Errols Weekly Music Update.

December 18, 2018

Def Leppard Is In- What Were “They” Waiting For?

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During the early to mid- 1980’s, the roots of my musical being were expanding and just like impatiens that require more and more water, my need for hard-rock music was growing immensely. I was always seeking more – just like when you are at a holiday party as you are devouring the numerous hors d’oeuvres- my soul was craving straight up rock music. I would always tune into WPLJ in New York (back when it was a rock station) to see if I would hear something that would grab me by the throat and make me pay attention. Then it happened…

I remember the first time I heard what sounded like someone lighting a match as the guitar riff comes in and the opening lyrics just rip through you- “I’m out of luck, out of love… got a photograph, picture of”- and just like when Cabbage Patch Dolls came into being—I GOTTA HAVE THIS!! Who is that? For the next four minutes or so, it is pure bliss—Air guitar heaven with crashing drums spliced in with the coolest vocals which can go low and high—does it get better than this? This one song hooked me on its opening moment and I have never looked back- enjoying a journey of this most excellent band- Def Leppard- through four decades of joy and hardship for this outfit from across the pond. And from a personal point of view, I will forever be grateful to Def Leppard because my first ever date with my bride was seeing them live at the Brendan Byrne Arena in Sept. 1988 (when they sold out three straight nights and I was there for the last two nights) and as they say “the rest is history.”

 “Rock Rock Till You Drop” is my mantra and I could go on all day long on how many of their songs get them into the Hall on an individual basis alone – this song kicks off, in my opinion, their first “break-through” album-“Pyromania”- and it leaves you thirsting for so much more. Your blood starts flowing, your excitement increases and all one wants to do is dance around the room with both arms raised- this is the first song and there’s no waiting to turn up the volume. CRANK IT UP!!! Joe’s vocal prowess seeps with the hunger and energy needed to make it to the top and the guitar solo at the 2:17 mark is too much to handle as the “pure perfection” production is evident right from the outset. Then it’s on to the aforementioned “Photograph”- an awesome one-two punch to get things started. “Stagefright” used to be an opener at their live shows for a couple of years and I guess the reason for the audience to be part of a studio album—I can picture the mash pit swarming like bees surrounding and protecting the queen as the adrenaline is at a fever pitch. And you know what? Some 30 years later Def Leppard is still creating that adrenaline at a fever pitch, how many bands or artists can say the same thing?

 I don’t want to do a song by song review but how can I ignore the fourth song on side one of Pyromania- “Too Late For Love”—dare I say that this track could arguably be their most popular song? (I know what you are thinking but I will pour some sugar on that later). How cool is Mr. Elliot’s vocals when he starts the verse- “…Standing by the trapdoor aware of me and you…” How can you not sing along to this song- pretty impossible, huh? Side 1 ends with the jewel of this album- “Die Hard The Hunter”- again the production is top notch and the timing changes along with the heavy melodic guitar is so infectious that you realize that about 23 minutes have gone by and it feels like seconds because it is so good. This is clearly a perfect album side and this alone gets the boys in to the Hall.

Side two contains two songs where many people would argue are their best songs ever- “Foolin’” and “Rock of Ages”—are you kidding me? What were “they” waiting for? Foolin’ ranks up there with the best rock songs ever created- “Is there anybody out there” that would disagree? If I am starting a band I take Phil Collen and the dearly departed Steve Clark any day of the week—their guitar work is so addictive that it’s like when a small child is trying to eat an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and the ice cream just keeps dripping. You struggle to contain the euphoria but sometimes it is over-whelming and that’s how I would describe most all their songs—especially “Rock of Ages”  — these are stadium anthems that never get old. To this day, when one puts this album on it’s like a lightning bolt “down to the ground.” The album ends on a high note with the unheralded “Billy’s Got a Gun” and the one thing that I notice on this song is the compelling background vocals—think Queen, think Van Halen—the backup vocals set them apart right? Def Leppard, in my opinion, sets the standard- there I said it—I know I will receive flack but it is hard to argue because when one thinks of Def Leppard- amongst the many attributes that people would throw out there- the background vocals is one of the things that sets them apart from the pack.

So I played “Pyromania” until the inside sleeve of the album was torn and was waiting for the follow-up. Then all of us heard of the horrible accident that occurred to their drummer- Rick Allen- on New Year’s Eve 1984. He amazingly survived and has thrived since losing a limb (a true “Beat All the Odds” story line here, no doubt) but at the time I think we all waited with bated breath to see if the band would continue. Here they are hitting their stride and then this. It took a while but then in 1987 they release the almighty “Hysteria”- this album is the flat out reason they find themselves in the same hall of fame alongside the bands they idolized and imitated. This is their “Sgt. Pepper’s” and it was a double edge sword—the hard (rock) liners were upset with the pop/country flavor (see “Love Bites”) and yet the pop stalwart-“Pour Some Sugar on Me”- brought in a whole new fan base and sent their popularity to another stratosphere. The “Sugar” song is arguably their most popular song and just like other rock bands that have a song that is repeatedly played until the song is dead (think- “Sweet Home Alabama”) this song is in that category and though I recognize its greatness, I usually hit the next button when I listen to Hysteria in its entirely- doesn’t take anything away- just being honest.

Hysteria starts off with the incredible-“Women”- and right off the bat, it rips the Band-Aid off the skin and flat out rocks- the groove line is so contagious that you start a slow bounce of your head up and down while squeezing those headphones to your ears so you can soak in all the juicy flavor. I have to say if I am on a desert island and I can take only 25 songs—I am taking this one with me. I have already hit the replay button five times since I started the last two paragraphs. Again I say to myself- What were “they” waiting for? And just like when Metallica released the “Black Album” all the questions arose with the style and flavor of “Hysteria”- it’s not like “Pyromania”; it’s not hard rock enough—I say- What am I missing? “Rocket” is a stellar song with “guitar” and “drums”—when a band can make a song like this, what is there to really complain about? “Animal” is so powerful that I dare you to get the chorus out of your head-“…I got ta feeling in my blood…Waa Ohh… I need your touch don’t need your love… Waa Ohh… And I want And I need And I love- Animal” The entire album seems crafted that each song is its own island and stands alone and I bet some many people have each song as its favorite—dare I say that they created new material for a new album and yet at the same time it could have been released as a “greatest hit” collection—do you see what I am getting at? If you put this album on today it sounds as fresh as it did when released in 1987. Even the title song is so good that it makes me picture the entire brethren of Def Leppard to be in an open field on their knees while a soft drizzle sprinkles our faces and as we all slowly rise, the sun shines through as we all exalt- “…cause it’s a miracle… Oh say you will, ooh babe… Hysteria when you’re near…”

As the summer of 1988 was coming to a close I knew my window of opportunity was closing with respect to a beautiful woman that I so badly wanted to go out on a date but was intimated. But for everyone that knows me, music is what makes my world spin, I can’t survive without it as it is my inspiration. So on a Thursday afternoon in Sept. 1988 while I was standing talking to my cousin outside our work building and making plans to meet up later to see Def Leppard at the Brendan Byrne, the woman that I wanted to date overhears our conversation. She then proceeds to ask me why I didn’t ask her to go to the show. I immediately tell her that I will purchase tickets for the Friday night show and she agreed. The night obviously turned out to be magical as she became my bride and I was able to see Def Leppard two nights in a row. So again I am forever grateful to Def Leppard.

Hysteria would be the last album that Steve Clark played on (but he co-wrote songs with the band that appeared on “Adrenalize”) and in 1991 the band suffered its second hardship- saying goodbye to its brother. It is so sad to this day that we (the general public) assume that a rock star has it made, right? I think to the gut-wrenching song that Tesla wrote for him (Tesla has been with Def Leppard from the beginning and appear to be family as they still tour together today)- “Song and Emotion”- “… see a man most everyday… a lonely man and his guitar… in his eyes, I see the pain, all the faces and the places of the troubles that he has seen…” still hard to not shed a tear when I hear this song. To the band’s credit, they continued onward and getting Vivian Campbell to join the fray is another feather in their cap.

Another memorable moment for me is when I attended our friend’s wedding in 1993 and when the bride had her own dance, she chose “Two Steps Behind”—I will never forget Joe’s vocals coming across the speakers to the acoustic guitar- “Walk away if you want to… it’s Ok… if you need to… you can run but you can never hide…” as Mimi danced to this heart-warming song as Sal watched like the rest of us to the beauty of the moment. It was the first wedding besides ours that I heard a song from a band that I loved and as I sang along all the folks at my table were like- “You know this song?” Of course, “And you don’t?”

I would be remiss to kind of gloss over some of the earlier and post Hysteria catalog. As I mentioned at the top of this review, this band has so many individual songs that in my mind easily stamps their ticket into the Hall of Fame. In no particular order or any rhyme or reason here are some of their songs from their other albums. “Bringing on the Heartache”- How can anyone write or speak about Def Leppard without mentioning this song? It’s from their second studio album-“High & Dry”- the opening guitar riffs lure you in and when Joe starts with “Gypsy, sitting looking pretty” you know you are in- hook, line & sinker. And when it gets to the chorus you know you have to sing to the top of your lungs- “taking all the best of me… oh can’t you see… you got the best of me… Oh can’t you see… YOU’RE BRINGIN’ ON THE HEARTACHE!!” From the album- “Adrenalized”- I am all about the bubble-gum sappy rock ballad and the “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” is truly a guilty pleasure. Talk about stellar background vocals—“I gotta have ya… Babe.. Bay” I am swaying back and forth as I am belting out the chorus. Same goes for “When Love & Hate Collide” from the album –“Slang”- this has the Aerosmith power ballad down to a precision. I can picture this song being requested at a party where everyone is slow dancing and lip syncing to this mellow but beautiful song. Mr. Elliott knows how to sing these ballads (and obviously rock it out when needed). And then from their latest release in 2015, check out the song –“We Belong”- I think it’s the first time that everyone in the band sings on a song. Thirty-five year years after they made their debut album, they still have the chops to make a song like “We Belong.” Talk about staying power?

Def Leppard so deserves to be in the rock and roll hall of fame and it is so gratifying for me personally to see the bands that I have grown up with to achieve this prestigious recognition. So thank you to Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell as well as the departed Steve Clark for making such great music and enriching many hearts. (Also need to include Pete Willis who was part of the early years). Thank you for continuing to tour around the U.S. seemingly every year and we can’t wait for the next time when we can all sing along- “Let’s Get Rocked.” And we no longer have to say- What were “They” Waiting for? Congratulations boys, well worth the wait—enjoy the ceremony!! 

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