Peel Here & Scream! Day 9…

We’re nearing the end of the first full week of the Countdown to Halloween here at Branded.  Since I shared a sheet of pun-laden, gravestone-centric AGC stickers earlier in the week I thought it would be fun to share some Hallmark stickers that are in the same vein…

1984 Hallmark Halloween stickers 3

The jokes on these stones are pretty groan worthy, like zombie groans, but I adore the heck out of the illustrations.  That vampire is freaking adorable!  These hail from 1984, by the by.

Come back around tomorrow for another installment of the Halloween-y sticker countdown and if you’re looking for more sites celebrating the season like mine, you can find a plethora of ‘em with a metric ton of spooky content over at the Countdown to Halloween!


Peel Here & Scream! Day 8…

For today’s edition of Peel Here & Scream I’m going super traditional with a couple of Hallmark pumpkin sticker sheets.  They might not be the most exciting stickers, but they’re classics and I love ‘em.  First up is this sheet from 1981…

1981 Hallmark Halloween stickers 2

This second sheet is out of this world and hails from 1984.  Not exactly sure why these Jack O’Lanterns are in outer space, but I love, love, love them.  The only draw back on these sheet is the repetition.  At least that first sheet had about 14 different designs…

1984 Hallmark Halloween stickers 2

Remember to come back tomorrow for more Halloween-y sticker fun, and if you have a minute, head on over to the Countdown to Halloween website to scope out all the other sites participating in the 2015 blog marathon festivities!


Peel Here & Scream! Day 7…

For day seven of the Countdown to Halloween I’m jump back into my collection of spooky stickers for another edition of Peel Here & Scream.  Today I’m changing things up a tad by sharing a vintage sheet of AGC stickers (instead of Hallmark, which admittedly will dominate this countdown.)

1983 AGC

These stickers hail from 1983 and feature a bunch of Halloween-y gravestone puns.  They’re not all winners (Jack O. Lantern, really AGC?)  But some of these remind me of Garbage Pail Kid-style name puns which I love.  Dee Funct for the win.  Also, the illustration style of these stickers reminds me a ton of the Witch’s Night Out Halloween cartoon special.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out!

Let’s reconvene back here tomorrow for another installment of Peel Here & Scream, and remember, there’s a ton of other site participating in the Countdown to Halloween, all of which you can find at the site aptly named, Countdown to Halloween! ;)


These Should Exist: The Lost Boys Edition!

Over the past year I’ve been having a lot of fun with my latest Branded in the 80s project where I try and fill in some of the pop culture gaps when it comes to properties that weren’t merchandised nearly as well as they could have been back in the day.  The basic gist of the idea for me is creating mini sets of Topps trading cards for movies, TV shows and cartoons that never had sets of cards, but totally should have.  This idea started last year when I was working on my Countdown to Halloween theme of 31 days worth of articles and appreciate for one of my all time favorite flicks, The Monster Squad.  While putting that month’s worth of content together I thought it would be fun to create a digital set of trading cards that looked as accurate as possible to actual vintage Topps releases, up to and including recreating wax wrappers.  I had such a blast creating these and sharing them that I’ve worked on 5 additional sets in the last 12 months (including sets for Adventures in Babysitting, Rad, Jem & the Holograms and a couple sets that I co-created with my Cult Film Club co-host Paxton Holley for Young Guns & Young Guns II.)  Around June of this past year I started jotting down a list of all the flicks and shows that I felt needed card sets, and when the one-year anniversary of the Monster Squad cards was about to hit I went back to the list to find a flick that would be an appropriate Halloween-y follow up.

Lost Boys Wrapper A

The movie that immediately jumped out at me was The Lost Boys, which along with The Monster Squad were my first two big forays into watching horror flicks back when I was 10 years-old in 1987.  My parents had been very strict with my sister when it came to letting her watch R-rated movies, or anything even remotely resembling the horror genre, but they were a little bit looser with me.  For all intents and purposes 1987 was the year they gave up trying to keep me from watching more adult flicks, but before they completely let me loose in the horror section of the local video rental store with their rental card there were a handful of flicks that were sort of baby steps into horror for me.  The Monster Squad and The Lost Boys were these movies, and the latter in particular as it was aimed at a slightly older audience with the level of gore and intensity.

Lost Boys Wrapper C

Unlike most of the sets I’ve worked on so far, with the Lost Boys set I felt the urge to start with creating the wax wrapper and then work out from there.  When I sat down to tackle the wrappers I kind of wanted to go in two different directions with the style.  The mid-eighties was a time of transition for Topps in terms of style. They had begun to phase out the bold, italicized logo (the one on the wrappers above) in lieu of a more spindly, art deco logo.  There was also some shake up in terms of the pictures on the wrappers.  For a few sets they moved away from the high contrast, thick line art illustrations and instead went with photo realistic images that used black and white halftone shading and minimal color fills.  You can see this on the Supergirl and Cyndi Lauper wrappers.  So I got it in my head that I’d try my hand at doing both styles for the wrappers.

Lost Boys 1 - combo

As for the cards themselves, I knew I wanted to go with something stark and dark for the border colors and I hadn’t really done any black-bordered cards yet.  So I dug up some Jaws 2 cards and took a lot of inspiration from the fin design in the border to create a bat for the Lost Boys cards.  I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Lost Boys 2 - combo    Lost Boys 4 - combo

Lost Boys 3 - combo

Lost Boys 5 - combo    Lost Boys 6 - combo

This is also one of those movies (like the Monster Squad) where I could easily have created 80+ cards, but I decided to keep it tight with 15 cards.  Otherwise I’d probably still be working on this set next Halloween…

Lost Boys 10 - comboLost Boys 7 - combo    Lost Boys 8 - combo

Lost Boys 9 - combo

I did want to make sure that I hit on all the major characters though.  On my short list for cards that didn’t make the cut were Big Ed (the boardwalk cop), the punks, Nanook & Thorn, Michael eating Chinese takeout, and the Vampires Everywhere comic book…

Lost Boys 14 - combo

Lost Boys 11 - combo    Lost Boys 12 - combo

Lost Boys 13 - combo

Even though I skipped over some cards that I wanted to make, but didn’t.  There was one card that absolutely had to be made no matter what, Tim “Sax Man” Capello.  He “still believes” his card is the best in the set, and therefore I still believe that it’ll probably be the first one folks right-click on and save for their digital Lost Boys cards collection…

Lost Boys 15 - combo


Peel Here & SCREAM! Day 5…

It’s the start of the first full week of October and it’s been a great season.  The house is decorated, I’ve eaten my first Halloween Burger King Whopper, and I scoped out a bunch of fun new candy to buy this year for the trick or treaters.  So, surprise, surprise, but I have yet another sheet of vintage Hallmark stickers to share today for the Countdown to Halloween.  Keeping it chronological here is a sheet from 1984!

1984 Hallmark Halloween stickers 1

As the decade moves on the illustrations are becoming less eccentric and more tight.  This sheet is cool because it seems to be aimed at teachers to use on homework and tests that got good grades.  Love that there were seasonal stickers for school work.

Swing back by tomorrow for more Halloweeny stickers, and remember to check out the Countdown to Halloween for a plethora of other sites participating in the month-long blogging insanity.



Peel Here & Scream, Day 4!

It’s the first Sunday of the Countdown to Halloween.  It’s been a pretty good October so far.  The girlfriend and I decorated our place yesterday so there’s plenty of spooky stuff and orange lights all around the house.  Really getting into the spirit.  Today I have another Hallmark sticker sheet to share, this time from 1983.  Again, the illustration work on these is really fun and very much of the early 80s.  Just look at that ten ton chin on the witch in that top left sticker!  Love it.

1983 Hallmark

Tomorrow starts the first full week of the month so check back by for some more Halloweeny sticker fun. Though I’m not helping to run it this year, I urge anyone who digs this kind of season blog fun to check out the official Countdown to Halloween site for a list of hundreds of other sites participating in the month-long madness.


Peel Here & SCREAM! Day 3…

Welcome back to the Branded in the 80s Halloween Sticker Spooktac…er…actually I’ve decided to rename the countdown this year at the totally on point suggestion by my good buddy Paxton (of the Cavalcade of Awesome and my co-host on the Cult Film Club)! He came up with the Peel Here & Scream idea and I’m running with it.  Anyway, It’s day three and I’m moving right along through my favorite decade, this time to 1982 and yet another Hallmark monster-filed sticker sheet…

1982 Hallmark Halloween Stickers 3

This sheet is similar to the one I shared yesterday, but with a slightly cleaner illustration style.  I love the inclusion of the London After Midnight-esque vampire and the grave-digger skeleton.  Also, patches must have been huge in 82 because practically every character on this sheet has some sort of patch on their garments.  Now that I’m thinking about it I love the look of patches on a ghost as it reinforces the who entity under a sheet visual.  The one aspect of this sheet that’s off is the glaringly inappropriate wizard character.  Sigh, c’mon Hallmark, get your act together.  Monsters or bust!

Come back by tomorrow for another piece of vintage Halloween sticker ephemera, and be sure to head on over to the Countdown to Halloween to check out a metric ton of other sites participating in this month-long celebration of spooky goodness.


Peel Here: Halloween Sticker Spooktacular, Day 2…

Continuing the Halloweeny sticker fun this month, today I have another sheet of vintage Hallmark stickers.  This one hails from 1981 and has a really nice mix of monsters in a very fun early 80s illustration style.  I really miss this kind of loose cartooning in merchandising and company mascots…

1981 Hallmark Halloween stickers

I also really dug this sheet for the monsters that are included.  It’s pretty standard to see Vampires, Frankenstein’s Monsters, Witches and Werewolves, but this sheet also features Hags, Pumpkin-men, carnival barker skeletons and even a devil.  Pretty cool.

Swing back by tomorrow for another sheet of vintage Halloween stickers, and remember to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for a huge list of other participating websites in this season event!


Peel Here: Halloween Sticker Spooktacular

It’s hard to break tradition, and the October tradition at Branded is to do my very best to treat write about or share something Halloweeny every day until Halloween.  It’s the annual Countdown to Halloween, and this year is my 10th time celebrating this at the site.  There are a couple of changes this year for those keeping track.  First of all, I decided that it was time to step down from helping to run the official Countdown to Halloween site that I’ve been working on with John Rozum for the past five years.  It’s been an honor and a pleasure, and I still love working on it, but over the last year I’ve not only made a move across country, but I’ve also essentially started work on a second full time job as a freelance graphic designer.  If only there were 36 hours in a day.  Second, this lack of time has also bitten into my plans for a countdown this year and I’ve decided to not sweat it when it comes to a well developed theme.  Last year’s Month of Monster Squad was a crap ton of work and I’m so glad I was able to get it all done.  So this year I’m easing off on the throttle a little and have decided to concentrate on sharing some fun Halloweeny sticker ephemera.

So with that being said, here’s the first piece of vintage spooky sticker goodness that I just stumbled upon this past year.  This is a Hallmark sticker sheet hailing from 1980 and it features some seriously badass monsters totally rocking out.  This is the first time I’ve seen a one-off sticker sheet and thought that it absolutely needs to be adapted into an ongoing cartoon series!

1980 Hallmark Halloween Rock stickers

Also, I need that Frankenstein’s Monster illustration on a t-shirt pronto!

So check back each day this month for some more sticker fun.  And make sure to head on over to the Countdown to Halloween site where John Rozum is still keeping the spooky candles lit at the site which hosts a list of all the blogs participating in the Halloween festivities.


Thunder in Your Heart Thunderdome!

Back in 1997 when I first saw the Paul Thomas Anderson flick Boogie Nights I felt like my brain was going to melt.  It wasn’t just that the film was amazing, it was and is still one of my favorite Anderson films, but it was one of the first times I experienced the weird pangs of childhood nostalgia in a situation that made zero sense to me.  When Mark Whalberg’s Dirk Diggler holes up in a studio to record a cover of Stan Bush’s The Touch from the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie soundtrack my jaw dropped.  It’s like a pop culture Thunderdome.  Two pop culture properties enter, one new amazing property leaves…


This was pre-internet and a good four or five years before there was even a murmur of an 80s nostalgia wave about to hit pop culture. At the time I felt like I was the only person on the planet who adored the Transformers movie, let alone owned a copy of the soundtrack on CD and cassette. So the thought of Anderson (or whoever was helping to arrange the soundtrack for Boogie Nights) was aware of that song seemed weirdly impossible to me. Fast forward a decade and with a while new world of internet chat rooms, message boards, podcasts and blogs I realized that the fandom for Bush’s The Touch was much larger than I ever would have guessed. Still, that cross-pollination of musical pop culture fun has remained a fascinating moment for me.

Well, a couple weeks ago while on vacation with my girlfriend Jaime in Myrtle Beach, we stumbled on another instance of pop culture musical worlds colliding that again left me in a state of shock and awe. While digging through Spotify for some fun 80s era anthems to serve as our soundtrack as we made our final approach to the beach house, Jaime queued up one of my favorite songs, John Farnham’s Thunder in Your Heart from the Rad soundtrack. I’m pretty sure the whole Rad soundtrack is up on Spotify, but for once she was looking for that specific song and when it popped up in the search something amazing happened. It popped up with multiple results, two of which had me doing a double take. Right under John Farnham were versions of the song performed by two other 80s anthem powerhouses, Stan Bush and Joe Esposito! I’ve already mentioned Bush’s The Touch from Transformers, but for those unfamiliar with Esposito’s work, he worked on a little song you might have heard from the Karate Kid soundtrack called You’re The Best. Now there are a lot of great 80s anthems, and most folks will quickly point to bands like Huey Lewis and the News or Journey as some of the best at the craft. But for me, it’s all about the triumvirate of soundtracks from Rad, Transformers, and the Karate Kid when it comes to super motivational, montage rock.


I know Rad has a very rabid fan base, but for all that love, the film has still yet to make the transition to the modern home video age.  It’s never being officially released on DVD, let alone Blu-Ray or HD streaming, and the VHS release was only aimed at video stores and not the general public. Though I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is finally about to change next year, Rad is for all intents and purposes a pretty obscure cult flick. I’ve talked Ad nauseam about my love for the film (just take a look at the trading cards I designed for the flick, the episodes of the Cult Film club where we discussed the flick and interviewed star Bill “Cru” Allen, or my review of Mr. Allen’s memoir), but I’ve never really written all that much about the soundtrack.  It’s an album that I love dearly.  I own it on vinyl, on a bootleg, semi-official CD pressing that came out in the mid-2000′s, and even the official digital release that came out a couple of years ago.  The whole album is great (Sparks is probably in my top five favorite bands), but the handful of John Farnham songs, specifically Break the Ice and Thunder in Your Heart, are some of my all time favorite anthems.  So when I found out that not just one, but both of my other favorite anthem singers covered Farnham’s song from Rad I was gobsmacked.

John Farnham

John Farnham

As soon as we got back from vacation I had to figure out more about these Esposito and Bush TiYH covers, as well as the origins of the Farnham song.  I never really stopped to think about who actually wrote the song.  Honestly, I figured that it was a Farnham original, especially since he provided three songs for the Rad soundtrack, I was under the impression that he was contracted out by the production to provide some original music for the film.  As it turns out though, not only did Farnham not write the song, I think it may have even predated Rad.  In fact there is a possibility that the song was actually written with the intention of debuting on a completely different soundtrack.  Before I dig into that I wanted to take a second and look at the duo who is actually responsible for writing Thunder in Your Heart, Gloria Sklerov & Lenny Macaluso.

Left: Lenny Macaluso & Tina Turner. Right: Gloria Sklerov & Stan Bush

Left: Lenny Macaluso & Tina Turner. Right: Gloria Sklerov & Stan Bush

Lenny Macaluso and Gloria Sklerov are a couple of the unsung heroes of 80s era anthems.  Macaluso was the main composer on the show My Two Dads, co-wrote “The Touch” with Stan Bush and the duo wrote and composed the romance theme “Let the Love Begin” from Thrashin’ and more importantly “Thunder in Your Heart”.  Sklerov also co-wrote with Stan Bush.  The duo won an Emmy for their work on the song “Until I was Loved By You” for the soap opera Guiding Light.  Sklerov has also written songs for The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield and the song “Ain’t Love Good Tonight” for the film Clint Eastwood flick Every Which Way But Loose.  It’s rare that the composers ever get much of the spotlight, but the duo are definitely an important in bringing us some iconic 80s music for sure.

So let’s take a look at the actual versions of the song.  From what I can tell there are four versions that I know of,  two are from Rad (performed by John Farnham), one that made it into the film and on the soundtrack which is 3 minutes and 38 seconds long, and a second, alternate extended version that was released when the soundtrack was released digitally which clocks in at 4 minutes, 38 seconds.  Then there is a cover of the song performed by Joe Espositio that I’m having a little bit of trouble nailing down release information for.  That track clocks in at 3 minutes, 18 seconds and is the shortest version of the four.  Lastly, there’s a version by Stan Bush that was released this past year with his latest album, The Ultimate.  That version clocks in at 3 minutes, 30 seconds.  All four versions feature the same basic overall structure with slight differences in pace and timing, and in Esposito’s case some alternate lyrics.

In my mind, the Farnham version from the film and Soundtrack is the definitive version.  It’s the one I heard first and the version that just…sounds right, for lack of a better description. The second that song plays I see the qualifying race from Rad in my mind’s eye, without fail.  I know for a lot of people “You’re the Best” is the go to 80s anthem, and I do love it, but whenever I’m out running and need to finish that last mile or something like that, it’s TiYH for me.  As far as the difference between the original and extended versions of the song, the longer one is pretty much the same (though the guitar solo comes in a few seconds earlier) and at the 3:38 mark the song slows down with a more groovy feel to the beat in the background as it plays out the chorus one more time.

Here are the lyrics for those not familiar…

Thunder in Your Heart – John Farnham Version

You’re taking a chance, risking it all
For the thrill of the moment
Taking a stand, you ain’t gonna fall
And you’ve always known it
They’re dying to shake you,
Trying their best to break you
And though the going is rough, you’re going home as a hero

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
Every move is like lightning
It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory
There’s a fire gonna start
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

Cry of the wind, spirit of fire
The heart of a lion
Taking control, burning desire
Your flame never dying

Don’t lose that feeling
Don’t ever stop believing
There’s one more moment of truth and you’re gonna face it

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
Every move is like lightning
It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory
There’s a fire gonna start
and you know they’re going under
you can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

When they hear your heart of thunder.

‘Cause there’s thunder in your heart
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

There is thunder in your heart
And you know they’re going under
You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder.

Powerful stuff.  So, as I mentioned above, as far as I knew up until a couple weeks ago the song was a John Farnham original, but now that I’ve heard the Joe Esposito version there are a few context clues that are making me wonder if it might pre-date the version from Rad.  First off, Esposito’s version is a little cleaner or stripped down, not as heavily layered with instrumentation.  Again, I haven’t been able to find any concrete release information for his version of the song, so I have no idea if it’s modern (like the Bush cover) or if it was released in the 80s when he was in his heyday.


Left: Joe Esposito

Another clue that makes me wonder is that there are some variations with the lyrics in the Esposito version.  Maybe it’s just me but it seems weird to think that Esposito would bother changing the lyrics if he were covering the song.  The differences between the two versions is also not stark, there really seems to be no obvious reason as to why the lyrics would have been changed.  It’s mainly the line “It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory”, which Esposito changes to, “And you hit the mark with your hand on the wall you’ve been striking”.

Again, to me this feels like a slight shift in how the song was conceived and how it was potentially changed to fit in a bit better with the placement in the movie Rad.  Overall, the song is all about pushing through and kicking butt when the going gets tough.  But the line “It’s the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory” feels like it’s pointing towards winning in a competition, not just pushing through a tough point.  Esposito’s variation just reads a little more broad to me, and that feels like a first draft.  The theory that I have is that Esposito was the first to perform the song, very likely for inclusion in the Karate Kid soundtrack, but for some reason it was pulled.  Maybe Allee Willis was working on “You’re The Best” in tandem with Macaluso & Sklerov working on “Thunder in Your Heart”.  Maybe they were both in consideration for the final karate tournament montage.  Who knows.  But that’s the theory I’m going with as it’s all just conjecture on my part.  In an effort to be thorough I’ve reached out to both Macaluso and Sklerov (both are on Facebook), but have yet to hear back.

As for his version itself, I dig it, but I’m not nearly as fond of it as I am of Farnham & Bush’s versions.  His voice is raspier and his guitar solo isn’t nearly as fun as the other two.  That being said, there are some fun aspects to this version.  For one it’s much heavier on backing keyboards which I do enjoy, and at around the 2 minute 10 second mark there are some over the top thunderstorm sound effect overlays that are so goofy and spot on that you have to love them (like the Door’s Rider’s on the Storm…)


Last, but certainly not least, sees the reteaming of Lenny Macaluso & Stan Bush for a modern cover of Thunder in Your Heart that is in many ways similar to the Farnham performance of the song.  It was included on Bush’s most recent album, The Ultimate, and I hope that there are a bunch of Bush fans that will be exposed to the wonder that is TiYH.  Maybe, just maybe someone will dig a little deeper into the song and it’ll lead them to discovering the Rad soundtrack and eventually the film itself.  That’s what I hope at least.

So how is Bush’s cover?  Again, I enjoy it, but not as much as Farnham’s.  Bush has a much more tremble-y voice than Farnham, and he plays the song at a quicker pace. Because of this he doesn;t pause on the beats quite as much and to me it loses some of the power of the anthem.  There’s an art to performing a heart pounding song that really grabs you by the metaphorical balls and gets you pumped.  I think a big part of that is knowing when to be fast with a lot of intensity and energy, and when to pull back and let the audience soak in what they’re hearing.  Bush misses a lot of those dramatic beats in the song in my opinion.  On the other hand his solo is probably the best of the three, and like Esposito, Bush layers on thunderstorm effects and amps up the keyboards. So it’s not a total loss.

Before I sat down to write this article I was chatting with my girlfriend Jaime about it and she had a brilliantly silly idea that I totally fell in love with.  She suggested we create the audio equivalent all three versions of these songs battling it out for supremacy, in an environment like Thunderdome (from the 3rd Mad Max film.)  So she set to work to merging all three tracks into one, realigning them so that they all play basically at the same pace.  We call this the Thunder in Your Heart: The Thunderdome Remix.  It’s a cacophony of insanity, but it’s also probably the first time that John Farnham, Stan Bush, and Joe Esposito have every all played together at once (virtually that is!)

You can listen or down the Thunderdome Remix here