Today happens to be my birthday.
As I get older, the best aspect of my birthday is not the gifts or the cake or the party or the fawning. The best part is doing what I want to do and doing only what I want to do. There's really only two days like this on the whole calendar -- Father's Day and my birthday.
Most of the time, when someone asks me what I want to do, the word "baseball" is part of my response. Most often it's something like this: "watch baseball," or "go to a baseball game." That will take care of what I want to do.
But today -- on my birthday -- there is no baseball.
Oh, MLB thinks they have a dandy set up for my birthday: the made-for-TV Home Run Derby. But that, to me, is not baseball. It's a gimmick. If I'm bored, I'll switch it on. But this is my birthday. It's not a day for being bored. And if baseball isn't going to cooperate, then I'll take care of it myself.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the 1991 ProSet MusiCards. I had obtained about two-thirds of the set and I am intent on completing it. I also mentioned that there was a different version of this set issued in the United Kingdom. After getting a look at the checklist for the U.K. set and noting quite a few variations, I knew I had to obtain those cards, too.
I found a box of the stuff online for like 10 bucks and it arrived on my porch last week. Inside are 35 packs of music stars from the early 1990s -- U.K. style. (You know what that means: Cards of EMF! Unbelievable!).
Look at that! Isn't that wonderful? Thirty-five packs to open, filled with music stars from my youth, but with British accents.
So, since there is no baseball on TV for my birthday, I decided that I would open this wonderful box of UK cards tonight and see if I can complete the set of 150 cards (the U.S. version is 340 cards). While batters are launching their fake home runs, I'll be searching for the likes of George Michael, A-Ha and Cliff Richard.
I actually couldn't wait to get started (I have no ability to leave packs unopened in my home). So I've opened four packs already and I have to say I couldn't be more pleased with what I found. There are quite a bit of differences between the U.S. and U.K. versions, and I don't just mean the subject matter.
Let's go through the first pack to get an idea:
The first card is of Neneh Cherry of "Buffalo Stance" fame (and brother of Eagle-Eye). I don't believe she's in the U.S. set, so the U.K. set is an automatic win with the first card.
The next two cards are cards that can be found in the U.S. MusiCards set as well, except they're not quite the same.
The U.S. version is on the top. You can see that the Pro Set logo is in the top left for the U.S. set and the bottom right for the U.K. set, that's the way it is for all the cards I've seen so far. Also, you'll note that the photos are cropped differently.
The two Belinda Carlisle cards are also cropped differently but a bit less so, and you can see the U.K. card (on the left) has the Pro Set logo in the bottom right.
But the real differences come on the backs of the cards:
The U.S. card on the top features a yellow-spotted background while the U.K. cards go with a clean white background. The U.S. card adds a second photo while the U.K. set is spare. But the big difference for me is in the writing. This underlines the differences between music PR in the U.S. and the U.K. The U.S. tries to put the artist in the most favorable light possible, while the U.K. script is full of bad jokes and cheeky writing.
I found this fascinating as the difference appears on virtually every card I've pulled so far.
Let's see more from the pack:
Oh, boy, lots of goodies here.
I've added the U.S. Extreme card above the U.K. Extreme card. You'll note different photos as well as the switched logo. But that's not the most interesting difference (as the U.K. photo may also be in the U.S. set -- like I said I don't have all the U.S. cards).
The big thing for me is the change in border colors.
In the U.S. set, the border colors signify a different genre. The gold-framed cards are legends, the lime green-and-pink cards are pop stars, the green-and-purple cards are rap and soul singers, and the black-and-pink cards are rock singers and bands.
In the U.K. set, there is none of that segregation. Every card gets a lime green-and-pink border. That is awesome because that's what I know about the British music scene (or at least the way it was then, who knows what's going on now). The U.S. was/is heavily programmed. You have your rock stations, country stations, pop stations, urban stations, etc. But I remember listening to British radio back in the 1980s and there was none of that. Everybody partied together.
So Vanilla Ice may be programmed into the green-and-purple rap category in the U.S. set, but he's just a regular lime-and-pink Pro Set SuperStar, just like Madonna and Michael Jackson in the U.K. set.
Oh, and did I mention, you can't find Michael Jackson in the U.S. set?
The final four cards in the first pack are John Lennon's son, the creators of "get on, get on, get on, get on, get on my Groovy Train," some British TV personality, and the singer who invited you to Touch (Her) All Night Long in her sherbet-colored clothing.
That was tremendous fun to open and it was just the first pack.
Pack 2 yielded a card of the Divinyls, which is awesome considering that alternative acts are virtually ignored in the American set (Edit: that Divinyls card is also in the U.S. set).
It also produced a Public Enemy card and this interesting British-styled write-up:
Ah, the days when cursing was an exception in music.
Here is another difference between "similar" cards:
No mention of yogurt or dippy-hippy times on the American card!
The fourth-and-final pack I opened featured the greatest star power thus far. Check out this run of cards:
There's no way a baseball pack can match that star power (Also the above four are not in the American set).
Plus, the U.K. set is very helpful:
Just in case you ran into Prince back in 1991, there's a spot for his autograph!
Many of the U.K. cards feature an autograph line on the back but I don't think any of the U.S. cards do.
Also in the fourth pack, I pulled my first card of Kylie!
I hope there's many more.
So, yes, during my birthday today, I opened gifts. I ate cake. I partied just a very small amount. And I'm getting ready to open a whole bunch of music stars from before the scourge of autotune and Pro Tools (Is a glitzed-up home run derby baseball's version of autotuning? Discuss).
Baseball isn't helping much today, but I'm still doing things my way. On my day.
(Unfortunately there's no card of Frank Sinatra in either set).