Monday, October 30, 2023

#73 Ian McCulloch (+ Echo and the Bunnymen bonus)

Ian McCulloch is on card #73 in the 1991 MusiCards set. It's not a very exciting photo and Pro Set probably would have been better off constructing this one as a vertical card rather than horizontal. I gotta admit it took me a moment to place the name-- "Oh yeah: it's the guy from Echo and The Bunnymen!"

I like several Echo and The Bunnymen songs, but am not super familiar with them-- their heyday being just a bit before my time-- and hadn't heard any of Ian's solo stuff. I listened to Candleland while drafting this post and liked it fine, though not too different from his familiar Bunnymen sound to my ears, despite those "new aspects of his songwriting ability" touted in the card's write-up.

Ian McCulloch - "Proud to Fall"

After Ian went solo, the band replaced him and kept going for a few years with a new singer. Then in the late 90s, the O.G. Bunnymen regrouped and have been at it since, though they are now down to only Ian and guitarist Will Sergeant left from the original lineup. They just did a short UK tour in September 2023. I think it's fair to say they're considerably bigger in the UK than the US, though this is the only MusiCard that either Ian or his band got (Conspicuously left out of the UK edition).

Echo and the Bunnymen - "The Cutter"


Might as well make a card for the neglected Bunnymen.

This photo from 1987 features the classic Echo and the Bunnymen lineup, though if this was an official card from 1991, one would assume it'd feature singer Noel Burke, who filled in while Ian was off doing his solo thing, 1988-1993.

They've got four songs that have endured as staples of the 80s: "Lips Like Sugar", "The Killing Moon", "Bring on the Dancing Horses", and "The Cutter". Those are great songs, though maybe a bit played out at this point. A couple less-remembered bangers are "Seven Seas" and "Bedbugs and Ballyhoo".

Echo and the Bunnymen - "Rescue"

But my personal favorite song of theirs is "Rescue".. I remember hearing the song on a mixtape from my cousin when I was young and I've loved it since.

That's all I've got for this time. Let me know in the comments if you're a fan of Ian McCulloch and/or Echo and the Bunnymen with any thoughts to add or favorites to mention.

Friday, September 1, 2023

#72 Richard Marx (+ MTV subset series 1)

We're up to #72 in the 1991 MusiCards set with Richard Marx. The washed-out live shot is his lone card in the set. It's likely late in the performance, as he's down to a tank-top.

I'm sure Richard has an audio recorder app on his phone now, with the days of leaving answering machine messages from pay phones long in the past.

Richard's father Dick Marx (giggle) was a jazz pianist who also had a successful career writing jingles, with young Richie sometimes contributing backing vocals. His first big break making a name for himself in the industry was writing the song "What About Me?" that Kenny Rogers took to #1 in 1984.

I liked Richard Marx fine during his peak in the late 80s, though I never went as far as to purchase any of his albums or anything. Loved "Satisfied" and "Endless Summer Nights". And although they got worn out, "Right Here Waiting" and "Hold On to the Nights" are a couple solid ballads of that era. 

A random Richard Marx memory of mine: I was watching him perform 2 or 3 songs with his band live in front of a crowd on a TV broadcast once circa '89 (I think as part of an MTV special event), and what stuck in my memory is how ridiculous it was, when at the end of "Should Have Known Better", the band played/sang progressively quieter rather than have a proper ending. (I'm not sure now if it was lip-synced, but I don't think it was.) LOL, the "live fade out" is something you don't see too often!

But yeah, he's remained active over the years. Here's the link to his Wikipedia entry if you really want to read up on him. Feels like the Nevermind revolution took the wind out of his sails, but he's still put together an impressive career, with plenty of success as a solo artist as well as a collaborator with other notable artists. Seems like a good dude, too, and he made news a while ago by helping subdue a rowdy drunk passenger on a flight.

Wow, turns out Richard Marx has been married to Daisy Fuentes since 2015?! Respect! Everybody had a crush on her back in the day.


I didn't have another artist in mind for today's Custom Corner, so whipping up a MusiCard for Daisy Fuentes sounded like a good idea.

That snowballed into a whole custom subset of MTV personalities. The idea doesn't seem too far-fetched considering the sister set of Yo! MTV Raps cards that included MTV employees among the rappers.

Kevin Seal was probably my favorite as a kid. Seemed like a fun Bill Murray/Paul Rudd-type who didn't take things too seriously.

Gotta respect newsman Kurt Loder, face of MTV News for decades.

Martha Quinn was the only original VJ still around by the time I started watching MTV in the late 80s. Always loved to see her pop on.

The smooth Bill Bellamy gets a Rock N Jock action shot.

It was popular to hate on Kennedy back in the day, but she had her moments.

Pauly Shore was another VJ people loved to hate. I wasn't exactly a big fan, but thought he was entertaining in small doses.

The lovely Tabitha Soren helped MTV News expand in the 90s.

Adam Curry's hair let you know he was the Hard Rock specialist in MTV's arsenal. I didn't watch much Headbangers Ball, but would often try to catch the other show he hosted, MTV Top 20 Video Countdown.

Calling it good here, seeing as 9 is a fitting number for cards. These were really just the first nine people who popped to mind when trying to remember MTV folks from the era I watched, but I'm sure I left out some notable ones. (Downtown Julie Brown! [Uptown] Julie Brown! Heck, the gang from Remote Control.) Maybe I'll do "Series 2" of this subset in a future post. Who do you think should be included?

Please also sound off in the comments with any other thoughts on this MTV group or the work of Richard Marx. Thanks!

Friday, August 4, 2023

#71 Martika (+ Sinéad O'Connor bonus)

Here's Martika at the 71st slot in the 1991 MusiCards checklist. It's her only card in the standard set, but she also has a pair of cards in the UK edition, one of which looks the same as above but with the logo moved down to the opposite corner. The other UK card features a fun shot with her sax player.

I had watched Martika star on Kids Incorporated as a young-un (which I remember as kinda like Saved By The Bell but with singing), so it was a trip for me when she became a pop star with "Toy Soldiers" not long after aging-out of child acting. Seemed like she was on her way to a successful career at the time, but the longevity wasn't there and she pretty much only had that one hit. I remember watching a "Where Are They Now?" segment on her years later and she seemed happy and content with her life away from the spotlight.

I liked "Toy Soldiers" fine back when it was all over radio and MTV for those few weeks and don't mind hearing it once in a blue moon today. I'm not familiar with any of her other songs off the top of my head, but I'll take a listen here in a moment. Skimming her Wikipedia entry, I was surprised to learn she reached the Top 40 four times, working with Prince on one of those singles (which is available in 3 flavors: Martika version, Prince version, and Prince Mix of Martika version), so it might not be fair to label her a one-hit wonder. She saw a bump in visibility after Eminem sampled "Toy Soldiers" for a song in 2004. Around that time, she formed a Latin pop band with her husband called Oppera and put out a couple albums. Since then she's mostly kept a low profile living in Dayton, Ohio, occasionally performing at throwback music festivals.

Ok, after listening to a greatest hits album from Martika, she's got some decent pop tunes that call to mind the likes of Paula Abdul or early Madonna. But nothing that really sticks like "Toy Soldiers", a song written in response to a friend's cocaine addiction, in contrast to the rest of her songs that are generally upbeat. That aforelinked Prince Mix is probably the only thing besides "Toy Soldiers" I'd have much desire to give further listens to going forward, but had I owned the album as a kid back then, I bet I would have loved it. (see Forever Your Girl being a sentimental favorite of mine today.)


Speaking of singers with ties to Prince, we go from Martika to "Mandinka". Sinéad O'Connor passed away last month at 56, a sad ending to a life that had been troubled for a while. I thought maybe there was a MusiCard for her-- after all, this set was put together when she was riding high at her peak, "Nothing Compares 2 U" was released as a single in January 1990, helping her score one of the biggest albums of the year, and it wasn't until October '92 when things "derailed" for her. But no, she didn't get a card in the set, so I whipped up a custom:

Gotta admit "Nothing Compares 2 U" is one of those popular songs I just never liked. Back in the day, I'd always roll my eyes and change the station whenever it came on. Not that 12-year old boys are the prime demographic for that song. I still don't really care for it today (nor the original Prince version), but I do enjoy other Sinéad O'Connor songs. "Mandinka" is a great one. "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" caught my attention the few times I heard it on the radio back in the day. And she's got several other good ones, but my favorite song of hers is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Back in '90, my mom bought the cassette of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, one of the few/last times I remember her purchasing an album that was actually on the pop charts at the time (These days she mostly listens to classical and bluegrass). I loved "The Emperor's New Clothes" despite the rest of the tape not doing anything for me.

I'm loath to even bring it up, but yeah, Sinéad tore up a photo of the Pope after a performance on Saturday Night Live in '92 to protest the catholic church allegedly diddling kids. Like kneeling for the anthem, it got a lot of attention and pissed off a lot of people, but her heart was in the right place fighting injustice. Years later it was revealed that, yep, the clergy was diddling a lot of kids and having it covered up. So she got some vindication there, I suppose, but sure had a rough go of it in recent years, with the loss of her son to suicide being particularly devastating. She converted to Islam in 2018, changing her name to Shuhada' Sadaqat, but still dabbled in music.

That'll do it for this post. By the way, Prince has a couple UK MusiCards which we'll hopefully get to on the blog eventually, but he was left out of the US set, likely due to licensing reasons. 

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share any thoughts you may have regarding Martika and/or Sinead in the comments.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

#70 Ziggy Marley (+ Zelda bonus)


Ziggy Marley is #70 in the 1991 MusiCards checklist. In contrast to the several Madonna cards of the previous post, this is Ziggy's only appearance in the set, though we saw his dad back at card #16 in the opening Legends subset. Ziggy's topless photo here rivals Jim Morrison and Paula Abdul for most skin / least clothes in the set so far.

"Tumblin' Down" (live)

I haven't listened to much Ziggy Marley over the years, but I've liked what I've heard. The Melody Makers didn't pop up on my radio often back in the day, but I was always happy to hear his singles when they came on. 

One time circa '91 I taped "Tomorrow People" off the radio and the DJ did a dumb little skatting thing over the end of the song, and I listened to that tape enough to the point where now whenever I hear that song, I kinda hear the DJ in my head.

"Look Who's Dancing" is another good one from Ziggy.

He still releases music and does occasional acting. I don't have much else to say about him, but he seems like a good dude who does a lot of charity work. There's a new Bob Marley biopic due out in 2024 called One Love co-produced by Ziggy. The trailer recently came out and it looks intriguing.


Sticking at the end of the alphabet for another prominent "Z" in pop culture, let's take a quick look at a classic video game series: Zelda.

A subset of popular video games would have likely been well received by kids of the day were Pro Set inclined to expand the scope of their MusiCards (and been able to work it out with Nintendo, et al).

Along with the original Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda was my introduction to Nintendo. Circa 1986, my neighbor friend Jeremy Small (Jeremy, are you out there? Let's reconnect! LOL) had me over one day when he was playing some Zelda. It kinda blew my mind and a Nintendo Entertainment System went straight to the top of my Christmas list.

I would go on to play a lot of NES, with Zelda and its sequel The Adventure of Link both getting a lot of time in the console. I didn't have a Super Nintendo back in the day (ended up with a Sega Genesis instead), but I eventually played through the great SNES Zelda game A Link to the Past via emulation years later. There's also a really good GameBoy Color Zelda game I've played with an owl always hooting at you about something. But I never played the N64, GameCube, or Wii games. (Well, I own Skyward Sword for Wii, but haven't been able to play it for longer than a few minutes without losing interest in trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do... but maybe I'll give it another shot someday.)

But now I've been playing a lot of Tears of the Kingdom, which is the new Zelda game for Switch. I had a gift certificate for the Nintendo store from a couple Christmases back that I had been meaning to use, so when I saw the new Zelda game out getting rave reviews, made sense to get it. 

I've since gotten a bit obsessed with TofK and have sunk many hours into it over the past couple months. I suck at video games, so I haven't even gotten very far, but it's a big open-world game with lots of side quests and stuff to do besides advancing to beat the game. Heck, sometimes it feels there's too much you can do, overwhelming me with so many options. For instance, you can combine a ton of stuff in the game to build things-- such as making cool weapons, but then they screw you by severely limiting how many weapons Link can carry, and sometimes they randomly break when you're using them. 

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with TotK and the game can make me furious, often spooking the dog out of the room with my ugly outbursts while playing. Sometimes it's cheap stuff like the camera angle changing at inopportune times that trips you up. But a lot of the time, it's my own damn fault since there are so many buttons and with my lousy memory I invariably push the wrong button nearly half the time. So like in a battle where you have to be quick with attacking and blocking and doing special moves, I get my ass kicked. But when I'm just bumbling around, searching for items and enjoying the beautiful digital scenery, it's a great game. And the scattered about "shrines" are sometimes fun brain teasers where you have to figure out how to get to the other side of the room using provided objects.

Anyways, thanks for letting me vent. Yeah, the new Zelda game is really something. Overall, though, I'm happy remaining a retro-gamer for the most part-- much easier to remember just A and B buttons, lol-- and I still play those first three Zelda games every so often. (Oh hey, if you happen to be into NES emulation, check out the hack I made of Zelda II twenty years ago called "Adventure of Error" that changes the graphics and text in silly, often crude ways. It might be a bit low-brow at times, but I spent a lot of time on it back then and I'm still proud of how it came out. Makes me laugh when I play it, at least. Yes, before I was making custom cards, I was customizing video games, ha. [Here's a .nes file download; you'll need a NES emulator to play it.)

Were any of you readers into Legend of Zelda back then? Anyone also playing Tears of the Kingdom these days? Please feel free to share your thoughts on Ziggy Marley in the comments as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

#65-69 Madonna

Got a bunch of Madonna cards to peruse today, as we hit numbers 65 through 69 in the 1991 MusiCards set.

Madonna is the face of MusiCards, mathematically speaking, with Pro Set getting the most out of their hot licensing coup. She appears on 5 cards in series one (the max number given per artist), 2 more in series two (again the max for that series), and her total of 6 cards in the UK edition is bested only by New Kids on the Block (who have 7 cards in that set, but do not appear in the US version.)

Card #65 features an attractive shot and is probably my personal favorite of Madonna's cards. Pretty sure that's her "Like a Prayer" look. I remember watching MTV during the premiere of the video back when they would occasionally make a big deal out of the first time they played a new video. Seems "Like a Prayer" was the pinnacle of that "world premiere video" pageantry. Sponsored by Pepsi and controversial for religious/racial stuff (which probably wouldn't move the needle today), it was a hit and is still among my favorite songs of hers.

There are 3 versions of this card, with the photograph also gracing a promo as well as a card in the UK edition.

That's quite an effusive write-up, but yep, she sure was a big deal at the time. Of course she's still a big deal today, even if not consistently topping the charts as she did in her prime. A big world tour kicks off next month, planned to stretch into 2024, billed as her first "greatest hits" concerts.

As I was saying, she's got 5 consecutive cards here in Series 1, then a couple more later in Series 2, plus 6 cards in the UK edition, and a couple promos (one of which has error/corrected variations). Her 16 total cards in the MusiCards master set is the highest total of anyone (unless you also count the Yo! MTV Raps cards under the MusiCards umbrella, in which case M.C. Hammer overtakes her with 19 combined). Six of the seven US front photos are repeated in the UK set, with the above long-necked #66 being the sole "US-only" Madonna MusiCard.

Crazy that she's been at it for over 40 years now. Her image was no stranger to trading cards by this point. Panini put out several Madonna cards in the 80s, then in 1990, Topps released a Dick Tracy card set featuring her character sprinkled throughout.

I never dove too deeply into Madonna's catalog, but generally liked her 80s hits well enough.

I think this is her "Express Yourself" look. The aforementioned corrected promo card shares the photo with card #67 here. Let's take a quick look at the promo, why not...

The difference is on the back, specifically the first few words in the write-up.

Her last name is Ciccone, not Caccione, and she was born in 1958, not '61. Even on the corrected version they mistakenly stuck a comma in the middle of her name, lol.

Anyways, back to Series 1...

Speaking of distinguishing yourself, I went to elementary school with a husky kid named George who was big into Madonna. It was funny because all us other boys were into playing GI Joes and riding bikes or whatever, and then there's big George consistently rocking the Madonna shirt in 4th grade with no fucks given. (And no, he wasn't overly feminine; if anything he was sort of a bully!) I wish I could track that guy down and catch up with him. Did he love Madonna his whole life, or did the obsession fade as he got older?

Card #68 here would have been better off swapping photos with the back, if you ask me, trading the relatively boring headshot for some black & white voguing... a flipped version of the photo on the back of the promo.

Anyone looking for updated stats and additional information can skim Madonna's lengthy Wikipedia entry.

Like a Prayer era Madonna is where it's at for me, syncing up with the height of when I was listening to pop music. If the "Cherish" video came on MTV back in the day, I'm watching it. And "Oh Father" is a favorite of mine that was only a minor hit, also found on that album.

This shot may look familiar, as a similar photo is used on the back of card #66. I'd probably rank this "biker chick" look at the bottom of the fashions displayed on Madonna's MusiCards, honestly.

#69, nice. Pro Set didn't repeat photos in the set too often, but this back shot was also used on card #67 (and seems to be from the same photoshoot as the front of card #66).

She was still in the thick of her peak years in the early 90s. These cards were hitting retail shelves around the time Madonna was filming 1992's A League of Their Own, regarded as probably her best on-screen effort.

The only Madonna album I ever actually owned was a True Blue cassette I probably picked up used for a couple bucks or maybe got cast off from a buddy. Some good tunes on that one, with "Live to Tell" being my favorite. But yeah, I was down with Madonna at the time and still enjoy most of her hits up until getting all over-the-top mega-horny, with "Justify My Love" and 1992's Erotica and her SEX book ironically turning me off. But her first 4 studio albums get a thumbs-up from me. Beyond that, I also really like "Don't Tell Me"... reminds me of walking around campus during my days at SDSU.

That'll wrap up this post. Let me know in the comments if you've got anything to share on the subject. I would guess most of my readers are like me and consider themselves casual fans of 80s Madonna and that's about it, but hey, maybe some of you guys really love (or hate) her.

We'll check back in with the Queen of Pop once we eventually get to cards #275 and 276. Ziggy Marley is up next.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

#64 Linear (+ Dimebox Dad Music Customs Series 3 set)

Number 64 in the '91 MusiCards set is a pop group called Linear. The awkwardly cropped photo squeezes in the three fellas who are showing off their world-class mullets and a sampling of their musical instruments.

The back pic is likely from the same photoshoot as the front, but must've been earlier seeing as they've still got their jackets on. 

Gotta admit this band doesn't ring a bell for me-- and I never watched much Miami Vice-- but they've got a modest Wikipedia entry and were a flash in the pan in 1990 with "Sending All My Love" reaching #5 in the US.

"Sending All My Love" sounds a bit familiar listening to it now, and it really hammers that chorus into your head, but doesn't really differentiate itself from the rest of the generic dance pop of the era. These guys sounds like they could have been the opening act on a New Kids On The Block tour. I actually listened to the entire debut album while writing this post. There's some terrible "boy band" stuff on there that's lost on me as a middle-aged man hearing it for the first time, but a couple "guitar forward" songs were alright.

A sophomore LP, Caught in the Middle, was released in 1992 and the lead single "T.L.C." reached #30, but petered out after that. They put out a single called "Let's Go All the Way" in 1994, but it didn't go anywhere, ironically, and that seems to have been their last release of note. While not very active these days, Linear is still together as a group according to their Wiki, though now they're a duo of "Steele" and "Riot," with "Bang" having left the fold.


Changing gears, here's something from last year I haven't gotten around to posting yet. Nick from the Dimeboxes blog had facilitated another deal where I whip up a set of several custom cards of favorite musicians for his dad Mike in exchange for some set needs of mine.

Dimebox Dad Music Cards Series 3

This is the 3rd series of 18 cards (for easy paging) I've made for Mike over the years. How these sets come together is I'm sent a list with names and some info for the backs along with suggested photos to use. Then I make them into cards, with the only guideline being that he likes 70s oddballs best, so I try to keep that in mind when thinking of what design would work well with each picture. Some of these were templates I had already made, but some were cranked out specifically for this project.

I'm down with Daniel Johnston and there were a few other names I recognized or maybe knew one song they did, but the majority of these were unfamiliar to me. Fun to give a curious listen and skim the Wikipedia for them while making the cards.

"I Love You Like I Love Myself" by Herman Brood is a song I hadn't heard before that has become one of my most-played songs of the past year. Hell, I've played the song on repeat for a good chunk of time on more than one occasion. It's a really fun, heartfelt rocker from the late 70s that would fit right in on modern classic rock radio, yet refreshingly not worn out like the rest of that rotation. So thanks to Nick's dad Mike for turning me onto that, among other very cool tunes I was exposed to thanks to making these requested custom cards.

I was really happy with how the cards came out and brought them with me during my trip to Chicago last summer, hoping to hand-deliver them. Would have been great to see the look on his face when he flipped through the cards for the first time, but unfortunately we weren't able to work out a meet up while I was in Nick and Mike's neck of the woods and so I resorted to mailing them after returning home.

As with all my customs, they're not for sale but if you really want one for your collection I'm sure we could work out a trade without too much trouble.

That'll do it for this post. Thanks for stopping by and let me know in the comments if you've got any thoughts to share regarding Linear or any of the Dimebox Dad set. I'm also very curious if any of you are like me and once in a blue moon get obsessed with a song and listen to it on repeat many times in a row.. or am I just a weirdo?

Monday, April 10, 2023

#63 Huey Lewis (and The News)

Huey Lewis (#63) seems to be one of the more popular cards in the overproduced 1st series of 1991 Pro Set MusiCards. Like, you could legitimately argue it's a key card in the set. If you open a random pack of MusiCards and get one, it's a good pull. (--Not that it's worth more than a few cents, of course!) 

Odd that they kept it as a solo subject rather than make it a card of Huey Lewis & The News despite bits of them in the background of the photo. This same card is reprised in the UK edition of the set, though there the logo box is moved to the lower right corner, revealing more of the News.

Huey's reign as a top rock star of the day didn't really stretch into the 90s, but back in the mid 80s? You couldn't avoid the guy if you tried. The back gives you a big-picture overview of his band's accomplishments and mentions he's from the Bay Area.

I like the hits of Huey Lewis and the News as much as the next guy, though he was just a bit before my time, with me not really "getting into music" until the late 80s when he was yesterday's news, as it were.

My favorite song of his/theirs would probably be "The Power of Love", which is not only a sleek slab of toe-tapping pop rock & roll, but also has the association with Back to the Future further bolstering its pop culture status and nostalgic foothold with people around my age.

Last I heard, Huey is semi-retired and losing his hearing from decades of rocking out. Wishing him the best.

I might as well right a wrong and use this opportunity to design a MusiCard-that-never-was that squeezes in more of the neglected News.

Pop off in the comments if you've got anything to say about Huey Lewis and/or the News. If you're a fan, any hidden gem deep cuts you'd recommend giving a listen?

Next up is a band I'm not familiar with, but the post will have a big Custom Corner to make up for it. Stay tuned.