Believe it or not, there was a time when Def Leppard’s music had quite a bit of balls to go with the hooks and melodies. And while their roar may have died down to a dull meow over the years, I thought we’d revisit their landmark, Pyromania, for this week’s Classic Albums. The quintessential Def Leppard record, It’s my personal favorite, and really shows a band at the peak of their powers, before personal tragedy would derail them for four years. And before all you “purists” start cryin’ “High N’ Dry” is so much better” and all that La-De-Da, I have one question: Why didn’t they go global then? Because Mutt Lange got the absolute best out of them as writers and players in 1982, that’s why!
“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop) kicks things off in stellar fashion, and serves as one of the better album openers of our generation. “Photograph”, with that iconic riff is forever ingrained in all of us thanks in no small part to MTV, but it also happens to be one helluva great driving song that I still turn up when it comes on in the car. “Stagefright” with its faux crowd intro DEMANDS to be played live. It was actually the show opener when I saw Def Leppard and Tesla live at Nassau Coliseum on October 18, 1987. It was my first concert, and it was pure magic.
There’s an ethereal quality to the beginning of “Too Late For Love” that seems to disguise which way the song is headed, and it’s a clever bit of misdirection before you realize this one’s a rocker, too. Same goes for the dark, moody intro of “Die Hard the Hunter” before it picks up the pace, closing side one in fine fashion.
“Foolin” and “Rock of Ages” were also big-time staples on MTV and are still featured prominently on classic rock radio today. For this I am glad, because I never get tired of hearing them. It really takes me back to when my fellow 10-year olds and I spent hours trying to figure out what the fuck Joe Elliot was mouthing at the beginning of the damn “Ages” video.
“Comin’ Under Fire” has one of the coolest vibes on the record, and guitarists Steve Clark and ex-member Pete Willis play off each other really well. Shame Phil Collen didn’t get to contribute on that one, though he did push them to be a better band with his playing, both on other parts of the album and subsequent tour. “Action! Not Words” is another favorite, again, because I love the riffage, and closer “Billy’s Got A Gun” gives you the feeling that you’re being watched, eerie keyboards and all. The craziest thing about it, too, is after the song ends, there’s a mish-mosh of things going on that made me jump off the bed and go running to the record player to see what the hell was happening. You know you did, too!!
Like I said, this is my all-time favorite Def Leppard album, and one of my favorite rock albums to this day. Hearing these songs, and seeing the accompanying videos on MTV and looking at young Rick Allen with (what we thought was) his wide-eyed innocence, and unbridled enthusiasm always brought a smile to my face, as did the whole band, really, and it certainly served as the perfect gateway drug to my love of all things hard rock and heavy metal. If it’s not in your collection, I feel bad for you.