that I don't recall ever hearing of Adamski (beyond perusing the checklist for this set) and if my ears ever came in contact with an Adamski song in the past, well I have zero recollection of it. 

My first impression based on this photo is he looks like the missing link between Vanilla Ice and Eminem, though a little more "glam" with his fashion sense. But is that what he sounds like? We'll find out soon enough.


The back gives us a good introduction. There's an odd "Doctor Adamski's Musical Pharmacy" picture and a write-up of how this performer got his career started. Perhaps he was bigger in the UK and that's why I never heard of him? He has 2 MusiCards: this one and another one immediately after it. He's not in the UK version of the set, funny enough. I'm still not sure what to expect when I press play on his music, but based on what I know from this card, I'm expecting something along the lines of Jesus Jones and EMF.. other UK electro-pop from that time that I'm familiar with.

Here's the point where I go to Spotify and listen to what they've got as the most popular few songs of his available.

[...]

Oh wow, looks like he's still active, with a release out just this year. Good for him!

Looks like his biggest hit by a wide margin was "Killer" off the Doctor Adamski's Musical Pharmacy album (1990) [that explains the card's weird back picture.. it's the album cover]. The song's got over 10 million plays! I was thinking, "Wow, he sounds a lot like Seal." But no, it actually is Seal providing guest vocals on an Adaminski track.

The 2020 release is called Free to Kill Again and looks to be an album of remixes of that "Killer" song. Hmm, that's kinda sad.

His second most popular song on Spotify is a modern remix of "Killer". I like this "re-dub" version a little more than the LP version, but honestly neither are really grabbing me.

Seal, by the way, has no cards in the standard MusiCards set, but has four cards in the UK edition. I hope I live long enough to eventually cover those on the blog-- let's be real, at the pace I'm going, it'll be several years from now-- because I really like a few Seal songs (and get chagrined whenever anyone refers to him as a one-hit wonder... I remember a few of his songs getting lots of radio play when I was younger, not just "Kiss From a Rose".)

So (over) half of the top 10 songs on Adamski's Spotify page are versions of "Killer".. I guess it must've been a big hit overseas, but I don't recall ever hearing it before. It's getting a "meh" from me today, but maybe if my local radio station was playing it regularly back in the day, it would have won me over eventually. I mean, I love me some Paula Abdul songs, as we've covered over the previous three posts, but if I was hearing them for the first time today, I doubt they'd do much for me. Timing is everything. He just didn't seem to hit in the US. (Again, funny he got a US MusiCard, but not a UK one.)

I'm trying to go into it with an open mind, but yeah, not really feeling the Adamski songs I'm listening to right now as I draft this post. Not terrible, but nothing I see myself ever wanting to give a second listen. If any big Adamski fans are reading this, I feel like I should apologize to you, but hey, nothing personal. I'm also not really familiar with any of the artists in the "Fans Also Like" (pictured above, far right), so maybe this just isn't my scene. Never been much of a raver.

According to his Wikipedia entry, as of early 2020, Adamski "has been spending time in the studio writing and producing songs for the next highly anticipated Kylie Minogue album." That's cool. (Like Seal, Kylie isn't in the US MusiCards set, but has 4 cards in the UK edition.)

I think my initial assumption of him sounding something like Jesus Jones and EMF was pretty close, honestly.. but with less guitars. And by the way, those are a couple more artists not in the US set but in the UK set. Really adds to my feeling that Adamski is out of place in the US checklist and would have made a lot more sense in the UK edition. Kids opening packs of the stuff in England at the time would have likely been much more familiar with him than American kids were, I'm sure.

I think I'm just going to end this post here with no Custom Corner, but seeing as I've run out of things to say about Adamski, I should come up with a good accompanying Custom Corner for the next card-- Adamski again-- or else it'll be a very short post, lol.

What do you say, readers.. Are any of you Adamski addicts? If so, any favorite tracks besides "Killer" (or the other few songs in the above top ten) that I should check out? Or are you like me and are only now learning about him for the first time thanks to this card?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

#28 Paula Abdul (+ Nirvana bonus)

 
Paula goes horizontal for her third and final card in Series 1 of 1991 ProSet Super Stars MusiCards. Come on, Paula.. let's keep it G-rated! Too sexy!


The back blurb is all about her childhood. No back photo this time, but instead we get her wordmark. Am I alone in thinking that font instantly calls to mind Nirvana?


Here's a look at the Forever Your Girl album cover. You can see the same font used, though it looks less Nirvana-y in burnt sienna and with that little tattoo-looking drawing in the middle of her name.


Nirvana's Bleach-- the first time they used the font, I believe-- was released almost exactly a year after Forever Your Girl, so while it was most likely just a coincidence, it's a funny thought to imagine Kurt Cobain taking inspiration from Paula Abdul. But evidenced by closely comparing the top of the A's and the bottom of the L (in "BLEACH"), it's not the exact same font, but not too far off.

I guess I might as well go with Nirvana for this post's Custom Corner companion since I've already started talking about them, but first let's get back to Paula. I've covered her debut Forever Your Girl in the previous two posts, so I figure I should get passed that and to her other albums.

Paula Abdul - "Promise Of A New Day"

Her highly-anticipated sophomore record was 1991's Spellbound. Like its predecessor, it went to #1 on the charts and became a multi-platinum seller. It wasn't quite the hit single generating monster Forever Your Girl was, but still saw solid MTV and radio play.

As for me, Spellbound was among the earliest compact discs in my collection, moving away from cassettes. I liked the first single "Rush Rush" ok, but I seem to recall it was the second single, "Promise of a New Day", that prompted me to drop some allowance money on the CD. I also liked "Blowing Kisses in the Wind", the third single. Other than those 3 songs, Spellbound didn't quite connect with me much, but I still listened to it several times that summer. (I'm listening to the album for the first time in many years as I write this post. "My Foolish Heart" is another good one I forgot about.)

Paula Abdul - "My Foolish Heart"

The album was released in May '91. By the time Nevermind came out later that September, I wasn't paying much attention to pop/dance music anymore. Abdul's third (and still most recent) record, Head Over Heels (1995), didn't even register on my radar and to this day I don't think I've heard any songs from it. That album was a commercial disappointment, though called "much more experimental than her previous efforts" and "her most honest and personal project" (wikipedia), so I should give it a curious listen one of these days.. perhaps when we eventually catch up to her again on the blog when we reach Series 2 in a few years.


After Head Over Heels was a relative flop (still went gold), Paula backed off from singing, going back to choreography, doing a little acting, and eventually returning to the status of a household name as the sweet, caring judge on American Idol. She popped up with new music via a couple singles-- "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" (2008) and "I'm Just Here for the Music" (2009)-- and more recently returned to performing, with headlining tours and a residency in Las Vegas.

Oh, I got a cool thing to show off!


I was browsing an eBay seller's "other items" recently and stumbled upon this Paula Abdul certified autograph card for a decent price. Thinking about her more lately thanks to this blog, I decided to buy it. While I don't hate the photo or card design (wish it was an on-card auto instead of a sticker, but what you gonna do?), I got the idea to kick it up with an overlay...



I took a dupe I had of Paula's #27 MusiCard and cut a window for the signature of the Panini Americana card to show underneath. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out! I've done "custom overlays" several times (including another On The Tube auto, even), but I think this is my first time using a real card as an overlay.



CUSTOM CORNER

Ok, let's get to the Nirvana part of the post. They're a band I really like, so I'm thinking I'll only touch on their early days here, then continue their run in the future (like, Nevermind-era in another post, In Utero-era in another). I could probably ramble about Nirvana for a long time, but this post is already pretty long, so I'll try to keep it tight.


While Nirvana had been around since the late 80s, they didn't get huge until MusiCards were already on shelves, so it's no surprise they weren't included. But then again, contemporaries Soundgarden did get picked for inclusion by Pro Set, and I think their popularity levels were comparable at the time. So the above custom isn't that far-fetched.

Like most Nirvana fans, I prefer the Dave Grohl era of the band, but still enjoy listening to their early stuff once in a while. I consider Bleach a good album, but I'm not sure any songs from it will claw their way onto my personal top 20 Nirvana songs.. a list I'll probably get to for a future post.


"Sliver" has got to be my favorite track recorded during that pre-Grohl period, among the most catchy pop tunes Kurt came up with.

Ok, I think that'll do it for today. We'll see Nirvana again in another Custom Corner one of these days, and see Paula again once we get to card #281. It's funny that in Series 1, she's listed alphabetically under A (Abdul), but in Series 2, she's listed under P (Paula). Oh, Pro Set! 

Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments if you've got any thoughts to share regarding later Paula Abdul albums or early Nirvana.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

#27 Paula Abdul (+ Arsenio Hall bonus)


Here's the middle child of Paula Abdul's three cards in Series 1 of the 1991 MusiCards set. It's a sultry photo with a top-down view of the 5'0" firecracker. Prior to Paula, the most skin we've seen in this set so far was back at card #7 where Jim Morrison had his shirt off.


The back photo is kinda jarring-- Paula isn't really known for bold headwear choices, so it made me do a double-take. Still looks good, though. The blurb touches on her breakout as a pop star and echoes the previous card touting her choreography career.

With Forever Your Girl being a smash hit debut record-- it was the first time an artist scored four US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles from a debut album-- it's easy to forget it didn't have much impact at first. The album was originally released in June of '88, but didn't really start getting traction up the charts until mid '89, going on to be a top seller well into 1990.


My earliest recollection of Paula Abdul was the "Straight Up" video on MTV. The black & white video had a washed out effect to it and the camera bounced around a lot, so seemed like you didn't really get a clear look at her. The feeling was kinda like "Ooh, who's this mysterious new girl on the scene?!" Plus it featured a cameo of Arsenio Hall, who was probably revered as the coolest guy alive to kids my age in 1989, so that gave her some instant cred. There were rumours the two were dating, but turns out they were just friends. I liked the song a lot, but if memory serves, it wasn't until I heard "Knocked Out" or maybe "(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me" that I was compelled to go out and use some allowance money to buy the album on cassette at the local Longs Drugs.


Oh yeah, that "The Way That You Love Me" video had me under her spell. Loved it! Probably haven't seen it in 30 years, but it all kinda comes flooding back to see it again.

CUSTOM CORNER


Since I already mentioned Arsenio Hall, let's whip him up a custom. Sure, he's not a musician, but I don't think anyone would have batted an eye had he slipped into the set. He was like the Dick Clark of the era, or maybe a hipper Dick Cavett or Ed Sullivan, helping introduce America to rising acts of the day. The Arsenio Hall Show was a bright showcase for pop artists of the late 80s and early 90s, along with all the hot celebrities and funny quips the show offered. At least at my middle school, I seem to recall the hottest TV shows to the student body were The SimpsonsBeverly Hills 90210, and Arsenio. Oh, and In Living Color was pretty popular too. If you missed the latest episode of any of those, you were hit with serious uncool points against you!

While I didn't know it at the time, Arsenio was also the original voice of Winston in the The Real Ghostbusters from 1986 to 1987, one of my favorite cartoons as a kid.

I built the 2016 Cryptozoic Ghostbusters autograph set 2 or 3 years back, and past-me was super stoked to score an autograph from two icons of my childhood in one.

I think the only other Arsenio Hall card in my collection is this biting Mad Magazine cutout from 1990.

If you watched that "Straight Up" video above, you might've noticed that Arsenio has been blurred out. From what I can gather, that happened in the wake of accusations that he played a role in the death of Prince, which made him a persona non grata for a while, though it doesn't look like any merit to all that stuff ever surfaced.

On May 5, 2016, Hall filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Sinéad O'Connor after she claimed he had fueled Prince's drug habit and also had spiked her drink during a party at Eddie Murphy's house.[38] Hall dropped the lawsuit after O'Connor apologized and retracted her allegation that he had supplied Prince with drugs.[39]

A fun fact I just learned about Arsenio from skimming his wikipedia entry is that his mother's named Annie Hall. Like the movie!

By the way, another direct connection between Paula and late night talk shows is that the bandleader on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Cleto Escobedo, was in Abdul's live band back in the day.


I was watching this live show from Japan '92 while I was working on this post. Any Kimmel fans who want to see a young Cleto in his big moment centerstage, you can skip ahead to 58 minutes.

That's it for today. I'm curious if Arsenio Hall was as big a deal for you guys back then as he was to kids in my neighborhood. Were you doing that "Roo, Roo, Roo!" fist-pumping thing with your buddies?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

#26 Paula Abdul

We've finally made it passed the Legends and into the main set. The main set is actually split up into three genres (Pop, R&B/Rap, and Rock) sorted alphabetically, with the occasional outlier making things weird... but we'll get to all that later.

1991 ProSet Super Stars MusiCards #26

Kicking off the pop section is the lovely Paula Abdul. Looks like the photographer had her dance around a bit to get an "action" shot with her hair bouncing around. I can picture the guy, "Ok Paula, now let's jog in place. Lift those knees! Beautiful!"

Paula has 6 total MusiCards: two more on deck right after this one, plus two more once we get to Series 2, and then one in the UK edition. Also worth noting that her cartoon collaborator MC Skat Kat has a couple cards himself in Series 2.


The back write-up covers her background as a successful choreographer. I remember that she was part of the Laker Girls before her singing career, but forgot she did all that other stuff too. Pretty impressive. Younger folks who weren't around for her time on top of the charts probably know her best these days as a judge on American Idol back when that show was a cultural phenomenon, and she's since gone on to judge on other singing/dancing TV shows.

It's not great quality, but this video taken at a live performance features Paula telling the story of how she became a Laker Girl. (It wouldn't let me embed it here.)

Pre-stardom Paula got some screen time in the "Nasty" video.

The Jacksons discovered her through her work on the court and her career quickly took off from there. The music videos she choreographed for Janet Jackson are "What Have You Done for Me Lately", "Nasty" (which netted her the MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography), "When I Think of You", and "Control". Those were all from 1986, as was the one video she did with ZZ Top, "Velcro Fly". She was also behind the big keyboard scene in Big (1988). Even after she became a pop star, she stuck with it, such as choreographing Val Kilmer's moves when he played Jim Morrison performing in The Doors (1991).


In putting this set together, I've come across a lot of MusiCards, and I try to keep an eye out among the dupes for any undiscovered variations or interesting printing flaws. I haven't found much, but one that was almost notable was a #26 that was slightly miscut. Notice how the "P" is all the way at the edge of the card. Again, not all that interesting unless you're really going through the set with a fine-tooth comb like I am.

As for Paula Abdul's music, I'll admit I was a fan as a kid back in the day. I owned 1988's Forever Your Girl on cassette and loved it. Even today, I consider her a "guilty pleasure" of mine and will give that album a play every so often. 

MC Skat Kat shows off his best card.

We've still got 5 more Paula Abdul cards in the pipeline, so we can poke into her musical career more later. I'm going to keep this post short (no "Custom Corner" bonus artist today), but wanted to make sure I published something before September was over. One post per month is my bare minimum goal for this blog. Hopefully going forward I start getting through the set at a brisker pace. 

My life was floating along pretty nicely back when this blog debuted a year ago (10/1/2019), but things took a turn for the worse shortly thereafter. My dog Annie got sick that month and had to be put down in early November, which really gutted me and my wife. Then just when things were getting back to normal for us, the whole covid-19 pandemic took hold of the planet and made things shitty for everyone. Figuring out how to do my job mostly from home took some work. Add to that US government bullshit, unrest over police racism, and Oregon wildfires uncomfortably close to my neighborhood, and it's been a stressful and depressing 2020. Plus we got a new puppy (Ruby) in July who's a mischievous stinker who needs a lot of attention. And we're in the process of buying our first house, with the big move on the horizon. So recreational projects like this MusiCards Blog get bumped to the backburner thanks to stuff like that, even if cranking out one of these posts isn't exactly a ton of work or super time-consuming, but I still gotta carve out some time and get in the right headspace for it.

Not that I think you few kind folks reading this care too much about the frequency of posts here, but as we hit the one-year mark at the blog, just wanted to defend the slow progress so far. 

Big thanks for sticking with me! Hopefully year 2 of the blog covers more than 26 cards!

Friday, August 28, 2020

#25 Led Zeppelin (+ AC/DC bonus)


Here's a nice action shot of Led Zeppelin to close out the Legends subset in the first series of the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards SuperStars set. We'll come to a few more of these gold Legends once we eventually hit Series 2. But at the rate I'm going that'll be years from now! LOL


The back features another cool live photo. That picture probably would have made a cool card itself, but alas, wouldn't work with the corner-killing design of the set, relegating it to no more than a back photo. Of course they could easily make it work with a little tweaking like I do with my customs sometimes, but the folks at Pro Set at the time kept things simple without much "photoshop magic" to help them out.

The write-up on the back lists the albums and gives a little dig at them not having more top-selling singles. But hey, hard rocking tunes like theirs aren't exactly easily embraced by the masses. The likes of Olivia Newton John and the Bee Gees were more palatable at the time.

According to Spotify, their most popular song is "Stairway To Heaven". Well, I already featured that in a previous post, so we'll go with the runner up...


"Immigrant Song" is a good one, though I'm a little surprised to see it ranked as their second-most popular track. Hell, it didn't even make the cut for my personal "best of" disc for them!

Even after 5 consecutive cards, Led Zeppelin still isn't done making their mark in the 1991 MusiCards set, popping up again in the Historic Concerts poster subset near the end of Series 1 (#258). Hopefully this blog (and myself!) stay alive long enough to eventually get there, though we've got a lot of early 90s pop to get through first.

Now that we're at the end of the subset, let's take a closer look at the list of Legends in the set.

1 Allman Brothers
2 Eric Clapton
3 Eric Clapton
4 Crosby, Stills & Nash
5 The Doobie Brothers
6 The Doors
7 The Doors
8 The Doors
9 The Doors
10 Jimi Hendrix
11 Jimi Hendrix
12 Jefferson Airplane
13 Jefferson Airplane
14 B.B. King
15 John Lennon
16 Bob Marley
17 Jimmy Page
18 Jimmy Page
19 The Who
20 The Who
21 Led Zeppelin
22 Led Zeppelin
23 Led Zeppelin
24 Led Zeppelin
25 Led Zeppelin

Note that it's in alphabetical order, but with one funny quirk: Led Zeppelin is sorted under Z instead of L. If those rules were consistent, Jefferson Airplane should have been card #1!


CUSTOM CORNER

As far as acts that could have taken that alphabetical top spot if they were included, well ABBA would be a strong contender, but sticking with the classic rock leanings of the Legends checklist, there's a clear favorite...


Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't deny AC/DC is one of the biggest rock & roll bands of all-time.


Per usual, I try to keep the bio tight for well-known acts, but if you'd like to spend a while learning more about the band's rich history, I'd point you to their wikipedia entry.

I can't say I'm an ACϟDC aficionado or anything, but I dig their hits. You know, like...

Back in Black
You Shook Me All Night Long
Hells Bells
Thunderstruck
Big Balls
Highway To Hell
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

...good stuff. For me, these were all "oldies" by the time I heard them, with the exception of 1990's "Thunderstruck". I can remember when that was a hot new track.


Still holds up!

You'd figured they'd be an easy choice for getting a 1991 MusiCard. That album, The Razors Edge, went multi-platinum and reached the US top ten. But I guess Pro Set couldn't secure the licensing or what have you.

As a Padres fan during the Trevor Hoffman era, I sure heard "Hells Bells" a lot. Used as his entrance music, those opening bells and guitar riff helped psych everyone up for Hoffy to nail down another save.


Where are they now? Well, AC/DC is still rocking, technically. They soldiered on after the death of Bon Scott back in the day, and the more-recent passing of Malcolm Young. Singer Brian Johnson is nearly deaf now, and was replaced by none other than Axl Rose for their live gigs in recent years. But rumors are they've got a new (farewell?) album in the can ready to be released one of these days.

I for one wish them the best and hope they never go away. One of the few remaining bands that've been around for my entire lifetime. Rock & Roll will never die. Right?


Do you have any thoughts or memories to share regarding AC/DC? Favorite songs of theirs? Let me know in the comments if you wanna.


Big sea change coming up for the blog, as we leave the classic rock of the Legends subset behind and finally dive into the pop music landscape of the late 80s / early 90s. Should be a fun trip. I'm excited for the journey! (And don't worry, still plenty of rock left in the set, too.) See you soon.