Thursday, April 22, 2021

#37 Belinda Carlisle (+ A to Z Music Challenge bonus)

Belinda is back. You're looking at card #37 in the 1991 MusiCards set. Personally I like this photo a lot better than her previous card (#36) for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. (It's the boobs.)


Ah, we should all be so lucky as to spend a year honing our craft.

"Heaven is a Place on Earth" is a damn catchy tune, gotta admit. Things weren't all that heavenly for her at the time, though, as she struggled with substance abuse issues behind the scenes for many years. But she's cleaned up these days, thankfully. Her and her husband of 35 years currently live in Bangkok and have a son together.

We'll get into The Go-Go's when we get to card #47, but for today I'm going to cut it short here and move on to the next thing....


A to Z Music Challenge

Chris The Collector recently kicked off a blogging challenge asking for your favorite band for each letter of the alphabet. I'm putting a spin on it by listing the artist with the most tracks currently in my iTunes. (Yeah, it's kind of a cop-out since I don't need to make any tough judgement calls with my heart, rather just going by the numbers.)

I'm kinda curious to see if this will equate to who I'd consider my favorite. I've been transitioning more to streaming for most of my music listening in the past year or two, but back in the 2010s I spent a lot of time fine-tuning my iTunes library. Like with my card collection, there's always room for more organization, and thinning out stuff I don't really want, and adding new stuff that interests me-- but overall it gives a decent representation of what I like. Of course some great bands only put out a record or two before imploding, and some "just ok" bands stayed together for decades, so quantity doesn't necessarily equal quality. But it's just a writing prompt, so let's not overthink it too much.

A - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (82 tracks)

Technically their name starts with an ellipsis, but iTunes ignores that and lists them by "And" so here they are. I'm comfortable agreeing they're probably my favorite A band.

B - The Beatles (184 tracks)

Lots of great bands starting with B, but the Beatles run away with this one.

C - Camper Van Beethoven (100 tracks)

Camper Van Beethoven - "The Long Plastic Hallway"

This one surprised me. Sure, I like them, but I would not consider them in the running to be my favorite C band. Also showing up in this letter is Cracker, a Camper Van Beethoven offshoot, with 60 tracks.

D - David Bowie (144 tracks)

Bowie floats to an easy win here, though if you want to get technically perhaps he should be considered a "B" artists. But people in my music library are generally sorted by first name, so here he is. If it were just down to bands, the Decemberists (77) barely edge out 90s alt rockers Dig (73).

E - Electric Six (119 tracks)

This tongue-in-cheek rock band have consistently cranked out a new album literally every year since 2003, so it's no surprise they've got so many songs. ELO are a strong 2nd place (97 tracks).

F - Frank Black (134 tracks) + Frank Black & The Catholics (125 tracks)

Frank Black & The Catholics - "Western Star"

Love me some Frank Black. Counting his late 90s/early 00s output with the Catholics, he's likely #1 overall in my music collection (especially if you also count his other band the Pixies, and his solo stuff released under the name Black Francis). Also hitting the 3-digit threshold for F are the Flaming Lips.

G - Guided By Voices (74 tracks)

Guided By Voices' frontman Robert Pollard is notorious for cranking out songs like he's brushing his teeth. So even though I probably wouldn't put GBV in the running for my favorite G-artist, they've managed to narrowly beat out Guns N' Roses (72 tracks). 

H - The Helio Sequence (50 tracks)

Another surprising one for me. They are a Portland-based band, though I dug them before I moved here. I'd probably say my favorite H band is Hum, but they're not very prolific (35 tracks).

I - INXS (52 tracks)

Makes sense.

J - John Coltrane (153 tracks)

Coltrane pulling off the upset here! He's probably my favorite jazz artists. Another John with a big total is Frusciante (129). If those guys were instead sorted by last name, the top J band would be Jane's Addiction (103).

K - The Kinks (70 tracks)

Sounds about right.

L - The Lonely Island (66 tracks)

Andy Samberg's comedy group barely bested The Lemonheads (61 tracks).

M - Mercury Rev (129 tracks)

Mercury Rev - "Bronx Cheer"

Old favorites of mine. They've been around since the early 90s and are still releasing music, so they've got lots of songs.

N - Nirvana (138 tracks)

Oh man, if I could only pick one letter for a desert island situation, I might have to go with N. Lots of strong showings here. Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Neutral Milk Hotel, to name a few others.

O - Of Montreal (81 tracks)

Oingo Boingo comes in second with 59 songs.

P - Pavement (142 tracks)

Looks like N has some competition for top letter. I'm not going to do the math, but P might have the most songs total. Pixies and Pink Floyd also break 100 tracks each. Pearl Jam with 69.

Q - Queen (77 tracks)

Not much competition for Freddie Mercury & company. Quinton Sung, a guy who did a bunch of 8-bit Radiohead covers, is second with 21.

R - Rocket From The Crypt (164 tracks)

Rocket From The Crypt - "Tarzan"

Wow, pretty sure R just topped P and N for most overall. San Diego's own RFTC take the top spot here, with Red Hot Chili Peppers close behind at 156. Rancid, Radiohead, Ramones, and Rilo Kiley all also break the century mark, with R.E.M. and the Rolling Stones not far behind.

S - Smashing Pumpkins (243 tracks)

That's a lot of songs! Billy Corgan isn't shy about releasing outtakes and demos-- probably half their songs in my library are of the "non-album" variety-- and they've added up for me. I wouldn't say they're my all-time favorite band despite what the numbers may indicate, though Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness would rank high up on my list of favorite albums.

T - They Might Be Giants (108 tracks)

Another result that surprised me, but I suppose TMBG have been prolific since the 80s. Tom Petty (usually joined by the Heartbreakers) is second with 91.

U - U2 (59 tracks)

Bono and the boys are the obvious answer here. Urge Overkill gave them some competition with 40 songs.

V - Van Halen (51 tracks)

I have a lot of tracks under V because I sort some miscellaneous stuff under "Various Artists" (300+ songs), and I also have 74 "video game music" songs (mostly old NES favorites of mine), but I can't count those as one artist.

W - Weezer (136 tracks)

Weezer - "Let's Sew Our Pants Together" (unreleased demo)

"Weird Al" Yankovic narrowly beats out Wilco for second, both of whom I probably listen to more than Weezer these days, but I was a big Weezer fan in the 90s and early 00s.

X - XTC (59 tracks)

Not a lot of competition here, but the band named X aren't too far behind with 29.

Y - Yann Tiersen and Yo La Tengo (33 tracks each)

We have our first and only tie of this exercise. Of course, if you boot Yann to the Ts, that'd give the victory to Yo La Tengo (whose name is a baseball reference, I believe).

Z - The Zombies (24 tracks)

60s Brit rockers capture the last letter.

# - 10,000 Maniacs (19 tracks)

I also sort a lot of "one hit wonder" type stuff by decade. For example, I've got 300+ tracks listed under the artist "80s".

And now you've got a broad overview of my iTunes library. That was fun. Thanks for the idea, Chris.

Being a teenager in the 90s, it makes sense to see alternative rock from the likes of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins rise to the top. Looks like Charles Thompson IV is the top songwriter in my collection, penning around 400 ditties in my library spanning his work as Frank Black and Black Francis / Pixies. Interesting.

Anyways, thanks for reading. Back with another MusiCard soon.

Friday, April 16, 2021

#36 Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle makes her first appearance on the blog with card #36 in the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards set. She has another card right after this one, then her band The Go-Go's have a card ten spaces after that, plus she's got a card in the UK edition.


The back photo is pretty similar to the front, but now the background is brighter and the hand under her chin is touching her cheek as opposed to "the thinker" from the front.

"Front-rank" is a term you don't hear too often.

Prior to reading this cardback, hadn't known about the George Harrison collaboration. That's cool. Looking it up, the quiet Beatle appears on 2 songs: slide guitar solo on "Leave a Light On" and 12-string guitar and 6-string bass on "Deep Deep Ocean".

(George's solo starts at the 3-minute mark)

"Leave a Light On" stands as Belinda's last track to reach the US Top 20 (#11), following earlier hit singles "Mad About You" (#3), "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" (#1), "I Get Weak" (#2), and "Circle in the Sand" (#7). While her glory days as a "front-rank solo performer" didn't really continue into the 90s, she's kept busy over the years, both solo and occasionally reconvening with her bandmates in the Go-Go's.

I haven't really dug deeply into Belinda's catalog, but as a sucker for cheesy 80s pop, I love those aforementioned hit singles. And like most straight males who grew up in the 80s, I've always had a bit of a crush on her, the baby-faced cutie.

I think I'll try to check out some more Belinda Carlisle tracks between now and the next post, hoping to discover a hidden gem or two I didn't know about. Any of you readers fans of hers? What are your favorites?


This Month in 1991

Time to jump back three decades to see what I was up to as a middle school kid in 1991.


Cute seal.


Looks like I played hooky to celebrate Opening Day '91.. probably watched any televised games I could find. Graduation seems a little early, noted there on the 18th. Oh yeah, I think this was the year I accidentally went to a weird private school. Then on the 21st, "card show" has been scribbled out, and looks like I went to a baseball game instead. I can't find a ticket stub and don't remember anything about it, but this was likely a Padres game at Jack Murphy Stadium, which looking it up, checks out as the last day of a homestand. Not a great outcome for San Diego, as according to the box score, Ramon Martinez tossed a shutout for the Dodgers. At least I got to see Tony Gwynn get a couple hits; and Darryl Strawberry went deep for LA.

Hold the phone. Belinda Carlisle dated Mike Marshall of the Dodgers in the early 80s. Ha! That ties the post together just fine.

Ok, I'll call it good here and be back with the other Belinda Carlisle card soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

#35 Bobby Brown


Bobby Brown is #35 in the 1991 MusiCards set, shown rocking a bowler hat, big bling cross necklace, and a crazy clock-themed jacket. His ..time.. may have been running out, but Bobby was still enjoying his moment as a top pop star of the day, parlaying his early days with New Edition into a highly successful solo career in the late 80s and early 90s.


Guess they ran out of room, but another notable career highlight they could have brought up was how his song "On Our Own" was a smash hit off the soundtrack to 1989's Ghostbusters II.

It's funny they say he "decided" to go solo, when the management of New Edition kicked him out of the group. But it worked out for him..

Bobby Brown - "On Our Own"

After this card came out, the wheels started to fall off. His 1992 album Bobby yielded the hit "Humpin' Around" but record sales were down. Bobby's big achievement that year was somehow convincing Whitney Houston to marry him.

But Bobby couldn't stay out of trouble and things got ugly. These days, he still does music once in a while, including occasional reunions with New Edition.

Hey, it's the second act in the set that I have an autograph of (Paula Abdul being the other). I went after the entire Cryptozoic Ghostbusters auto set a few years back, scoring this card along the way. Bobby had a cameo in Ghostbusters II playing the mayor's doorman.

He only has one card in the main MusiCards set, but he has a pair in the UK edition (as does Whitney Houston, who is conspicuously missing from the US version), plus New Edition has a card in the US set. So this isn't the last the blog has heard of Bobby Brown.

Personally, my favorite song of his is "Every Little Step".

Yeah, that was one of my favorite songs back in '89.

But now it's time to jump a couple years to 1991. Yep, THIS MONTH IN 1991 time.


This family of gorillas were up on my wall 30 years ago. Let's take a closer look at what I was up to...


Street Fighter 2010 (3/3) and Deja Vu (3/24) were Nintendo games I bought on Sunday afternoon trips to Target with my mom. Neither game left much of an impression on me.. only vaguely remembering them today.

I also don't remember anything about tree planting that I was apparently involved in for a couple days.

I think the jacket I'm referring to was a black White Sox windbreaker that I really liked. In 1991, the rebranded black Sox uniforms were king of schoolyard sportswear, so I felt pretty cool.

Looks like we spent spring break '91 staying with my aunt in Atlanta. My mom and I visited the MLK memorial and went to the big Coke bottling plant. That was cool. Other memories from that trip include getting busted trying to watch a scrambled adult channel (lol), and dubbing some of my aunt's CD collection onto blank tapes for myself.. I remember George Michael's Faith and some Queen hits among them.

Alrighty, I think that'll do it for today. Let me know in the comments if you've got any thoughts on Bobby Brown to share. Were you getting freaky to "My Prerogative" back when it was atop the charts? Next up starts a little run of pop princesses in the set.

Friday, February 26, 2021

#34 Michael Bolton

 
Our journey through the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards SuperStars set takes us next to #34 Michael Bolton. He's giving us his sultry stare as we admire that bold hair choice. Mid-age women really went bonkers for that look back then, I guess. Haha


I'll admit that there was a brief moment when I was a kid that I regarded his "How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can't Be Friends)" as a pretty cool song. But that was fleeting and he soon became a target for everyone to rag on.

But hey, the guy can sing and to his credit he laughed it off all the way to the bank. Only Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 was a bigger album in 1990 per Billboard.

It's funny that he started out as a hard rock singer before transitioning into the power crooning he's best known for.


"Maybe it's the Power of Love" is the most popular track from his early rock band Blackjack. 


Sure, let's whip up a custom for them. Checking out their stuff for the first time now while drafting this post... Yeah, these guys seem to have put out some solid late 70s/ early 80s pop rock. I can dig it. You could picture them opening for the likes of Boston and Aerosmith back then. But I guess they just never got their big break and Michael eventually focused on catering to the ladies with soulful ballads.

That seemed to work out well for him. "Bolton's achievements include selling more than 75 million records, recording eight top 10 albums and two number-one singles on the Billboard charts, as well as winning six American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards." (wikipedia)

He still cranks out an album every few years. Folks in my demographic probably remember him best these days thanks to the film Office Space (where an unhappy character is stuck with also being named Michael Bolton) and the Lonely Island, with whom he guested on a funny Pirates of the Caribbean song that was featured on Saturday Night Live. He also released an amusing special on Netflix in 2017 titled Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special.


Cool that he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Today's his 68th birthday, so I'm rushing to get this post finished in time to publish today. You know, my little cap-tip to the guy. lol

He's also got a card in the UK edition of the MusiCards set, so assuming this blog keeps motoring along, we'll eventually revisit him again on here in a few years.

Can any of you muster up any feelings one way or the other to share about Michael Bolton? If so, go ahead and leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading. Mr. Robert Barisford Brown is next up.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

#33 Basia (+ Akron/Family bonus)


Basia is card #33 in the 1991 MusiCards set. I gotta admit I'm not very familiar with her, though I think I've heard a song of hers pop up on Spotify mixes. Nice enough photo of the lady here, though a little blurry.


The write-up on the back does a good job presenting an overview of the artist's career (something not all of these cards do very well!). The back photo provides a better-focused look at her, reminding me a little of a young Gillian Anderson of X Files fame.

Basia - "Time and Tide"

Ok, this is a great song. I seem to recall hearing it back in the 80s when my mom would play the easy listening station in the car. It's a triumphant 80s pop song with lasting appeal, if you ask me.

Checking out some of her other popular songs now, I'm enjoying them fine, but nothing really grabs me quite as much as the "Time & Tide" track. A lot of her stuff has a nice chill Latin jazz vibe that I wasn't expecting. Really like the Jobim cover of "Waters of March".

Continuing a quick bio from where the back of the card left off, Basia's third album was 1994's The Sweetest Illusion, and she kept busy for the rest of the decade. She was inactive for a few years, but eventually returned with her 4th album, It's That Girl Again (2009). More recently, her latest release was popular in certain circles, with Butterflies (2018) hitting #4 on the US Jazz Albums chart and reaching the Top 20 in her homeland of Poland.

Feels good to learn a bit more about this singer who I was only vaguely familiar with before this. (More info on her wikipedia entry, if you want it.)

How about you readers? Were you like me saying "who?" at this card, or am I in the minority by not being all that familiar with Basia?


There's no shortage of bad news these days, but I'm hurting from word that Miles Seaton from the band Akron/Family died the other day. They've got like 4 or 5 songs I love and several more that I like a lot. Would have liked to have seen them live at some point, but unfortunately never did.


So I figured I'd give a little tribute with a custom.

Akron/Family - "Running, Returning"

"Running, Returning" was the first song I heard from them, included on an mp3 mixtape made by an online buddy back around the mid aughts. Kinda blew my mind back then, ain't gonna lie. Just really lost myself in that song.

Their 2007 album Love Is Simple is probably my favorite record of theirs. "Ed Is A Portal", "Don't Be Afraid, You're Already Dead", and the middle part of "There's So Many Colors" are songs that I would consider "must hear". I listen to that triforce of songs late at night and feel like I'm at some kind of trippy bonfire campout sing-along jamboree that I'm not entirely convinced isn't a cult but I'm willing to go along with it if just for one night.



"Ed Is A Portal"/"Don't Be Afraid, You're Already Dead"/"There's So Many Colors"

Man, a real fun band. Sort of like a Dead-inspired jamband vibe in an indie folk rock setting with this cool group of guys, sometimes also venturing into the realms of Arcade Fire or Animal Collective. Sometimes they might get a bit too improv/jammy for my taste (I'm generally only a casual fan of jam bands.. like, I've never seen Phish live or anything along those lines), but they catch some pure magic here and there. 

I should listen to more of their stuff and try to check out their respective solo work too. Akron/Family didn't really have a traditional frontman, but Miles Seaton seemed to handle most of the lead vocals.

Rest in Peace, Miles Cooper Seaton. Not sure the cause of death, but regardless, 41 is too young. And he was a great dude by all accounts. Heartbreaking.


Well, to not end on a down note (and to give you something else to read while you hopefully continue listening to those Akron/Family videos), here's the next old calendar installment for this year.

This Month in 1991: February

Time for another look at what my life was like 30 years ago.


Aww.. cute baby snow leopard.

Looks like my February '91 wasn't all that notable other than family vehicle maintenance issues and some excitement at the end of the month.

Big life moment alert: "Poopy Doos move" -- The story there is that when we moved into the condo where I lived for most of my life, our neighbors beside us were a really nasty family of a husky couple and their two bratty daughters. They seemed to hate us from the very beginning, like they blamed us for the fact that the previous tenants (who they were close with) moved out, which is totally unfair. Our families really just did not get along at all. There were a few dumb incidents in my memory that still upset me to think about all these years later. Anyhow, I had nicknamed that awful family "The Poopy Doos", which while not very classy, fit them perfectly. (Funny, I don't even remember any of their real names now.) My friends and I would always refer to them as the Poopy Doos, and eventually even my mom started calling them that too.. which I thought was hilariously awesome because she tended to take the high road, being the reasonable human being that she is. So yes, it was a big day when they finally moved away! Honestly, I think I might have to open a bottle of champagne on the anniversary to celebrate 30 years of those sacks of crap being out of my life, lol!

But if I wrote a book about all the bad neighbors I've had over the years, they would only be chapter 2 of a thick paperback. I'm extremely thankful that I now live in a house and don't have to share a wall with anyone anymore. And our neighbors in the area all seem cool, happy to report.

The "Spring training starts" drawing goes to show how I was really into baseball at the time. And I think my doodle shows that my artistic talents haven't improved much since I was 13. Haha, I really do wish I was a better artist, as I'd love to be one of those awesome sports art guys out there, but I just didn't have it in me. Still like to doodle, though!

That'll do it for this post. Please let me know in the comments if you've got any thoughts to share regarding Basia, Akron/Family, and/or anything else I've rambled about here.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

#32 Bad English (+ Bad Company bonus)

We're up to #32 in the set: Bad English. This photo feels like a throwback to the hair metal bands of the 80s.. you know, a few fellas looking tough in leather jackets with long, poofy hair. There are a few MusiCards along these lines, but such acts were on the decline by the time ProSet was shipping these cards to retailers in 1991. I still dig a lot of that stuff, even if the look hasn't aged particularly well.


Bad English is vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn't name you any of their songs off the top of my head. I want to say "Bad Company"... but no, that's a different rock band with a similar name.

The write-up indicates they were something of a supergroup, with guys coming from other established bands. That's John Waite on vocals, right?

Ok, I just looked up the band on Spotify and their most popular song by a wide margin is "When I See You Smile".


Oh yeah! When it gets to the chorus, now I remember this song. I heard it a lot back then, and occasionally still get that chorus stuck in my head these days even though I forgot who the artist was. 

So yeah, seems these guys' bread & butter are power metal ballads. Not my favorite genre, but I can still appreciate a cheesy love song with big guitars.

Reading up on the band, turns out they were an offshoot formed after Journey broke up. And yep, I was right about John Waite, so that's cool. (Loved his "Missing You" song back in the day.) Their self-titled debut came out in June 1989 and did pretty well, with "When I See You Smile" going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 among a few successful singles. The follow-up record, Backlash, came out in August of 1991 but the band dissolved around that same time with the guys all straying to other projects, and that was it for Bad English.


CUSTOM CORNER

I think I'll use this moment to clarify for myself the difference between Bad English and Bad Company.

Bad Company are an English band, adding to the confusion. lol

But no, Bad Company is best known as the rock and roll outfit behind the classic rock staple "Feel Like Making Love" and a few other solid hits in the 70s including the eponymous "Bad Company". Like Bad English, you could call them a supergroup: two former members of Free, singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke; former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs; and ex-King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell.

They were before my time, and I'm only familiar with their hits, but I like what I've heard from them. If I had to pick between Bad English and Bad Company, hands down I'm going with the Co.
And I'm sure I'm not alone there.


BONUS CONTENT

Around the new year last year I shared my favorite songs of 2019. But I don't really have much to share regarding my favorite songs of 2020. The time during my commutes to and from work is where I typically check out new music, and seeing as I've been mostly working from home, I just haven't been listening to much new stuff since corona. I should probably break the habit and try listening to more music while I'm at home. 

But when I put on music at home, it's usually old favorites that my wife doesn't mind, rather than drag her along for the ride digging up unfamiliar stuff. I also listen to music on headphones nearly every night when I go to bed-- I'm one of the unlucky people who take a while to fall asleep once my head hits the pillow, so I can usually get an album in before I drift off to dreamland-- but I tend to stick to familiar favorites in that situation rather than challenge my sleepy ears with new stuff.

One old song that I only first discovered last year was "Johnny and Mary" by Robert Palmer. What a cool song! From 1980. Doesn't sound like the later "Simply Irresistible" and "Addicted to Love" stuff he's best known for. 

Anywho... any of you readers find any new favorites last year?
What do you think of Bad Company and/or Bad English?

Friday, January 15, 2021

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


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

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


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

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

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

The Alarm - "The Stand"

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

The Alarm - "Rescue Me"

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


This Month in 1991: January

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maniac Mansion soundtrack

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

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

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

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

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

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

MusiCards 30th Anniversary Celebration Extravaganza

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

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