|Uber Old School: Rockcards|
|Written by Gaz Tidey|
|Sunday, 06 March 2016 04:00|
Rockcards Series One (Brockum 1991)
If ever there was a product that called out to both the collectible-obsessed nerd and hardened music fan inside of me, then it was Series One (the only series ever officially released as it happens) of Brockum's Rockcards.
Basically a baseball/trading card set devoted to the most metallic mullet-wearers of the early nineties, Rockcards were a curious collectible that featured a varied, oft-bizarre cross section of what was hot, and, also, what most definitely was not, in the world of hard rock a quarter of a century ago.
Yes, as hard as it is to believe and accept sometimes, 1991 was a quarter of a friggin' century ago - now you feel old, right? Well, not only has the face of the music industry changed dramatically in that time, but also the face of memorabilia/comic conventions: once smiling, welcoming old friends, now sneering, money-crazed pick pockets.
Before your average, everyday comic-con was held in a soulless arena and attended by pre-teens dressed up as some manga bollocks, they were true collectors' fairs held in any musty old room or venue that would have them; the memorabilia junkies seeking them out no matter how obscure the venue or how inconvenient the date. I'm happy to say that I experienced the "glory days" of UK conventions, the most glorious of days being when an unopened 36-pack box of Rockcards head-banged its way into my possession. Let me explain...
Before crooks like Showmasters charged suckers a day's wages to have a quick photo with a Z-list cult movie star, UK cons and fairs were the only place to find millions of pieces of mildewing nostalgic gold that you never knew you wanted until its stench stuck in your nostrils, Model and Collectors Mart magazine your bible and guiding light to a land of promise and, invariably, a selection of little people hawking signed Time Bandits 10 x 8 photographs.
On the greatest day in collecting history, I stumbled across some fella selling a load of unopened trading card boxes: still-shrink-wrapped gold nuggets that some would say nobody wanted. The felt pen-smeared cardboard sign housed the legend "£2 each, or 3 for £5" and my face glowed like Charlie Bucket's when he found that final golden ticket.
There was a box of True Crime II trading cards (1992) that had me cold sweating, worrying that someone would grab them before me, and a box of second series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards (1990) that had my mind screaming "Cowabunga!" There was one other box, though; one that had my hair teezin' itself up and my hands curling into devil horns before I could even get the clammy five pound note out of my grasp and into that of this gorgeously unknowing table-renter.....
Brockum's Rockcards featured a 288 card set and all manner of exciting incentives: mint condition be damned; I couldn't wait to get home and tear open every damn one of the card packs. In that pack you'd find thirteen photo cards, a peel and stick artwork card, and the chance to win a trip to see a concert of your choice anywhere in the world. There was also a randomly inserted logo hologram - I got the AC/DC logo - and, even more random, a "Save The Rainforest" card featuring The Grateful Dead. I looked past the box which appeared to have Poison's C.C. Deville marked up as Bret Michaels and found majestic Manna from Metal Heaven.
The expected big name bands of the era were all accounted for - Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake - and a legion of classic bands, the inclusion of some more than a little surprising: Deep Purple alongside The Moody Blues for example, Pink Floyd rubbing shoulder pads with Yes. But then things got really interesting....
Cock Rock battled it out with Thrash Metal right in front of me... and all for approximately £1.66. Winger took on Testament, Slaughter slugged it out with Exodus, Cinderella push pushing Anthrax into a corner where Megadeth and Warrant tore lumps of ginger hair and enormous eyebrows off of each other.
There were full band sets - Poison and Skid Row seemed to have millions of doublers - and a few odd cards of rock legends who the card producers obviously felt deserved inclusion (Ace Frehley, Iggy Pop, David Lee Roth, etc), yet not as in-depth as the musical legacy of Justin Hayward's insipid bunch, or even "rock legends" the Sisters Of Mercy. What really excited me, though, was the inclusion of some bands obviously being pushed to (hopeful) mega stardom in 1991 that didn't quite make it....
There's a full set of Junkyard cards, for instance, and Salty Dog too. It perhaps shouldn't be that surprising given their appearances on arena tour undercards and Monsters of Rock festival bills that Warrior Soul and Dan Reed Network are represented here... but Tangier? Katmandu? Man, these cards made me laugh so hard - a maniacal laughter deserving of someone who has just lucked out by having multiple trading cards of that ginger fucker who went on to be in Flogging Molly. Even better, however, were the Tangier cards...
Tangier, for those of you not up to speed with easily-forgettable nineties bands, were bluesy Philadelphia mofos who got signed on the back of Cinderella's success and had the best-named band members to ever grace a rock-themed trading card. Call it childish, schoolboyish if you like, but we are talking about a collection of bubblegum-free bubblegum cards here: Garry Nutt and Bob Bender - c'mon, that's comedy gold wherever you're from!
The Deville/Michaels faux pas hinted at on the box front wasn't the only Rockcards mistake, either: in a borderline racist statement, Brockum basically claimed that all thrashers looked the same by mixing up guitarist Gary Holt and bassist Rob McKillop on the backs of the Exodus cards.
Now, lucky Uber Rock writers will tell you that, after opening these card packs, I didn't just file them away for posterity: oh no, I'd send random cards with promo discs for review; the luckiest scribes getting a Bender or a Tico Torres, a Dave Bryant or a Dana Strum. Even after chuckling my way to the post office I didn't stop fingering these awesome artefacts, but that was purely down to what I had discovered when doing a little online research about the crucial card collection.
Y'see, the artwork cards featured Derek Riggs and Pushead works amongst others, Winger cover art alongside Megadeth cover art just like in a classic issue of Hit Parader. I found out, though, that there were some mega rare artwork cards either short-packed, or barely packed at all. I searched my box for the rocking horse shit-like wares of Testament's 'Souls Of Black' card but to no avail, and there wasn't even a slaytanic sniff of the Holy Grail - the "Slayer Eagle" card which you can find on eBay for a cool $110.
So my little box o' rock isn't worth as much as a couple of photo shoots at a modern Showmasters event... but who cares? I've got full sets of Junkyard and Salty Dog cards, and a load of Warrior Soul cards signed from the first time I met my favourite mentalist, Kory Clarke. You'd have to be some kind of (Garry) Nuttcase to not agree that I've got something that you all want.....