Saturday, July 25, 2020

#24 Led Zeppelin (+ Steppenwolf bonus)

Number 24 in the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards set is another Led Zeppelin card. This one features a wholesome posed photo looking not too far from a Sears shoot for a family Christmas card or something like that.

No second photo on the back this time, but rather a wordmark/logo. The blurb seems to credit Zeppelin for coining the term "heavy metal" for hard rock music, though I'm not seeing anything to back that up on Wikipedia's heavy metal music entry, instead crediting producer Sandy Pearlman for using the term to describe The Byrds.

We've come to the first card that has a corresponding promo! Let's take a look at the relatively-rare early version of this card...

The front is very similar to the base card, though note the different font for "Pro Set" and "MusiCards" in the logo, plus instead of "Legends", it's marked "Hall of Famer" in the teal bubble.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983. The museum in Cleveland didn't open till 1995, which was the same year Led Zeppelin was inducted. So technically they weren't Hall of Famers at the time this card was created, which might be a reason Pro Set switched the subset name to "Legends" instead.

The easiest way to spot these promos is they are unnumbered. Some other minor differences on the back, but the basic layout isn't too far from the mass-produced finished product.

I believe these promos were available with the Pro Set Gazette magazine/catalog thing, but couldn't say for certain. There are another group of MusiCards promos with a completely different design (that are numbered), but that's for another day. Actually those would be the "first promo set", so this Zeppelin is actually part of the "second promo set". Kinda confusing.

Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir"

Since the back of the promo card mentions Physical Graffiti, here's one of the best-known tracks off that double LP.

"Kashmir" was an idea from Page and Bonham, and was first attempted as an instrumental demo in late 1973. Plant wrote the lyrics while on holiday in Morocco. Jones played Mellotron on the track, and arranged strings and brass parts that were played by session musicians. The song was one of the most critically acclaimed on the album, and was played at every gig from 1975 onwards. Page and Plant played it on their 1994 tour, and it was reworked in 1998 by Sean "Puffy" Combs for his single "Come With Me" which featured Page on guitar. [wiki]

The back of the featured card in this post mentions the origins of the term heavy metal in regards to music. So let's go with Steppenwolf, who were the first band to mention "heavy metal" in lyrics.

Steppenwolf - "Born to Be Wild"

"Born to Be Wild" was a solid hit for Steppenwolf in 1968, and the song gained even more popularity by being featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider. It's sometimes described as the first heavy metal song, and the lyric "heavy metal thunder" (describing a motorcycle) marks the first use of this term in rock music.

Steppenwolf formed in 1967 and had a nice run of success from 1968 to 1972, scoring three top 10 hits: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride", and "Rock Me".

The band originally split after a farewell concert in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day in 1972, but later reunited in various forms over the years. Lead singer John Kay (now 76) is the only original member these days, and he announced last year that the band would no longer perform live.

Steppenwolf - "Magic Carpet Ride"

I don't know much about Steppenwolf other than their few hit songs, but let me know in the comments if you've got any lesser-known favorites of theirs I should check out.

Just one more Led Zeppelin Legends card up next, then we'll dive into the pop music section of Series 1. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

#23 Led Zeppelin (+ Hum bonus)

1991 MusiCards #23 is another Led Zeppelin card. Looks like a pretty glammed up photo, eh? The name in lights behind them calls to mind KISS (who are included in this set later, but didn't make the cut to be considered "Legends" apparently). It's not always easy to get a live shot that features every band member while still being close enough to tell who's who, so cap-tip to Pro Set on this one. Looks like this might have been taken between songs, with Robert Plant talking to the crowd and the other guys primed to start the next song. Check the roadie in the yellow shirt who seems to be helping out bassist John Paul Jones with the cord or strap of his boomstick.

The back features a dark posed photo of the four fellows. Blurb here doesn't say much beyond what the previous Zeppelin cards have said; just a broad overview of the band's run in a couple sentences.

As I was having my "musical awakening" as a teen in the early 90s, my buddy Doug got into Led Zeppelin before me, spending his allowances on their CDs at Music Trader-- our preferred local second-hand music store back then-- over the course of a few weeks. I think he ended up with pretty much all their main albums. While I knew of their biggest hits, I'd say my real introduction of them was from borrowing Doug's CDs one week and making my own compilation of my favorite tunes from them.

And hey, I happen to still have that disc. So this is the first "desert island disc" of this blog that actually exists as a real disc!

  1. Over The Hills And Far Away
  2. D'yer Mak'er
  3. Black Dog
  4. Rock And Roll
  5. Misty Mountain Hop
  6. When The Levee Breaks
  7. Kashmir
  8. Bron-Yr-Aur
  9. Dazed And Confused
  10. The Song Remains The Same
  11. Dancing Days
  12. The Rain Song
  13. Going To California
  14. Stairway To Heaven

Yep, this CDR got a lot of play in my cars over the past 30-ish years (happened to be one of those couple dozen discs that I felt belonged among my "car discs" selection), and is still in the rotation today. If I had to pick a favorite track, I might go with "Over the Hills and Far Away".. something about that song seems to comfort me when I'm stressed out on the road.

You may be asking "how come there's no songs from Led Zeppelin II on there?" And well that's because that was the only Zeppelin CD I owned back then, so it was excluded from my CDR.

But for the record, the II tracks I'd include would be as follows:
15. Whole Lotta Love
16. Heartbreaker
17. Ramble On

As always, please consider yourself invited to post a comment letting me know I'm an idiot for leaving off any of your favorite songs. ...I mean, don't be a dick about it, but I am always interested to hear what songs folks really like that I may have overlooked.

I was trying to decide between a couple other bands for today's Custom Corner.. But then I just found out yesterday that one of my all-time favorite bands put out a surprise new album, their first output in 22 years!

I'm talking about Hum. Maybe you haven't heard of them, or if you vaguely know them as the band who had a minor 90s alt rock hit with the "(She thinks she missed the train to Mars, She's out back counting) Stars" song. But I love 'em. Heavy alternative nerd rock with lots of guitars. Their previous album, 1998's Downward Is Heavenward would be in the discussion if I ever had to come up with a Top 10 Favorite Albums of All-Time.

The band would come out of hibernation for the occasional live show, but they've basically been on hiatus since the turn of the millenium. There was always that tiny shred of hope they'd come out with a new album someday, but I wasn't holding my breath.

So yes, it's a wonderful surprise for this Hum fan and a much needed good thing in 2020. Inlet, the new one, is actually really good! A lot of times reunion albums are terrible and the band ends up kinda pissing on their legacy a bit.. but not this time! Sounds like you want a beloved band's new album to sound.. not staying exactly the same, but progressing what you love about their music into new territory. A perfect new chapter in the book of Hum. Hopefully not the last.

Ok, sorry for all the slobbering, but again, a key role of this blog is to provide a place to ramble about music I love.

They don't have much in the way of high quality photos online, so I've had to get a little "arty" with these customs.
A quick bio on Hum-- check their wiki entry for the longer version-- is they started in Champaign, Illinois back in the late 80s and put out a two or three indie releases before signing with RCA for 1995's You'd Prefer An Astronaut, garnering some attention with the quiet/loud song "Stars". The follow-up Downward Is Heavenward was well-received by critics and fans, yet failed to see much commercial success. They toured a lot for that album, but were eventually dropped by RCA and decided to call it quits, playing their final show on New Year's Eve 2000.

Other than a handful of reunion performances over the years, they'd been quiet until Inlet popped up for sale on their Bandcamp page June 23, 2020. Physical versions of the album are are tentatively scheduled to ship at the end of August.

I suppose a tour supporting the new album is out of the question anytime soon (damn covid), but I'd love to catch them live someday. (I'm kicking myself because I just found out they played Portland back in 2015-- Had I known, I definitely would have gone.)

I think I originally got into them thanks to "Stars", though today I consider that song a bit played out and wouldn't necessarily say it's one of my favorite songs of theirs. That album is really good, don't get me wrong, but now I'm all about Downward Is Heavenward. Love to put that on and listen start-to-finish every so often, especially in the summer.

They're part of the 90s alternative rock bands with 3-letter names triumvirate I love along with Paw (covered earlier) and Dig (who I'll cover at some point). I've got a couple Hum shirts in storage somewhere-- traded to me by somebody who worked with the band back in the day-- and thought of snapping pics for this post, but gave up after not finding them quickly enough (One is black with a microscope on it, the other is white with Ultraman or similar Japanese superhero on it.. both of which are just slightly too nerdy for me to wear on the regular these days). I've got a Stars 7" single on green vinyl that's kinda cool. And I think I've got copies of all their rare tracks that are circulating, plus several live recordings. Several years back, I played a role in unearthing a previously uncirculated demo tape called Its Gonna Be A Midget Xmas that I got hooked up with from a different guy-who-knew-a-guy.

So wrapping up here, yep, Hum is a favorite band of mine and a surprise new album from them out of the blue is a big highlight of my 2020 so far.

Next up on the blog is more Led Zeppelin. Still a couple more of those then we finally move on to the true base cards after that.