I am a member of the MTV generation. There is no mistake about that. MTV was born a month before I entered my junior year in high school.
It was the latest, greatest invention, at least according to the most receptive market for these kinds of things: teenagers. MTV videos made up the daily conversation in the cafeteria, where it was mixed with movies, homework, girls, TV shows and idiot teachers in a hormonal stew.
For me, and others of that generation, what has happened to MTV is criminal. The station that proclaimed the death of the radio star with its very first video, also killed what made it great, what the people who worked there were so excited about in the first place: music on your television, all day and all night -- and in stereo.
The videos that MTV played during those first few years were exactly what we wanted to see. They spoke to us. And the ones that spoke the loudest were the new groups that we were witnessing for the very first time on music television. Even today, more than 30 years after MTV first launched, I am the most comfortable when I am listening to music from that time.
Bands like the Pretenders, Cars and Talking Heads are mine. They are what I listen to when I want to reconnect with what I enjoy about popular music. And I've been listening to what's considered '80s alternative nonstop for the last two months.
The Pretenders skew more toward rock, even though they were lumped into that nebulous "new wave" category at the time. But there was no doubt they were new and interesting. In looking at the first 20 videos to ever play on MTV, the Pretenders is the only artist to show up twice (Brass in Pocket - 7, Message of Love - 20).
The Pretenders' first album, self-titled, is one of my favorite albums of all-time. It celebrated its 36th birthday just last month (wow!). It changed lives, and although two of the artists in the group would die a couple of years after the record came out, it remains relevant to me to this day. I can quote lyrics from songs on the album like most people quote movie lines. And it sums up perfectly those restless days of youth.
But before this turns into a music blog, let's steer it to the post's intent. The challenge is to match a baseball card to each song title on the album -- and believe me, it is a challenge.
Here is the song list.
Now let's see what I came up with for Chrissie and the boys.
Match the song title: "Pretenders, Pretenders"
Track 1: Precious: An outstanding song, full of sex, aggression and guitars -- perfect for developing minds. My first thought was the Precious Gems cards put out by Metal Universe in the late 1990s. I just did a search for some of the cards and they're still going for outrageous prices. I will never spend more than 40 bucks for a card that is younger than my daughter. All of those cards, to quote Chrissie Hynde, can "f*** off."
Track 2: The Phone Call: I must trot this card out at least once a year. It's 1980 calling, Brett. It's saying your music sucks in 1997.
Track 3: Up the Neck: "Lust turns to anger, a kiss to a slug." Most of the Pretenders' songs are full of punk attitude -- just presented in a more melodic way. They are considered a bridge between punk and new wave bands like R.E.M.
For some reason I started searching out players with long necks for this song. Hunter Pence came to mind immediately. Such a goofy dude.
Track 4: Tattooed Love Boys: If I was doing this series even five years ago, I don't know what I would have used here. These days, however, you can find tattoos on every other ballplayer. I don't pretend to understand it, but it makes this track the easiest for finding a card.
(P.S.: James Honeyman Scott is why you don't do drugs. A guitar great).
Track 5: Space Invader: And then there are tremendous leaps in logic like this card. Let me explain:
The instrumental is a nod to the "Space Invaders" arcade game (I sure did love it), which was at its height of popularity in the late '70s. Around the same time, Atari -- the makers of Space Invaders -- put out a baseball video game called Home Run Baseball.
These were the graphics:
Isn't that wonderful? I would have no problem playing this today. I quit video games by the late '80s. So I'm not spoiled on today's graphics.
But anyway, the point:
The box for home run baseball featured generic ballplayers on the cover. I saw generic drawings like this everywhere in the '70s. The guy fielding the ball could be Sal Bando. The guy swinging the bat could be Billy Williams. And the guy pitching in the center is Jim Palmer. Because the generic sketched pitcher in the 1970s was always Jim Palmer.
I told you it was a stretch.
Track 6: The Wait: I adore this song. Waiting is what being a teenager is all about. Heck, that's what baseball is all about, what life is all about.
Track 7: Stop Your Sobbing: Sam Dyson was taken to task for criticizing Jose Bautista's batflip/staredown after giving up the deciding home run to Bautista in the AL Division Series last year. I don't need to pile on, and perhaps he's rethought his comments in the months that have passed, but one player did their job in that situation and the other one didn't. The one who didn't shouldn't be critiquing anything, except himself.
Track 8: Kid: Of course, it's The Kid!
This was the start of Side 2 (when Side 2 meant something, back in those early MTV days). The prettiest song of the bunch. Harks back to the '60s.
Track 9: Private Life: I like every song on this album, but there are a couple on Side 2 that go on a little too long. This is one of them.
It's interesting that the first player I thought of for Private Life is Joe DiMaggio, just because he was so determined to keep his private life private. And what did he get? People constantly talking about DiMaggio's private life. By the way, the 1960s piece on DiMaggio by Gay Talese, "The Silent Season of a Hero," might be the best there is.
Track 10: Brass In Pocket: The Pretenders' biggest hit off the album and my introduction to the band. The video is still amusing.
Most of the Pinnacle Mint coins were made out of brass, I believe. Pinnacle suckered people into becoming coin collectors and looking for silver and gold coins (I believe the gold were redemptions only). I always stuck to the cardboard.
Track 11: Lovers Of Today: Look! It's a Rookie Card and a Rookie Cup and on a 2016 card! It's got "THIS IS NOW" all over it!
For me, the Lovers Of Today are most of the people on Twitter. There are like 5 of us on there who remember what the '70s were like and stay on there only to annoy the people who were born after Kurt Cobain died for god's sake. My love for today is the fact that I'm still in it. Otherwise, give me one of those 3-D Kellogg's cards.
Track 12: Mystery Achievement: The LP's last song and my favorite song on it. It's a bass-heavy masterpiece.
For this song, I chose Alexander Cartwright, who was officially recognized as the creator of baseball over half a century ago, yet Abner Doubleday still lives on for his mystery achievement of thinking up the sport.
And that's where the needle comes off the record.
The fact is, we don't need MTV anymore. There are so many other venues for listening and watching music that I could play nothing but Pretenders for the rest of my life.
But that doesn't mean that this album isn't special. Sooooo special.