Friday, December 20, 2019

#14 B.B. King (+ my favorite old songs of 2019)

Blues great B.B. King checks in at #14 on the checklist for 1991 Pro Set MusiCards Super Stars. That's the type of image that pops in your head when you think of B.B. King, so can't really complain about that, though (as with many of the cards) the picture might be a little cramped by the design.

Hey, it's the first instance in the set where the back picture isn't a secondary photo but rather a logo/wordmark. There will be a decent number of these as we make our way through the set. Running a Google image search for "b.b. king logo" doesn't show this one in the results that I could find, so I'm not sure if it's an official thing or just something worked up by the team at Pro Set. Regardless, it's pretty cool looking.

In addition to this card, Mr. King pops up again at card #253 in the Historic Concerts subset.

B.B. King. "The Thrill Is Gone" (live)

I've never been a huge fan of the blues. I don't hate it, but it's too "samey" for me to listen to too much of it before tiring of the predictable chord changes and whatnot. But that said, I've got nothing but respect for the legendary B.B. King. "The Thrill Is Gone" is the only specific song of his that I could name off the top of my head, however. I recently also listened to his record with Eric Clapton (which I checked out back when we were covering Clapton near the start of this blog) called Riding with the King which is really good.

B.B. kept frequently performing well into old age, passing away in 2015 at age 89. I remember hearing that his shows in his final years were often pretty bad, but I suppose you need to adjust your expectations accordingly when you're going to see a performance from a guy in his late 80s.


In the previous post, I listed a few new/recent songs I've been digging in 2019. Now I'm going to share some older songs that've been in heavy rotation for me this past year.

Bob Welch - Sentimental Lady
A few months ago, the name Bob Welch was known to me only as the pitcher who won the AL Cy in 1990 with 27 wins for Oakland. But turns out there was a popular musician who shared that name. This Bob Welch (Robert Lawrence Welch Jr.) was a member of Fleetwood Mac for a while in the early 70s and helped guide them towards the breakout success they'd achieve later in the decade. He also had some solo hits, with "Sentimental Lady" being the one that I've been into lately. I'm kinda embarrassed to admit that I was introduced to the song thanks to it being prominently featured in a recent episode of Family Guy. I heard it on the show and was like, wow, how have I not heard this song before? I was obsessed with it for weeks, one day listening to it probably over 20 times in one day, no joke! There are a couple different versions of the song, a 1972 Fleetwood Mac version and a shorter 1977 solo version. My preference is the latter version with the more-prominent Christine McVie "all I need is you" backing vocals. Facing serious medical issues in 2012, Bob took his fate into his own hands at age 66 rather than push through a few more years living in debilitating pain, which is sad but can't say I blame him. This gorgeous song of his lives on.

Jay Ferguson - Thunder Island
Dr. Hook - Sharing The Night Together
Like with "Sentimental Lady" these are a couple more songs that fit under the umbrella that is known today as "yacht rock". I know some folks don't like the term (sorry, Night Owl), but it's basically just a shorter way of saying "soft rock from the mid 70s through mid 80s". It's a genre I'm a big fan of, recalling the "easy listening" hits on the radio when I was a kid riding in the car with my mom. "Thunder Island" is another track I have Family Guy to thank for introducing me to. Not sure who on their writing staff is making it their mission to bring attention to these lesser-known smooth gems of the past, but hats off to them! "Sharing The Night Together" is a song I was familiar with, but hadn't heard in a long time until it was featured in the recent Breaking Bad movie El Camino. It's a great song and a peaceful scene in an otherwise tense film.

Phil Collins - Colours
Genesis - Misunderstanding
I had a bit of a Phil Collins/Genesis revival this year, though I suppose I never really stopped listening to him since the 80s. Surprisingly, neither Phil Collins nor Genesis has a card in the MusiCards set despite being big names at the time, so I'll have to be sure to feature each in upcoming Custom Corners. I had ...But Seriously (1989) on cassette back in the day and liked most of the songs a lot. The track that's stuck with me the most is "Colours" which is actually a couple different songs in one, with a mellow keyboard intro giving way to an anti-apartheid rock song with big horns and big drums. With the total length clocking in at nearly 9 minutes, it didn't get much radio play and was never much of a hit, but it's an all-time favorite of mine. "Misunderstanding" is an older Genesis song (1980) that had evaded me until earlier this year when noted cardblog reader (and Collins/Genesis fan) Mr. Haverkamp asked if I could make a custom card for him using images from the song's music video. It's a neat a song. Reached #1 in Canada, but not as big of a hit in the US.

B-52s - Follow Your Bliss
Teenage Fanclub - Is This Music?
Here's a pair of instrumentals from a couple bands that were active at the time of the MusiCards set (though neither got a card) and are still around today. "Follow Your Bliss" is a dreamy track that closes 1989's Cosmic Thing, a pretty darn good record that these days is mostly just remembered for "Love Shack". And another album-ending instrumental, "Is This Music?" came out in 1991 on Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque record. It's crammed with distorted guitars buzzing away delightfully. I've got Spotify to thank for putting these songs on my radar this year by including them in "mix for you" playlists (Don't get me wrong; Spotify recommends me a lot of shit, but once in a while they hit a home run.)

Speed Round:
The Wrens - This Boy Is Exhausted - Catchy indie rock. I need to check out more from them.
Florence + the Machine - Dog Days Are Over - According to iTunes, my most-listened-to track ever.
Cymbals Eat Guitars - Jackson - I LOVE THIS SONG.
Deerhunter - Desire Lines - Another song I will sometimes listen to on repeat over and over.
Beck - Dreams / Beck  - Colors - That Beck album from 2015 was really good.
Kamasi Washington - Clair de Lune - I like to listen to this as an intro before listening to Dark Side of the Moon. (It's a whole thing I do once a month or so.. yes, weed is involved.. I'll probably talk about this more in a future post.)

And so... Those are some of my favorite songs I've listened to a bunch in 2019 that originally came out at least a few years prior. Good stuff; Check 'em out!

Next up on the blog is John Lennon.. which I'm going to try to post on Christmas Day to bring a little "Happy Xmas" to the blog, but we'll see if I'm able to pull that off. Don't have a whole lot of time for drafting posts this time of year.

Any thoughts on B.B. King you'd like to share, or any songs that you've had on heavy rotation in 2019? Sound off in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

#13 Jefferson Airplane (+ my favorite songs of 2019)

1991 Pro Set MusiCards #13 Jefferson Airplane. 
Jefferson Airplane's second card in the set is an improvement over their first. I mean, you can actually see their faces on this one. It's a fine if unremarkable shot of the members hanging out near a building looking like they're on a smoke break.

The back picture seems to be from the same photoshoot as the front (same outfits). Minor typo in the write-up, as their Monterey Jazz Festival appearance was actually in 1966 (not 1967) according to Wikipedia. The person writing these likely mixed it up with Monterey International Pop Music Festival, which was a different concert that Jefferson Airplane also played, and that one was in '67.

When I was a young'un in the 80s, my mom had Jefferson Airplane's 1967 breakout album Surrealistic Pillow in her record collection. We'd slap it on the ol' turntable once in a blue moon. My favorites were "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" (which isn't a big surprise since those were their two greatest hits), with the other songs not doing much for me.

Jefferson Airplane - "White Rabbit" (live at Woodstock)

I have a distinct early memory of asking my mom about the lyrics to "White Rabbit". I figured out the song was sort of about Alice In Wonderland-- familiar to me via the classic Disney animated film-- but I couldn't make out the closing lyrics at the end. My mom told me the line was "Think ahead". Like, oh yeah, (as the Boy Scouts advised) be prepared, and all that. Years later I realized the actual lyrics were "Feed your head"-- in line with the song's underlying drug theme. To this day I'm not sure if my mom was just softening the reality for me (as parents often do with their innocent, naive children), or if she truly misheard the words. I should try to ask her sometime if the situation ever presents itself. (My mom was always pretty straight-laced, though in recent years, she has shared with me that there've been a small number of times in her life that she smoked the wacky tobacky.)


I thought I'd try having fun recording a version of "White Rabbit" of my own this morning. It's quite the catastrophe and although only 2 minutes long, I doubt anyone will be able to get to the end. But the challenge is there if you're up for it! Fiberoctopus - White Rabbit.mp3

Doing something a little different for the Custom Corner today. Since we're into mid December and year-end lists are popping up, I figured I'd identify my favorite songs of the year. I might cheat a bit and dip into songs from a year or two ago-- hey, I wasn't doing a music-centric blog until this year-- but the bottom line is these are a few "current" songs I've been digging in 2019.

As an aside, this year marked my entry into streaming music. I've been chiefly an mp3-listener since around the turn of the millenium. At home, I'd mainly listen to mp3s via iTunes. Away from home, I'd listen to mp3s on my iPod (or CDs in the car). My wife had switched over to Spotify a while back, and earlier this year I got a family-plan add-on with her. Seems like a pretty good deal. I haven't completely switched my listening habits to streaming, but I'd say I'm about 50-50 now between iTunes and Spotify, trying to embrace streaming more going forward.

Though I'm north of my 40th birthday and most of my favorite songs are what I was into as a younger dude, I still like to keep myself open to new music. I'm not into the majority of what's on the charts these days, but there's definitely still some good stuff out there. (I'll admit, though, that most of the modern stuff I dig is unabashedly harkening back to the 80s and/or 90s.)

I'm also still discovering cool music from the past that I hadn't encountered before, but I think I'll do a separate list for "Old songs I've been digging in 2019".. So expect that in the next post or the one after. But for today, I'll try to limit it to songs released in the past year or two.

Big Thief - Not
Big Thief - Paul
Big Thief - Cattails
Big Thief is an indie rock/folk band I just discovered a couple months ago. The Brooklyn-based quartet released their first album in 2016. Their latest, Two Hands, came out in October 2019. My introduction to them was a clip from when they were a musical guest on Stephen Colbert performing "Not" which I really enjoyed, and around that same time, a guy on Twitter was mentioning how great the new album was, so I checked it out and eventually gave a listen to their earlier stuff too. Of these 3 favorite songs I've linked above, I think "Paul" is actually from their first record, while "Not" and "Cattails" are from the new one. Think I'd crown these guys my "Favorite newly-discovered active band of 2019".

Morrissey - Back on the Chain Gang
I've been a big fan of Morrissey (and his earlier band The Smiths) since high school (early/mid 90s), though with a few exceptions, his output from the past couple decades hasn't done a whole lot for me (not to mention some of his eyebrow-raising comments that paint him as a bit of a crotchety old twat these days). But this cover of the Pretenders' classic, a bonus track on his latest release, is wonderful. Somebody on Twitter said it was even better than the original, though I'm not sure I'd go that far. (Morrissey has a real MusiCard, by the way, so we'll cover him further someday.)

FM-84 - Bend & Break (Instrumental)
FM-84 is another new band I got into a year or two ago. As the name would imply, they've got a retro 80s vibe. Chillwave or Synthwave? Vaporwave maybe?.. I'm not cool enough to know exactly what you call this type of music, but it makes for a great modern trip back to the 80s. Sounds like something you might hear in the score for Beverly Hills Cop or Knight Rider. I generally prefer their instrumental stuff, as the vocals tend to pull me out of the moment and back into the 21st century.

R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner - I H8 Ppl
This is a fun song about hating people in general, which I can relate to, as an introverted homebody. Turns out it's from 2017, but I only heard it recently when it appeared on a mix Spotify put together for me.

Julia Michaels - In This Place
This is an awesome, ridiculous song that plays during the end credits of the Ralph Breaks The Internet. It's almost like a parody of a modern pop song (it's about a fictional video game called Slaughter Race [in earnest] and it's chockful of over the top autotuned vocal clips), but I love it!

Susto - Last Century
El Ten Eleven - You Are Enough
A couple more recent rock songs that Spotify recommended to me. They sound like they're from the 90s, which I mean as a compliment. I've been wanting to check out more of each of these bands' stuff, though haven't gotten around to it yet.

The Glands - Atmosphere
The Glands - Save a Place For You
More songs that harken back to the 90s, but only came out recently. See, the main guy behind The Glands (an indie rock band active around the turn of the millenium) passed away from lung cancer a while back, but they scraped together a posthumous album of leftovers and rarities that came out in late 2018. "Atmosphere" is a great mid-90s sounding pop rock song, complete with vinyl scratching in the chorus. "Save a Place For You" on the other hand is a hauntingly beautiful song featuring only piano and voice. I'll have to feature The Glands more in a future Custom Corner, as they're a fantastic, relatively unknown band.

Jenny Lewis - Red Bull & Hennessy
I miss her early days in Rilo Kiley when she was less polished, though Jenny still cranks out quality album after quality album.

Lizzo - Good as Hell
It was a trip for me to see Lizzo get so popular this year. Back in 2014, I saw her open for Macaulay Culkin's band Pizza Underground in a packed small club. I hadn't heard of her at the time and thought her set was surprisingly good, but still wouldn't have predicted her to one day be up for Record of the Year and 7 other Grammys. She's also scheduled to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live next week for Eddie Murphy's long-awaited return to the show. Should be a fun episode.

Lizzo - "Good As Hell"

I hope that if you listened to any of these tracks, you found at least a song or two you enjoyed!

How about you? What new stuff have you been listening to in 2019? Let me know in the comments and I'll check it out.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

#12 Jefferson Airplane (+ Jefferson Starship bonus)

1991 Pro Set MusiCards #12 Jefferson Airplane
While the previous card had probably the coolest picture of the set so far, this is the worst we've seen yet. Was this even shot by a professional photographer, or just a random fan in the audience snapping a polaroid? Seems pretty far away from the action. If not for the name poking out in the upper right, only a 60s rock aficionado would have any idea what band this was based on the photograph alone.

Here's my custom attempt at an improved version using a fun posed photo. In fairness to the team at Pro Set putting these cards together circa 1990, they didn't have the luxury of being able to browse a Google image search and find a cool shot that worked with the design, but rather probably had to make due with limited options provided to them.

Jefferson Airplane has 2 consecutive cards in the Legends subset (the next one has a better photo), plus another 2 cards later in the Historic Concerts poster subset. The offshoot band Starship has a couple cards in the main set as well.

The back features another distant on-stage photo. The write-up might go a little overboard with the aviation puns.

I never really got into Jefferson Airplane, honestly. I know/like their two big hits, but that's pretty much it.

  Jefferson Airplane - "Somebody To Love" (live at Woodstock)

For a brief history: They were a psychedelic rock band out of San Francisco that headlined several big festivals in the late 60s, including Woodstock and Monterey Pop. Their classic lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996: Marty Balin (vocals), Paul Kantner (guitar, vocals), Grace Slick (vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), and Spencer Dryden (drums).

For a more in-depth history of the band, I'd point you to their Wikipedia entry.

As for where are they now?, many of the original members have passed away, and Grace Slick has been retired from music for several years now, feeling that rock & roll isn't for old people to create. "You can do jazz, classical, blues, opera, country until you're 150, but rap and rock and roll are really a way for young people to get that anger out."

Up until this point in the blog, I've had an idea in my head about which other artist I wanted to pair up in the Custom Corner section for each post, but I'm drawing a blank on this one.

I guess I'll go with Jefferson Starship. I have a tendency to think of them as the same band as Jefferson Airplane, just with a modernized name, but they were kind of a different band. And while (just) Starship was included in the MusiCards set, Jefferson Starship was not (Again, kinda different bands but with some overlapping members at times).

 Jefferson Starship - "Jane"

I don't know much of Jefferson Starship, but I love that "Jane" song of theirs, familiar to me thanks to it being used as the theme song for the Wet Hot American Summer franchise.

Wet Hot American Summer (2001) is a fun, silly flick that you should be sure to check out if you're into National Lampoon style comedies. Somewhat of a not-very-raunchy parody of teen comedies of the era, it tells the story of a crazy last day at summer camp in 1981. The two follow-up miniseries on Netflix are great too.

Dig the baseball card appearance in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. '64 Koufax on the front and '88 Donruss on the back. LOL

That'll do it for this post. If you've got any recommendations for other Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship tunes you think I should give a listen, let me know in the comments. Next up is the other Jefferson Airplane card.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

#11 Jimi Hendrix (+ Red Hot Chili Peppers bonus)

1991 Pro Set SuperStars MusiCards #11 Jimi Hendrix
As far as photography goes, this is probably the top card in the set. I mean, I know we're still early into the set, but I can't imagine another card topping this, visually-speaking. Stunning action shot of Hendrix squirting lighter fluid onto his aflamed guitar near the end of a triumphant gig. Awesome.

For funsies, here's an animated gif version I whipped up.

If you had to sum up Jimi's life into just three sentences, I suppose you could do worse than the back of this card. Looks like the back photo may be from the same show as the front photo from the previous card, judging by the angle and outfit.

Jimi Hendrix - "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"

It'd be tough for me to crown a personal favorite Hendrix song, but I might have to go with "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". Such a ballsy song. If you ever need to psych yourself up with a blast of confidence, this is a good musical selection.

I'm standing next to a mountain
Chop it down with the edge of my hand

And the second verse has the beautifully existential line:

If I don't meet you no more in this world
Then I'll meet you in the next one


I kinda forgot that I wanted to try recording quick covers for these posts. Not that anyone really cares much, but it's a good exercise for me. I used to play and record music a lot more often in the 90s and 00s, but have fallen way off in the past decade. Here's a little acoustic version recorded just for this post: Fiberoctopus-Voodoo_Child.mp3 It's a pretty rough rendition, won't deny, but hey.. for fun.

How about other Jimi Hendrix cards? Well, he's got decent cardboard representation besides his MusiCards (see his TCDB list), most recently popping up in a couple "News Flashbacks" inserts from Topps Heritage. And Topps honored Jimi with card #100 in their popular 2011 American Pie set. The back write-up focuses on his Woodstock performance (which strangely wasn't mentioned at all on his two main MusiCards [though he also has a promo MusiCard that does mention the iconic festival.]).

It doesn't count, but my best "Hendricks" card is an autograph of the lovely Christina Hendricks.

CUSTOM CORNER (special request)

Terry Kath - 1991 MusiCards-That-Never-Were custom
JediJeff has owed me a Carlos Correa relic card FOR OVER TWO YEARS NOW but despite that, he's still a homeboy of mine, so when he suggested a Terry Kath custom in the previous post, I couldn't say no. (Not the most flattering photo of Terry, but went with this one for the Blackhawks jersey.)

Terry Kath (Chicago) - "Free Form Guitar" (1969)

Jimi Hendrix apparently once mentioned Terry Kath as a favorite guitarist of his based on the seminal Chicago Transit Authority (1969) album, quite the "Praise from Caesar" moment, and the two players both appeared to be influenced by each other. While Chicago would go on to be best remembered for their horns and 80s ballads, back in their early days they were known for "fusing brass and jazz with a soulful rock and roll feel" [1], with Kath's cutting guitar playing being key to their sound. Unfortunately, Kath was a bit of a gun nut, and accidentally shot himself dead at age 31 in 1978. The band ultimately decided to carry on, had a very prosperous run in the 80s, and are still active today. I plan to eventually cover Chicago further in a future post (They didn't get a real MusiCard).


Deep breath, guys. ... Today's main featured band in the Custom Corner is perhaps the most divisive band in rock history: The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They've been around a long time and had a lot of hits. Pretty much everybody has an opinion on them.. either you love 'em or you hate 'em, with not many people being indifferent to the band. My wife and the cardsphere's own Night Owl are among the many people who would enthusiastically be in favor of never hearing another RHCP song for the rest of their lives.

But me? I love 'em. In fact, for this post, I'm just going to focus on their early days of the 1980s. In the future, I plan to do another Custom Corner installment for the 90s portion of their career, eventually followed by an installment for the post-2000 years. (But don't worry, haters; those likely won't rear their heads for several months, perhaps years, with the rate I'm currently churning out posts here.)

The Chili Peppers could have easily been included in the 1991 MusiCards set. Although their mainstream breakout album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, wasn't released until the cards were already on shelves (September 1991), they still had made a name for themselves by that time, with hits like "Higher Ground" and "Knock Me Down" seeing decent rotation on MTV in 1989 and 1990.

But alas, they received no MusiCard, so here's a custom. Note the Jimi cameo.

  Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Castles Made of Sand" (live)

As disciples of Jimi Hendrix, I figured they'd be a good choice to pair with this post. The Peppers have covered several Hendrix songs over the years, including "Fire", "Castles Made of Sand", and "Crosstown Traffic", among others. Their hit "Dani California" makes an allusion to "Purple Haze" in the guitar solo. They wear their devotion to Jimi on their sleeve. In fact, Flea literally has a tattoo of Hendrix on his shoulder, which he got as a teenager.

bonus custom - 1992 Score "Dream Team" card
Back in the day, my best friend Doug's favorite band was RHCP, so because of that they were always on my radar. Luckily for me, I liked them. ..not as much as Doug, but I was still a big fan. I remember many afternoons in the early 90s hanging out with him and listening to the Chili Peppers and occasionally watching VHS tapes Funky Monks (behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Blood Sugar Sex Magik) or Positive Mental Octopus (compilation of their 80s music videos). My first big rock concert was RHCP in 1996, but I suppose that's a story for another day.

For now we're talking about 80s RHCP. Their first album came out in 1984 (self-titled), followed by Freaky Styley (1985), the Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987) and Mother's Milk (1989).

 Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Behind The Sun"

My first introduction to the band came circa 1988 when Doug's cousin Sasha (male in his early 20s) visited Doug's family for a couple weeks from Germany. Sasha brought with him a cassette of Freaky Styley that he loved to listen to and talk to people about. Doug and I made fun of him about it behind his back, of the opinion that he was a crazy foreign guy into weird music. But I suppose Sasha had the last laugh, as both Doug and I started to come around to the Peppers by 1989's Mother's Milk. Then when the fall of 1991 rolled around, we both became big fans of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, though Doug dove deeper than me, and RHCP was undeniably his favorite band for 8th grade and all of high school. His allowance would often go towards buying rare import CDs of the band, magazines featuring interviews with band members, RHCP shirts, etc. He had a paperback unauthorized biography on the band that was like his bible, reading and re-reading it, frequently sharing factoids he picked up from its pages.

1980s-era RHCP - Desert Island Disc

  1. Get Up and Jump
  2. Green Heaven
  3. Nevermind
  4. Freaky Styley
  5. Me and My Friends
  6. Backwoods
  7. Behind the Sun
  8. Special Secret Song Inside
  9. Love Trilogy
  10. Good Time Boys
  11. Higher Ground
  12. Subway to Venus
  13. Magic Johnson
  14. Nobody Weird Like Me
  15. Knock Me Down
  16. Taste The Pain
  17. Pretty Little Ditty
  18. Punk Rock Classic
  19. Sexy Mexican Maid
  20. Castles Made of Sand (live '89)

Was able to whittle this down to a tight 20 tracks. The first half consists of highlights from the first 3 records, then the second half is the majority of Mother's Milk.

The original guitarist Hillel Slovak died in 1988 of a heroin overdose. Both he and replacement John Frusciante were big Hendrix junkies, no surprise. I'm a big fan of Frusciante's solo stuff, and will likely feature him in a future Custom Corner. 

Original drummer Jack Irons left the band after Hillel's death-- the four original bandmates were all good friends and remaining guys were all very shaken up by the event, as you can imagine-- but eventually, he had a stint with Pearl Jam in the mid 90s (and in fact, Jack was responsible for originally putting Eddie Vedder in touch with Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard in 1990). Jack's got some cool solo stuff, too, with my favorite songs of his being "Come Running", "Sonic Tonic", and "Doubloons".

Jack Irons - "Come Running"

And that'll do it for this post. Any thoughts on the early output of RHCP, let me know in the comments. When we'll continue with the Chili Peppers story, I'm not sure.. but eventually. As for Jimi, he's scheduled to make a reappearance on the blog once we get into the Historic Concerts subset at card #249.

But up next, on the runway preparing for takeoff is Jefferson Airplane.