Wednesday, May 18, 2022

#55 INXS (+ concert-going rambling)

 
INXS slots in at #55 in the 1991 MusiCards set. It's a strange posed shot of the Aussie boys each doing their own thing while gathered together in an empty room. Looks kinda like the guy in white is all, "Hey guys, check out this new riff I came up with." Meanwhile Michael Hutchence is all, "Yeah, sounds good, Tim, but I gotta check out this fascinating camera over here."

Sadly, the design's misplacement of the Super Stars logo essentially spoils what could have been a fine looking trading card. Poor Andrew Farriss on the left there gets the "blockhead" treatment while the lower right corner cries out its vacancy. Such a shame. (But stay tuned.)


They had a great run, and give credit to the Pro Set writer for ably summing up the band in the space allotted. Seems like most bands in this set didn't really remain relevant in the wake of the Nevermind sea change happening as these cards were on retail shelves, but INXS were still riding their peak to some degree. Bangers still ahead of them here include "Not Enough Time" and "The Gift", both tracks I remember enjoying on the radio and MTV in the early/mid 90s. But Elegantly Wasted (1997) was kind of a dud, and Hutchence tragically hung himself later that year (...which was rumored to be a case of autoerotic asphyxiation gone awry, though that seems to be just gossipy hearsay, with evidence indicating he was doped up and distraught over drama involving access to his young daughter).

INXS - "Not Enough Time"



The card's back photo is similar to the cover for 1990's X (above), sourced from the same photoshoot and utilizing the same outline effect.


That back image was also used on shirts and posters for that tour. By the way, "X" marked 10 years since their 1980 debut album. I thought perhaps it was their tenth studio album, but that distinction would go to Elegantly Wasted.



The last time we saw a variation in this set, its purpose was to correct a typo on the back of a Debbie Gibson card (#43). This time, the back of the variation is untouched, and the only reason for the revamped card is simply because it makes all the sense in the world to kick the logo to the opposite corner to better fit the photograph.


Ah, this variation found only in Series 2 packs is like a breath of fresh air after the constrictive original. I know I'm sounding like a broken record on the matter, but it sure would have benefitted the set had the layout designer(s) simply chosen which corner to put the black box based on how it worked with the photo from the get-go, rather than forcing it to the upper left before fixing a few problematic cards with later variations.

INXS also have a separate card in the second series (#314), plus there's a pair in the UK edition too, so the band is penciled in for a return to the blog eventually. We'll delve into their career more in those future posts. For now, I've got a couple personal anecdotes I wanted to cover here.


INXS - "Never Tear Us Apart"

In a random early memory of mine, I'm a pre-teen in the late 80s riding in a car with some family members in Chicago on the way to my great grandmother's funeral. I haven't really matured into listening to "real music" by this point, but at sometime during the trip I overheard a catchy song on the radio or something. I forget the context, but somehow I work part of the lyric like "two worlds collided" into the conversation and my cool older cousin kinda perked up and asked "INXS?" I just nodded and felt like hotshit for kinda impressing her with my vague familiarity with current hit singles. As an only child, she was as close as I had to an older sibling, and she would go on to help nudge me along my path of musical discovery as I entered my teen years.

I still love that song-- Kick really is a great album start to finish-- and even worked up a "reimagined" cover version that I enjoy rocking out from time to time when I practice playing guitar. I recorded a rough version in 2015 that's still collecting dust on the internet in case you want to check it out. It's not very tight, but in my defense it's all me: guitar, singing, keyboard, and even the sloppy drums.

I should also mention that-- unless maybe I'm overlooking something?-- pretty sure INXS is the only act in the entire 1991 MusiCards set that I've personally seen perform live in person. Yep, it was June 21st, 2006 at the Embarcadero Marina Park South in San Diego. On lead vocals was the winner from their Rock Star competition reality show, JD Fortune. I had caught most of those episodes (chiefly thanks to Dave Navarro co-hosting, as I was a diehard Jane's Addiction fan at the time), so it was nice having some "bond" with the guy through getting to know him through the show (and the rest of the guys in the band, for that matter), but the experience was still just a step above watching a cover band, hearing all the INXS classics with somebody besides Michael Hutchence singing.

Here's a custom for the latter era of the band. They kept it going as INXS for a few years before finally calling it quits in 2013.

But yeah, it was a fun night at a pleasant outdoor venue. My friend Chris had stumbled into free tickets-- gotta admit I would've never considered actually spending my own money to go to the show, but for free? Sure! My concert-going heyday was the mid 90s through the 00s, but I usually went to alternative/indie rock shows, so there's not much overlap with the MusiCards checklist. While I dug plenty of larger acts of the day-- huge Tom Petty fan, for example-- I just rarely ponied up the dough for large venue concerts. That's still true today, though I have more discretionary income to play with now. I find it hard to pay $100+ for tickets to see somebody play from the rafters when there are several HD video recordings available to watch free on YouTube, ya know? My buddy Doug recently bought a single ticket to see Paul McCartney in Seattle. He's a huge Beatles fan who had never seen him live, so that was monumental for him to pull off. He was texting me video clips while it was happening and it was a vicarious blast. But I don't know if I have a personal equivalent of that where I would pull the whole "Shut up and take my money!" meme to buy a ticket at any cost. That might make a good question prompt for the comments: Is there any musical artist alive today you'd happily buy a $200+ ticket for the opportunity to see perform live if their tour happened to stop at your largest local sports arena?

Maybe this is on my mind because a tour was recently announced with Jane's Addiction opening for Smashing Pumpkins. The current version of both bands is a far cry from their glory days, but I'm debating it. I've seen Jane's several times, but never the Pumpkins (despite being a big fan). Tickets are like $75 and it's at the Moda Center where the Trailblazers play. It's an easy commute for me-- the train passes it on my way to and from work-- but I've never been in the building. I'm sure it won't come anywhere near selling out, so maybe I'll take a look closer to the mid-November date and see if I can score a cheap ticket or two. 

Welp, I've probably rambled enough to fill out the post. I'll have to get around to listing out my favorite INXS songs when we eventually get to their Series 2 card. In the meantime, please let me know in the comments if you've got any thoughts or memories to share regarding INXS. I'm also curious about the aforementioned "expensive ticket" question, and-- if you're looking to kill some time-- maybe count up how many acts you've seen live from the 1991 MusiCards checklist. Might be interesting to find out who among our readers here has caught the most. I'm setting the bar pretty low with 1! (And that one barely counts, considering the replacement singer.)

Oh wait, I just found a second artist in the set that I've "sort of" seen live! Back in August '96, fresh out of high school, Doug and I drove up to Big Bear, California for a music festival in the mountains. We were mainly there to see Porno For Pyros and Love & Rockets (who were both great). Lady Miss Kier also performed a set, and she's featured on a MusiCard with Deee-Lite (#268), who had recently broken up at the time. I don't remember much of her set, as we were still milling around the grounds for most of it, but I recall thinking it was cool to see her-- the far-out lady from the fun "Groove Is in the Heart" song/video-- even if her music that afternoon was a bit too "dance rave" for my taste. So yeah, I'd say that plus seeing INXS with a new singer combines for a solid "1" for my Acts-Pictured-on-a-MusiCard-I've-Seen-Live total, or 2 if we're being really generous about it.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

#54 Information Society (+ getting a MusiCards wantlist up)

Information Society are #54 in the 1991 MusiCards set. The trio each have something quirky going on in this photoshoot, with one guy on roller-skates, one guy in gardening gloves and a Jughead hat, and the third guy in unusual headwear as well. 

This card makes for a compelling argument that Pro Set really would have been better off being looser with placement of the logo box. It'd be a nicer looking card if the photo was centered better and with the logo in the lower right corner instead. But no, series 1 cards all have the box in the upper left-- with the exception of a handful of variations that were actually only available in series 2 packs-- while the cards in the series 2 checklist all have the logo box in the lower right. The UK edition also sticks the box in the lower right without exception. Sure would have made more sense to just decide which corner to place it based on what worked best with the photo at hand, but apparently that thought didn't jive with the Pro Set employee(s) who were making those calls during the design phase of the product, so we get some awkwardly framed cards like this, the lone Information Society entry in the MusiCard universe. I would whip up a custom variation if I could find this photo online, but I wasn't able to track it down.


I did find the back picture, however, from the same photoshoot. Now the third guy has added kooky glasses to his ensemble.


I think of Information Society as a one-hit wonder, with their "Pure Energy" getting played on the radio a ton when I was a kid. But I rarely, if ever, saw the video on MTV, or recall any other song from them, and just don't ever hear anyone mention them anymore, so much so that I had been wondering if perhaps it was more of a regional hit in the San Diego market. But nope, turns out they built up a decent following. Wikipedia is telling me they were active from 1982–1997 and then 2006–present, with these 3 guys still at it decades later.

Information Society - "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)"

It's a pretty cool song, though the video is laughably dated with late 80s ridiculousness. They had a woman in the band for a while, but she left sometime between this video and the aforementioned photoshoot. Fun fact: Apparently they were able to clear the Star Trek sample because Leonard Nimoy's son was a fan of the band. While "Pure Energy" is the only track of theirs I could name off the top of my head going into this post, according to Spotify they've got another song that's also very popular called "Repetition":


Information Society - "Repetition"

"Repetition" has 11 million plays (compared to 14 million for "Pure Energy"). "Repetition" doesn't ring a bell nor really do anything for me (and yes, I'm repeating "Repetition" a bunch as some dumb meta joke), but while checking out their other popular tracks, there was one song that perked me up in a "wow, I probably haven't heard this song in 30 years!" way...


Information Society - "Walking Away"

Honestly I don't know if I'd go as far as to say I liked "Walking Away" back in the day, but I definitely remember it for its catchy, eye-rolling chorus. I remember joking with my buddies poking fun at it. Like, after turning off a Nintendo game, I might deadpan, "I am walking away from, walking away from, games that suck such ass," or something dumb like that.

Are you readers familiar with Information Society? ... like, beyond the "Pure Energy" song? Let me know in the comments, if you'd be so kind.


Getting a MusiCards wantlist up

I found some time over the past couple weeks to sort my duplicate 1991 MusiCards with the intention of putting together a 2nd set (Series 1 + 2 + UK). Got pretty close, but ended up short a few.. many of which are the common, garden-variety Series 1 cards, thankfully pulling the vast majority of tougher Series 2 cards from a retail box of the stuff. (I didn't luck into pulling a hologram insert, though.. which would be a dream of mine, but not enough to rip through dozens of boxes looking for one).

I figure having a second set would be nice to have around, not just as something productive to do with my many dupes, but also because occasionally when I pull out my set to get card images for the blog, I'll notice a printing flaw or condition issue hurting the card's appearance. So it'd be nice to know I've got a complete backup I could turn to in situations such as that.

Instead of listing my needs in this post, I went ahead and made a separate page for my MusiCards wantlist that I can link on the sidebar and update going forward. If you've got some MusiCards available, please take a look and get in touch if you've got any I need and wanna swing a little trade.

Also.. Anybody working on a MusiCards set or want to start? I've got lots of triples available from Series 1, Series 2, and the UK Edition that I'd be happy to thin out in trades without expecting much in return. Just let me know!

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

#53 Indecent Obsession (+ Tears For Fears bonus)

Indecent Obsession slot in at #53 in the 1991 MusiCards set. I've never heard of them, you? Guy on the bottom looks eerily like a young Tom Brady. The dude behind him is wearing a Harley Davidson shirt that reads "More Than a Machine", a statement that was so important for him to make that he went against the guys' trend of plain white tees under a black leather jacket. It's funny to imagine that being a source of contention at the photoshoot: 

Young Tom Brady: "Bro, where's your white shirt?! Coach ain't gonna be happy." 

Rebel with a Karen haircut: "I wanna wear my HARLEY SHIRT and that's that! And I'm not gonna hunch over for the photo, either! I'm standing tall and proud so everybody can see my badass shirt!"

Anyways, these guys are giving off a New Kids on the Block vibe, which is generally a bad sign. I try to keep an open mind with any act in the set I'm not familiar with, and am often pleasantly surprised when I hear them, but judging by the front photo, I'm assuming I'm not going to enjoy the musical output of this group very much.


Well, they write all their own songs, so that's cool. And they're from Australia? Perhaps I dismissed them as a wannabe NKOTB prematurely. Looks like only the singer gets included in the back photo, with a moody black & white shot. The write-up doesn't provide any clue as to what they actually sound like, so I'm off to Spotify and YouTube to have a listen.

Indecent Obsession - "Fixing a Broken Heart" (Duet Version)

Spotify only has 2 of Indecent Obsession's 5 albums available. Their most popular track there by a wide margin is "Fixing a Broken Heart" (Solo Version), followed by the "Duet Version" of the same song, and a long drop-off to their 3rd most-popular track, "Lady Rain". Those all seem to be pop ballads.


Indecent Obsession - "Tell Me Something"

The upbeat "Tell Me Something" from '89 was their only single to crack the US charts, though they had moderate success in their native Australia before disbanding in 1995.

Listening to this stuff for the first time today, I'm not into it. But back in the day when I was regularly pumping tunes by the likes of Richard Marx, Paula Abdul, and Milli Vanilli? Sure, Indecent Obsession would've fit right in. (Hell, I'll admit their were even a couple New Kids songs I kinda liked for a brief moment as a young'un. [The best "dirt" I've got on my longtime best friend Doug is I clearly remember once in elementary school he told me New Kids on the Block were his favorite band. I never let him live it down! He denies it today, but it happened. That brief window when NKOTB were cool to all the kids in school, before quickly becoming a girls-only fandom.])

After watching these videos, it's apparent that the person featured in the card's back photo is not the singer as I assumed, but rather the guitar player, Andrew. So, it's neither the guy who sings (David, the Tom Brady-looking guy) nor the guy who writes most of the music (Michael), but I guess the person at Pro Set choosing photos just decided the guitarist looked the coolest of the bunch. lol

If you're wondering, the Harley shirt guy is the drummer, Daryl. Here's the link to their Wikipedia entry in case you're inspired to learn more about Indecent Obsession.

Australia will have more representation in the set coming up very soon with INXS a couple cards away. Scanning the checklist, looks like Men At Work show up later in Series 2, while Australian sisters Dannii Minogue and Kylie Minogue each have 4 cards in the UK edition. 

CUSTOM CORNER

Changing gears, Tears For Fears released a new album last month. They're one of my all-time favorite bands, and conspicuously absent from the MusiCards set, so I knew I was going to have to whip them up a custom eventually, and I figure I might as well do it now while they're back in the music press.


I know I took some liberties by breaking the photo out of the restrictive design, but this custom would have made a fine addition to the set, if I say so myself. I even used an era-appropriate photo from 1990. The Seeds of Love was released in late September 1989 and went on to be an international hit, riding high on the charts for several months in several countries as they toured the globe throughout 1990. Must've been a licensing issue keeping them from receiving a MusiCard, as I'm sure Pro Set would have loved to include one of the biggest bands in the world at that time in their product. (It's not like they were bumping Tears For Fears off the checklist so they could make room for Indecent Obsession, LOL.)


I know I've blogged about the story before, but one time when I was a young kid, I was at a friend's birthday party at the local roller-rink one weekend afternoon circa 1985... just having fun skating laps with the gang while the arena was filled with not only light beams bouncing off the mirrorball above, but also popular hits of the time playing over the soundsystem. I remember "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" came on and my eyes widened-- I was like "(WOW! This is great!)"-- a perfect song to go along with the perfect time I was having. Just an incredible feeling all around. It was like a grand awakening for me and basically from there I was on my way to music being a key aspect of my life. I'm sure you other music lovers have similar stories from when a song first "blew your mind" like that as a kid... That first "fix" that led you to become a music junkie.

If I had to rank the TFF albums by my personal preference, I'd say Songs From the Big Chair (1985) and The Seeds of Love are neck-and-neck for the top spot in a virtual tie. Love 'em start to finish. The Hurting (1983) is an excellent debut, but the production leaves me a bit cold compared to the lush, orchestrated albums that followed. 1993's Elemental is incredible, but the absence of Curt Smith sort of makes it feel like a Roland Orzabal solo album rather than a true TFF album.

Raoul and the Kings of Spain followed in 1995 and I didn't even bother to listen to it. I heard the single "God's Mistake" and didn't like it, mostly preoccupied with heavier alternative rock at the time. I finally listened to that record years later, and it's okay, but again, feels like it should have been released as a solo album. And yeah, I know Roland does the majority of the songwriting and singing in Tears For Fears, but it still feels off when Curt isn't around.

Thankfully the pair buried the hatchet in the following decade and 2004 saw the release of Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, which is among the best reunion/comeback albums I've ever heard; a forceful return to form.

I was able to catch Tears For Fears perform live in 2014 at a music festival here in Portland. It was a terrific set and my wife and I had a blast. During the show, once between songs they mentioned they were working on a new album. I waited patiently... and then waited less patiently... and now nearly 8 years later, The Tipping Point was finally released here in early 2022. I like it, though it hasn't grabbed me quite as much as Everybody Loves a Happy Ending did. --at least not yet, though I want to listen to it a few more times in the coming weeks and see how it grows on me.

Further illustrating my indecent obsession with the band, I've got some quirks with my preferred method of listening to TFF albums, with tweaks to the playlists in my music library:

  • The Hurting - I tack on "The Way You Are" as a bonus track on the end. The album otherwise ends abruptly with the stressed-out "Start of the Breakdown", so a lighter, non-album song from around that timeframe works as a nice outro track.
  • Songs from the Big Chair - I've got a playlist that's called "Songs from the African Big Chair" and all it is is a mix that begins with Toto's "Africa" to set the mood, then Songs from the Big Chair in its entirety, then we close with "Africa" by John Coltrane which brings it all around and works as a continuation of the album's closer, "Listen". Yeah, I don't know, man, but it's an enjoyable mix in my rotation.
  • The Seeds of Love - I find the start of "Advice for the Young at Heart" jarring following the fade out of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" so what I've recently done is create a medley of "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)"-- a strong non-album cut from that era (I will say most of their b-sides are forgettable; I've hunted down pretty much all the band's rare tracks and there ain't much worth multiple plays --Oh, but updated to add that they released a covers EP from 2014 called Ready Boy & Girls? that is very enjoyable)-- that then crossfades with "Advice for the Young at Heart" to slot into that point of the album. "Laid So Low" starts suddenly, too, but not as bad as "Advice for the Young at Heart", which has jolted me awake many times over the years while listening to the album on my iPod as I drift off to sleep.
  • Elemental - If you're familiar with this album, you know how the penultimate track "Brian Wilson Said" sort of starts repeating itself at the end? Well, I made myself an extended mix that loops back a couple times to essentially play the song three times total. I suppose it's a testament to that gorgeous song that it feels incomplete to me if I only listen to it once in a row!
  • Raoul and the Kings of Spain - N/A... I don't listen to this one much, though now I'm thinking I should revisit it.
  • Everybody Loves a Happy Ending - All I've ever known is the version with the 2 bonus tracks ("Pullin' a Cloud" and "Out of Control"), so the record would feel incomplete to me without those two tunes at the end.

I've been slowly-but-surely watching through the show Psych on Prime, though I haven't gotten to the episode with Curt Smith's guest-spot yet. Happy to have his autograph along with a 7-Eleven lenticular disc from 1985 to represent the band in my card collection. Maybe I'll print out a copy of the MusiCards custom from earlier to complement the ensemble, and I'd love to score a Roland Orzabal autograph someday, but unfortunately he doesn't have a convenient auto card on the market like Curt does, so I might have to eventually settle for a signed CD cover or something.


Let's wrap up the post with a bonus MusiCards custom, this time using a recent photo in the Legends subset design. These dudes are getting old! As are we all. Let's hope they keep thriving for many years to come.

What do you think? Favorite TFF song(s)? Any thoughts you might have to share regarding Tears For Fears (or even Indecent Obsession, or like the first time you really connected with music as a kid, or whatever), I'd love to hear it in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

#52 Hothouse Flowers (+ Red House Painters bonus)

Hothouse Flowers are next up in the set. I've heard the name over the years, but don't know anything about them and can't recall ever hearing any of their songs. I think I conflate them in my mind with Red House Painters just because of the similar name and another band I've heard of but am not very familiar with.


Ah, I'm a little surprised to learn they're an Irish band. Without even hearing them, I bet they get a lot of U2 comparisons.

Hothouse Flowers - "Don't Go"

Looks like their two best-remembered tracks in the US are "Don't Go" and a cover of "I Can See Clearly Now". Listening to some of their greatest hits while working on this post, they remind me a little of the Alarm, Call, and Simple Minds at times. Oh, and some Waterboys. Surprised it's unfamiliar to me, as this stuff would be right up my alley in the early 90s, but I guess my local alternative radio station didn't play them much.

Reading up on them on their Wikipedia entry, Hothouse Flowers are still a band all these years later, with their latest album being released in 2016. 

Hothouse Flowers - "I Can See Clearly Now"

CUSTOM CORNER

Ok, normally I use the Custom Corner segment to make a card for a favorite of mine who's not in the 1991 MusiCards set. This time for a twist, it's a band I'm not at all familiar with, but I think it'd be funny to pair up the Hothouse Flowers with the Red House Painters, and maybe forcing myself into a compare-and-contrast will help me finally keep them separate in my brain.


Dibs on the first Blank-House-Blankers band go to Hothouse Flowers who started in 1985, while Red House Painters followed in 1988. They're from San Francisco.

Per Wikipedia, Red House Painters "were one of the most prominent acts associated with the slowcore/sadcore subgenre." So like, mellow, melancholy rock songs. Frontman Mark Kozelek eventually morphed the band into Sun Kil Moon. I'm a bit more familiar with Sun Kil Moon, but haven't listened to a whole lot from them either.


Red House Painters' most popular song is "Katy Song". As I did with Hothouse Flowers, I'm checking out some of their stuff while drafting this post. Some really good tracks! Some of it might be a little too "dreary" to stick in my rotation, but for the post part I can see myself turning to these guys when I'm in a low-key mood.


"Between Days" is one of their more rockin' numbers.

In conclusion, I should now be able to remember the difference between these two bands. Hothouse Flowers are an Irish rock band that have been around since '85. Red House Painters are an indie band out of San Francisco who became Sun Kil Moon and usually keep things mellow. I can dig them both fine.

How about you readers? Are you on one side of the Hothouse Flowers vs. Red House Painters question? Both? Neither?

Thursday, January 27, 2022

#51 Bruce Hornsby (+ Grateful Dead bonus)


Hey everybody, 2022 finds us up to number 51 in the 1991 MusiCards set with Bruce Hornsby. Fine live shot here with Bruce at the Baldwin and The Range tucked in to his right. Seems a little cramped; is this an edited shot or are they really that huddled together?


In case you didn't get a good enough look at him on the front, there's a clear headshot of Bruce on the back. I consider The Way It Is to be one of my all-time favorite albums. Just an incredible group of piano-forward Americana pop-rock songs to make you tip your cap to Bruce and his associates. That record had a couple big hits, and his collaboration with Don Henley on "End of the Innocence" in 1989 was another big hit for him. That's basically what I know him from, but he's kept at it for years, releasing over 20 albums and still going strong at 67.

Bruce Hornsby and the Range - "Every Little Kiss"

I should really check out more of his stuff besides the The Way It Is album. I bought the CD for my mom as a Christmas or birthday gift one year circa '91, and while she liked it fine, I liked it more and it eventually found a home in my music collection. (Not one of my better gifts, I suppose!) So I know that album like the back of my hand, but couldn't name you any of his other songs or albums off the top of my head. The only other thing from him in my music library is Intersections (1985–2005), a 4-CD collection of mostly unreleased recordings. Some lovely instrumental pieces there along with jam-band jams.

Grateful Dead ft. Bruce Hornsby - intro jam + "The Valley Road" (live October 30, 1990, Wembley Arena, London)

Back to the card, must have been really cool for Bruce become a touring member of the Grateful Dead after he was in a cover band in college with several Dead selections in their repertoire. With the Dead, he performed over 100 gigs from September 1990 to March 1992. (I'm always curious trying to nail down the deadline for the back write-ups, seeing how late into 1990 [or maybe even early 1991?] they cover.) Bruce also had the honor of inducting the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Strangely enough, the Grateful Dead aren't included in the 1991 MusiCards set, not even in the whole subset of concert posters of late '60s gigs from the Bay Area. (We'll start hitting those cards after we get into the 200s of the set.) Perhaps the Dead had already signed an exclusive card deal with Brockum, who put out a 10-card "Grateful Dead Legacy" insert set, which I assume was available in packs of 1991 Brockum Rock Cards, a competing line of music cards from '91 that focused more on metal of the era, but slipped in a few mellower oldies too.

CUSTOM CORNER

Yes, it's the return of the Custom Corner! No more old calendars of mine! The technical difficulties that hampered me in 2021 have been mostly squared away and now I'm getting back into the groove of making customs in Photoshop. Seeing as I've noticed the Dead are conspicuously absent from the '91 MusiCards set, we've got a clear choice of who to feature in today's Custom Corner!

I decided to make this card in a "Legends" style to mix things up since we haven't had one of those in a while.

I was never a real "deadhead" though have been a casual Grateful Dead fan for a long time. As a teen, I bought their album American Beauty (though that was mainly because it includes "Ripple", which had been covered by my favorite band at the time, Jane's Addiction.) Some all-time classics on that record, with "Box of Rain"/"Friend of the Devil"/"Sugar Magnolia" making for a very strong opening. 

Grateful Dead - "Box of Rain"

My mom bought Workingman's Dead-- I believe a selection from the brief window she was signed up for the BMG Music Club scheme-- so I heard that one a lot growing up too, with "Casey Jones" and "Uncle John's Band" among the highlights. I eventually got Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa on CD as well and enjoyed the majority of those cuts. As an adult, I've checked out most of their other studio albums and of course some live recordings, but you've really gotta be deadicated (sic) to delve into their live recordings, as you could probably listen to nothing but live Dead for the rest of your life and still never listen to the same recording twice.

Grateful Dead - "Bird Song" (live)

These days, I'd probably give the nod to "Bird Song" as my favorite Grateful Dead track. Technically it was originally released on Jerry Garcia's first solo album, though it became a frequent part of Dead setlists for years. I just now learned it was written by lyricist Robert Hunter as a tribute to Janis Joplin. (Hey, I'll have to feature her in a Custom Corner one of these days. She doesn't have a solo MusiCard, though Big Brother and the Holding Company has a concert poster card coming up at #254.) But yeah, it's a gorgeous song that I've turned to from time to time in recent years when I've needed to chill out from high anxiety getting me down.

Bonus Jerry Garcia custom.

That'll do it for this post. Please feel free to share your thoughts on Bruce Hornsby and/or the Grateful Dead in the comments below.

Oh yeah-- update on last year's contesty-thing... All 4 "thanks for commenting" prizes were mailed out on Wednesday (1/26), so those should start arriving soon.

Friday, December 24, 2021

#50 Hoodoo Gurus (+ the return of MusiCards, kinda)

Hoodoo Gurus are card #50 in the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards Super Stars set. They're a band I've heard of, but couldn't name a song of theirs for you as I begin drafting this post. The photo here is an awkward posed shot, with the cropping making it look like half the guys are very tall (or the other half very short).

That's a pretty big write-up, as far as these cards go, though still doesn't give you much of an idea what they sound like. As for the back picture, it's something we haven't see so far-- not a photo or a band name wordmark, but a photo negative transparency.

I'm listening to a mix of their songs right now and "Miss Freelove '69" just came on and I lit up. Love this song! Guess I had forgotten the artist. So yes, I do in fact know a Hoodoo Gurus song after all.


It was the first single off their fifth record Kinky that came out in early '91. (I can't be the first to think the singer looks a bit like actor Elijah Wood, right?) That was their last album to really grab "the adulation of college audiences" mentioned on the cardback, with their subsequent albums no longer gaining widespread attention in the post-Nevermind era.

But while they might not be well-known in the States these days, they're Hall of Famers in their native Australia. The band formed in Sydney in 1981 and are still active 40 years later, currently finishing up their tenth studio album. There's a pretty extensive Hoodoo Gurus Wikipedia entry if you wanna read up on them further.

Hoodoo Gurus - "The Right Time" (live at the 1994 Australian Recording Industry Association Awards)

Listening to their songs now, this stuff is right up my alley and I'm surprised I haven't heard more from them. So hey, this blog continues to help me find new things to listen to. Pretty cool.

Any of you regular readers familiar with the Hoodoo Gurus? Let me know in the comments if you've got any favorite songs of theirs.


The Return of MusiCards, kinda

Changing gears, 2021 saw the return of new ProSet Super Stars cards in the form of Leaf autographs. Yep, looks like the entrepreneur guy who bought the Leaf name also brought in the rights to ProSet, and 2021 Leaf Metal Pop Century features stickergraphs inspired by the early MusiCard promos.

The checklist is a dozen subjects deep, with a range of musicians (plus a couple ladies known more for their work in front of the camera but also do some signing.. so, close enough).

checklist:
6ix9ine
Debbie Gibson
Edwin McCain
Fetty Wap
Jesse McCartney
Lindsay Lohan
Mark McGrath
Nelly
Sean Kingston
Sisqo
Tone Lōc
Traci Lords

I can't see myself trying to go after that entire set, but I figured I'd pick up a couple of them as extracurriculars for my MusiCards "master set" I've got going.


Lōc-ed After Dark, boasting the crossover hits "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina", was one of the first cassettes I ever bought with my own allowance money back as a young'un. Loved that album start to finish and still have a soft spot for it today, even if Tone hasn't done much to be proud of since Ace Ventura. He's got OG MusiCards so we'll talk more about him later, starting at card #137.

As for Traci Lords... well, she's a very attractive woman. She was pretty good in the 1990 John Waters movie Cry-Baby, which I think is the source material for this photo. Leaf really flooded the market with her autos this year, it seems, with Traci having a ton of different autos in 2021 Leaf Metal Pop Century.


I thought it'd be interesting to see these new cards side-by-side with original Pro Set Super Stars promo cards from 1990 that provided the inspiration. I think Leaf did a fine job on their revamp. The 2021 cards are refractors or prizms or whatever the Leaf-equivalent is for a card that's on a Chrome-like cardstock and gets some rainbow shine in the light. But anyways, there are many different parallels, as you could imagine.. various colors and/or sparkly action.


The backs are reasonably faithful to the originals, too. An alternate photo would have been a nice touch rather than repeating the front, but oh well.

And notice that the word "MusiCards" never appears on the 2021 versions? I wonder if perhaps that's a separate trademark that Leaf doesn't own? 

I personally would love to see Leaf show 1991 MusiCards some love, such as more new cards like these, but using the main, more familiar MusiCard design for current musicians, preferably a decent base set in addition to autos and even buyback autos of the 1991 cards. That would be cool, but I won't hold my breath.


This Month in 1991

Woo!, we've made it through the end of this year-long lookback at what my life was like as a middle school kid in 1991. Pretty sure this is the only childhood calendar I've held onto over the years. I must have had an inkling that someday I'd be writing a blog involving the year 1991, lol.


December '91 was a glorious month of no school for me.

My wife and I decided against having children of our own, and it's not often that I have any regrets about that, but if I had a kid of my own one thing I'd be excited about is celebrating St. Nick's Day. It's essentially a little bonus holiday where you put out your shoes in front of your bedroom door, and you'd awaken to them filled with stocking stuffers like little gifts and candy. At least that's how it went down at my house. Made me feel like hot shit to have a bonus gift-getting holiday that none of my friends knew about. High five, Mom! Always lots of fun "pre-funking" the holiday season, so to speak, though some years we forgot to do it. But we were on top of it in 1991, written in on 12/5.

Other than a painful trip to the gum doctor, Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for me, getting a new Nintendo game, Super C (Contra 2) and beating it later that day (surely with Genie codes, because that's not that easy of a game!). I also got a Play Ball puzzle that I finished the next day; I don't remember much about it but I think it was a generic baseball scene. Also on the 14th, another new video game with Adventure Island and we got a Christmas tree. Man, I haven't had a real Christmas tree in a long time! I don't miss the hassle, but it was kinda fun and the Christmasy smell is nice. The next day we decorated the tree and made cookies. Always loved getting creative decorating the Christmas cookies! "You bet your ass there's gonna be a rainbow turkey this year! Lots of red hots for wreath berries and tree ornaments!"

Baseball card relevance! I can say with no doubt that I got my first 1992 Donruss baseball cards on 12/19/91. That must've been a nice pick-me-up after the orthodontist tightening my braces that day.


Cracker - "Happy Birthday to Me" (this song was released in March '92, so hey, it was probably written in 1991)

On my birthday I went with my mom and possibly other family to the candle-lighting service at her church. I was never much into church, and I'd usually just go once a year for the Christmas Eve thing as like a "gift" for my mom (ok, and the 4th of July BBQ because the church was right across the street from the high school field where the local firework display launched).


Here's a photo of me and my haul from Christmas morning '91 (wearing a robe over the swapmeet bootleg Bart Simpson shirt that I used as pajamas for a while), though I can tell from other photos that this trove also includes birthday gifts from the day before. I think the Sears catalog offered 3-packs of team-branded soft cushion balls.. I mainly wanted Chicago for the Bulls b-ball that came with a plastic hoop you could install. (Not sure I ever got around to putting it up.) There are a few new video games here, including 4 for the Sega Master System and a pair of NES games with Double Dragon III showing. The big money items here are the Reggie Jackson signed plaque and baseball (I had picked them out earlier at the overpriced card/memorabilia shop in the mall). Reggie was "my guy" at the time, and it was pretty cool to now have his autograph (twice). I eventually sold the ball years later, but still have the plaque. Card-wise, we can see minor league team sets from 1990 Pro Cards (the wood border ones).. I think one is the Tulsa Drillers and there's one with Scott (Gavin) Erickson in the Twins chain. I don't see it visible, but I know I also got a Blue Jays affiliate team set with an early Carlos Delgado card (that I still own today) and a Phillies one with Mike Lieberthal as the top card. And behind some cash there's a box of Topps Traded.. I believe that's the recently-released 1991 Topps Traded set. Loved the Olympic cards in there, plus first Topps cards of Bagwell and Pudge. Finally, a 365 Sports Facts A Year desk calendar-- not sure I kept up with it for all of 1992, but might have. Oh, and I think that's a little mail-order "1991 draft picks" set behind the baseball. By the Sega games are some stocking stuffing, including candy plus my mom would often throw in crap like fruit and walnuts because that's the kind of stuff she got as a kid in her stocking and I guess she wanted to keep that tradition going... though I didn't care too much about getting oranges and nuts as gifts, lol.

We had Christmas dinner with family friend Ken, whom I talked a bit about back in the August calendar segment. I remember this as possibly the lowest-key Christmas of my life. My mom and I just hanging out with a buddy in his small apartment, not the usual big family meal I was more used to with Christmas music playing and lots going on. But it was still a good time. I think we all played a board game together.

I ripped my first 1992 Topps on 12/28/91, then New Years Eve was celebrated at a party of a friend-of-a-family-friend in a real nice house in Leucadia, a fancy beach community Encinitas. I remember some epic hide-and-seek games on the property with the other kids. Honestly, it was so much fun, it's one of those memories I'd like to tap into in a crazy sci-fi way to relive again!

And so it's fitting I closed out 1991 on a high note. It really was a great year for me. I probably should have posted more photos in this segment over the year, and maybe then it would have helped it resonate a bit better. But the thing is, 1991 was me in peak "awkward stage" with bad acne, braces, questionable fashion and hair choices... so there's not a ton of shots I'm eager to share with the internet.

Thanks For a Great Year

But anyways, thanks for indulging me these past 12 months. I'm never going to "write my memoirs" or anything like that, so rambling about my childhood on a blog a couple dozen guys will ever read helps me feel like I've "told my story" to some degree, and there's some record of my life floating around somewhere in space after I'm gone. Again, no kids for me, so this saga will not produce a sequel to carry on the tale. But I'm just late night rambling, perhaps having partaken in something recreational this evening, on the night of my last day before the big 44. (Always been a favorite number of mine.. Aaron! Reggie! McCovey!)

Back a year ago I said I wanted to do a big year-long contest type thing to thank the folks who take a moment to read and comment on the blog. I'm not sure if anyone remembers who was gonna call me on it, but even though my grand plans haven't come together yet, I'm still intending to make good on my word and formerly thank the top commenting people with a little something.

Time to scan through the posts from the past year and confirm who are the folks who commented on the majority of the posts. With 15 posts, that means commenting on 8 or more posts got you onto the winners' podium.

drum roll...

Fuji and Night Owl tied for the title of top commenter, followed closely by Brett Alan and Billy Kingsley.

Special thanks to you four guys for engaging and being generous enough to share your thoughts here at least 50% of the time! You're going on my nice list and I'll get something neat sent your respective ways soon to show my appreciation.

You other readers are still appreciated, don't get me wrong!, but please don't be shy to chime in with your perspective on these artists and songs and stuff as we cover another batch of pop stars in 2022 here on the blog, and maybe next year I'll be working on something special to send you!

Thanks again for reading.. Happy Holidays and all the best in the new year.

Here's the Hoodoo Gurus covering "Little Drummer Boy" to close us out for the year.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

#48-49 Hall & Oates


Today's forecast calls for a double dose of Hall & Oates. We start with 1991 Pro Set MusiCards #48. This photo feels cramped, like it probably should have been zoomed out instead of blocking out chunks of the duo's heads. John Oates smirks while Daryl Hall seems a little out of focus. Best thing about this photo might be how you can kinda see the photographer in the sunglasses reflection.


The glasses are off on the back photo featuring a classic back-to-back pose. The write-up reminds you they were a hit-song powerhouse from the late 70s through the 80s. Their days lingering in the Top 10 were behind them by the time this card was being pulled from packs, though their current LP at the time, Change of Season, did spawn the #11 single "So Close", their final Top 40 hit.


I liked "So Close" a lot.. not enough to buy the CD or single, but enough to tape it off the radio in my waning days of tuning to pop music stations. In fact, the version I'm most familiar with features the local San Diego DJ chatting over the intro section (not the slow part in the video, but the main part that starts with the drum hit), smugly talking about how the Dodgers lost... but he stumbles on his words a bit and ends up finishing his sentence over the first line of the song-- one of the worst sins a DJ can make!


Here's card #49. The guys seem to be bored of posing for the photoshoot. Oates smirking in the background again, while Hall shows off the unusual guitar in his possession.

The back photo is from the same shoot, but now Hall is messing around on the ax (Is that an 8-string guitar? crazy), while Oates dares you to talk smack about his seahorses t-shirt.

The text basically repeats the previous card by listing their popular songs, but now you also get to know some of the non-#1s, such as "Sara Smile" (#4), "She's Gone" (#7), "Did It in a Minute" (#9), and "Everything Your Heart Desires" (#3). The biggest snub here by the Pro Set employee tasked with writing the back is "Say It Isn't So", which went to #2 in 1983.

Only the coincidentally titled "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney featuring Michael Jackson managed to keep "Say It Isn't So" from the top spot for a span of four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

Things quieted down for the band after these MusiCards came out, not releasing another studio album until 1997's Marigold Sky, which didn't make much of a splash. (I'm listening to it for the first time while drafting this post, and it's not too bad.) But they're still at it all these years later. They've both put out a few solo albums, too. I've heard good things about Live from Daryl's House, the show where Daryl Hall jams with other great musicians, though I haven't watched much of it yet.

What's your favorite Hall & Oates song? "You Make My Dreams" (peaked at #5) is probably mine. 

Just a fun song that always seems to improve my mood, even if somewhat overplayed at this point.


THIS MONTH IN 1991


Licking lions preside over November '91.


Lots of NES action for me this month, playing through Double Dragon II, Little Nemo: The Dream Master, Legend of Zelda, Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II, Street Fighter 2010, and Bart vs. the Space Mutants. You can see I wasn't above cheating using a Game Genie. If you're not familiar, it's a device you plug a game into that lets you enter cheat codes for stuff like infinite lives or mega jump. I've never been that great of a gamer, or had the patience to play games for hours on end to really get better at them, so I was happy to get a leg-up thanks to cheat codes, and still to this day I'm not above codes and save-states when I play video games. I realize it's more rewarding to beat a tough game fairly, but for me it just doesn't outweigh all the time and frustration of dying a hundred times. But I feel guilty enough to notate "(w/ Genie)" when I make the claim to have beaten a game, even though that's usually my default, lol. Bart vs. the Space Mutants (the first Simpsons game on Nintendo) is an especially brutal game to complete, even with Genie codes, so it's worthy of the all-caps and exclamation point I've given it here on the 20th.

Oh hey, cool for me to discover the specific day I got Dan Walters' autograph (11/9/91). I wrote a big ol' post about it on Baseball Card Breakdown last year after he passed, but I had misestimated the timeline as summer of '92. I've now added a little note with the card in the Walters PC so I won't forget again. I got a total of 4 in-person baseball autographs during my childhood stint of collecting, but my memory is blurry as to the order I got them, and I'm hoping to one day have it all sorted out. At least now I can confirm Dan Walters came before the still-unidentified old-timer Indians coach I got at a spring training game in '92.

Dodgers fans like Night Owl may be pleased to see I acquired a Los Angeles jersey on 11/16. I really was a "baseball fan" first-- back then and still today but less so-- rockin' gear of several different teams, naively unburdened by any rivalries.

Then we took a vacation to Louisville for a big family Thanksgiving. That trip was notable for meeting my cousin's newborn Alexis. She's all grown up now, finally getting married next year to her long-time baby-daddy. (I only remember this trip now from looking at my old photo album. I bust it out to confirm '92 was a year I went to Arizona and therefore the year I caught a spring training game in Yuma. I was also curious if the smiley face I doodled by my orthodontist [11/15] signified me getting my braces off that day, but no, looking at photos from Xmas '91, I was still a metal-mouth.)

Anyways, we'll close out this old calendar shtick next month with December 1991 and another MusiCard. Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to let me know what you think about Hall & Oates in the comments if you wanna.