Thursday, October 26, 2017

"We Didn't Start The Fire" binder project kickoff

Rocktober continues with a post focusing on favorite song of mine when I was a kid.

This is a dumb/fun idea I had while lying in bed trying to fall asleep the other night: Putting together a bunch of cards to line up with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" (If someone out there already came up with the idea, I'm sorry for copying it). I just thought it'd be neat to put together a binder that you could look through while the song plays, with cards syncing up to the lyrics, so to speak.

I bet most references in the song have some sort of cardboard representation, though I don't doubt there will be some tough ones to trip me up along the way. I'm going to allow myself to have fun with it and "cheat" a little. For example, I'll use a card of 80s Pirates second baseman Johnny Ray instead of a card of who Joel was actually referencing, 50s musician Johnnie Ray. I suppose I could resort to making customs if I absolutely can't find any applicable cards, but it'll be a last resort and considered only a temporary solution. But yeah, we'll just have to see how far along this project ends up going.

Hey, question for you...
Can anyone recommend a good online shop for cheap non-sport cards? Something like a Non-Sportlots. Because Sportlots and Just Commons don't seem to carry non-sport. COMC does, but their non-sport stuff tends to run a little pricey. And of course there's eBay, but shipping cost will usually get ya there.

So I'll likely end up relying a lot on helpful traders to fill spots in the binder. Please help me out if you can!

Here's a rundown thanks to Wikipedia...



















  • Pope Paul VI: Cardinal Giovanni Montini is elected to the papacy and takes the papal name of Paul VI.
  • Malcolm X makes his infamous statement "The chickens have come home to roost" about the Kennedy assassination, thus causing the Nation of Islam to censor him; about fifteen months later, he himself is assassinated while preparing to make a speech.
  • British politician sex: The British Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, has a relationship with a showgirl, and then lies when questioned about it before the House of Commons. When the truth came out, it led to his own resignation and undermined the credibility of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
  • JFK blown away: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated on November 22 while riding in an open convertible through Dallas.


  • Birth control: In the early 1960s, oral contraceptives, popularly known as "the pill", first go on the market and are extremely popular. Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 challenged a Connecticut law prohibiting contraceptives. In 1968, Pope Paul VI released a papal encyclical titled Humanae vitae which reaffirmed Catholic teaching that artificial birth control was a sin.
  • Ho Chi Minh: A Vietnamese Communist, who served as President of Vietnam from 1954–1969. March 2 Operation Rolling Thunder begins bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail supply line from North Vietnam to the Vietcong rebels in the south. On March 8, the first U.S. combat troops, 3,500 marines, land in South Vietnam.


  • Richard Nixon back again: Former Vice President Nixon is elected President in 1968.


  • MoonshotApollo 11, the first manned lunar landing, successfully lands on the moon.
  • Woodstock: Famous rock and roll festival of 1969 that came to be the epitome of the counterculture movement.







  • Wheel of Fortune: The hit television game show, on air since 1975, underwent several changes in the early 1980s, including the hiring of Pat Sajak as host in 1981, Vanna White as hostess in 1982, and a move to syndication in 1983, all three of which were still in effect by the time of the song (and remained through the 1990s, 2000s and much of the 2010s as well).


  • Sally Ride: On June 18, she became the first American woman in space by flying aboard Challenger on the STS-7 shuttle mission.
  • Heavy metal suicide: In the 1970s and 80s, heavy metal bands became popular. Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest in particular were sued for fans' suicides after listening to their songs "Suicide Solution" and "Better By You, Better Than Me", respectively.
  • Foreign debts: Persistent U.S. trade and budget deficits
  • Homeless vets: Veterans of the Vietnam War, including many disabled ex-military, are reported to be left homeless and impoverished.
  • AIDS: A collection of symptoms and infections in humans resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is first detected and recognized in the 1980s, and was on its way to becoming a pandemic.
  • Crack cocaine use surged in the mid-to-late 1980s.


  • Bernie Goetz: On December 22, Goetz shot four young men who he said were threatening him on a New York City subway. Goetz was charged with attempted murder but was acquitted of the charges, though convicted of carrying an unlicensed gun.



  • China's under martial law: On May 20, China declares martial law, resulting in the use of military forces against protesting students to end the Tiananmen Square protests.
  • Rock-and-roller cola wars: Soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi each run marketing campaigns using rock & roll and popular music stars to reach the teenage and young adult demographic.

Ok, yeah, there's gonna be some tough ones here, for sure. Looks like there will be 135 or so different cards needed. If I can get better than 50/50 with a real card to custom ratio, I'll be happy. ("Hypodermics on the shore"? What am I supposed to do with that?! Perhaps a hockey card of NHL player Nick Shore, I guess?)

Some low-hanging fruit already out of the way. These 4 are all mentioned by name in the song.

Again, if you can help me out with anything in trade, that'd be nice. Thanks for reading!


  1. I never knew the song was chronological like that. Thanks for educating me.

  2. Check out the 1957 Topps Hit Stars cards for some of the actors and singers

  3. That's an awesome plan... I'll see if I can help any.

  4. This is a fascinating quest and one that I'll follow with great interest. "We Didn't Start the Fire" was my first "favorite" song as a kid and I took great pride in memorizing the lyrics. Of course, then I went on to research all of the events and people named in the tune and I think that's where my passion for American history generated from.

    Anyway, good luck - I'll have to see if I have any cards that can help you out!

  5. I've got a card of Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy for you. What about a card for Global Warming for the chorus, I have one of those as well.

  6. What a cool idea. I'm sure a lot of bloggers, like myself, would love to pitch in and collect it vicariously through you,

  7. Also Barry Bonds = hypodermics on the shore (san fran bay?)

  8. Man, that's a great idea!

    My last name is Pasternack (Alan is a middle name) which gives the song a little extra kick for me. Once went with my brother and parents to see Billy and Elton John at Giants Stadium and I'm sure people were looking at us funny when the 4 of us started cheering in the middle of the song. I guess going with David Pastrnak of the Bruins is probably your best option, but I'd love to see something closer. OTOH there are lots of sets of the Presidents and certainly some good cards of the pop culture icons such as Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles.

  9. Fun project. I'll dig through my stuff and see if I can help you out. Best of luck!

  10. Quite a few of these you can source from the 2011 Topps American Pie set. I just traded the majority of my non-sports cards but I might be able to rustle up a few.

  11. This is an amazing idea! Good luck! I look forward to your progress updates!

  12. Great idea for a set build. Fire me a message on my blog with your address (I won't post it) and I will send a couple cards off to you. Will keep digging this weekend to see what I can find.


  13. I should have an extra Moonshot somewhere. I know there was a subset of Woodstock in Philadelphia football that I skipped. I'll round 'em up and send 'em your way.

    1. Of course, now you'll have to put a quick list in with your wants so we can all hit it.

  14. Thanks for the great response, guys!! Yes, I'll work this onto my wantlist in a few days once my infected finger heals up a bit and typing is less of a chore. (This post was drafted up last week.)

  15. This seems like a great idea. Not sure how you are going to do, for example, a "children of thalidomide" card. But I'm going to look through my cards, got a bunch of American-Pie type stuff, and maybe think of some creative ideas.

    You could use Alan Wiggins for AIDS, that 1993 Topps card of the three Russians could come in handy somewhere. For "homeless vets" a player who was later homeless like Frank Williams or Rodney Craig.

  16. i sang along of course. very interesting idea, and likely original!!!

  17. Metal Universe might be a good place to look b/c of the really bizarre backgrounds. I've got a Gary DiSarcina in an atom, and Tom Pagnozzi deflecting bullets next to a sign that says "restricted area" if they are useful to you

    1. Some American Pies I have available: Vietnam War, Voyager Mission, Gloria Steinem, Thurgood Marshall. From A&G: Albert Einstein. Got a UD Legends of NY card, "Giants Leave NY for San Francisco". Let me know if you want any or all.

    2. Yeah, sure.. thanks! I know I still owe you cards, but you can set those aside for me.

  18. Forgot to include these in my care package. I'll try to ship them out next week though:
    Ozzy Osbourne, John Glenn, Buddy Holly, Sally Ride, Ronald Reagan, Man on the Moon, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, Larence D' Arabia, and Grateful Dead (I think they were @ Woodstock).