Hanging With Leppard

I’ve got to know tonight
If you’re alone tonight
Can’t stop this feeling
Can’t stop this fire

How much is a hang with Def Leppard WORTH?

Twenty five thousand dollars and change. That’s what this woman from South
Carolina bid on eBay. For her and a guest to spend the afternoon watching
Leppard shoot a video and rehearse.

They looked like girls from a video one step removed. They were dieted down
to the point of having no asses. They had shag hairdos. Mules with stiletto
heels. They’d driven from coast to coast in their Lexus SUV for this one
moment, this four hour hang with Def Leppard.

So, Marc and I are sitting in the band’s dressing room, enjoying the a/c,
discussing our top ten favorite tracks of all time. Marc reels off "Message To
My Girl", a few more, and then asks me to respond in turn. But I’m flummoxed.
I mean I can name my top ten favorite ALBUMS, but songs? Are we talking
singles, or just tracks. And, after Marc responds "tracks", Rick Savage walks in.

In your mind Def Leppard may still be in their early twenties. But time has
passed. Oh, there’s really been no attrition in Rick’s face, or body for that
matter. It’s just that he’s now a fortysomething adonis instead of being a
twentysomething adonis. It’s less a reflection of HIM than a reminder that
we’ve all gotten older. And as he walks across the room, Marc posits the
question to him, what are HIS favorite top ten songs. And, after taking a few
seconds to cogitate, as if someone switched on his light, Rick’s eyes start to gleam
and he exclaims REBEL YELL!!

Really?

Yup, it’s what the song represents!

And, after thinking about it for a while, after realizing Rick wasn’t joking,
I could see it. Billy Idol might be a cartoon, but "Rebel Yell" has this
distinct ENERGY!

And, as Rick exited, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen entered. Joe towered over
his PowerBook, yup, rock stars are wired today, Phil started changing some
clothing, and then Marc asked them the same question.

And without missing a beat, Joe said ALL THE YOUNG DUDES!

And, from further away, Phil said he couldn’t decide between "Walking On The
Moon" and "Every Breath You Take".

These guys were not fitting the description. They were not toys of Mutt
Lange, lucky men in the game of musical stardom. They were BELIEVERS!

And while I pondered their answers, Joe looked at us and said he HAD to
include some Bowie. Figuring I’d play, figuring I knew Bowie’s canon, I suggested
"Moonage Daydream". Joe agreed! Then PHIL! Joe started waxing RHAPSODIC about "Moonage Daydream", about covering it with another aggregation,
about it being released in Japan.

And then as we started to discuss if we needed Queen, and what we would
include, the band was called back to the stage, back to the shoot.

It was like the eighties. When we still believed. The video for "No Matter
What" was being shot in a REHEARSAL HALL! Not some giant soundstage
where you could see the money tick by like the wheel on an electric meter. It was
ratty, there was a small backdrop, it was clear, rock and roll lived here. It
reminded me that deep down inside my dick still gets hard for the music, the
scene, that I still believe.

After another hour and a half of pickup shots, after devouring pizza (most of
the band would only eat the VEGAN ‘za), it was back to the hall, for the
performance!

You see that was the deal. In addition to getting the chance to hang, the
girls got to pick three numbers, that the band would perform, for them.

Only one problem, NONE OF THEM WERE HYSTERIA!

Marc and I agreed, we had to hear "Hysteria". We debated, and then Marc put
it to the guys, could they play "Hysteria" for US?

Marc returned with the thumbs-up sign.

The band started with "No Matter What".

And I think next came "Bringin’ On The Heartbreak".

I started off on the couch…what, was it five feet from the stage?

But then I had to get up. I had to stand in the exact center. I had to hear
both guitars, I had to hear a BALANCED SOUND!

And then the band broke into "Pour Some Sugar On Me".

We don’t even EXPECT anybody can play today. We expect the singers to be
aided by tape, if they’re singing AT ALL! And it’s not only them, half the show
seems to be prerecorded. It’s more about how the show LOOKS than how it
SOUNDS! But, there was no audience here, not one that mattered anyway.
There were only insiders, and the two South Carolinians. The band wasn’t mugging, they were just PLAYING! And they could hit EVERY NOTE! I’ve got Viv in one ear and Phil in the other. God, the sound could lift a fucking SPACESHIP! Rick’s
slamming the drums, Joe’s singing on top of it all, and I couldn’t help singing
ALONG! It was positively mesmerizing, it sounded like the record, but MORE,
because they were playing it like a band in a garage, but instead of being the
teenagers next door, they were DEF LEPPARD!

And then, after loitering on stage a bit, wandering around in circles, you
know how rehearsals are, Rick started pounding out a beat, Rick Savage came in
on the bass, the guitars started to sting, and suddenly there I was, in the
middle of HYSTERIA!

You’ve got to understand. I could have spent the evening with a member of
the opposite sex. But I couldn’t do that, I had to go to CHURCH, I had to go to
SYNAGOGUE, because, you see, I’m a BELIEVER! In the power of rock and roll!

My foot started to tap, my leg started to thrust, my head started going up
and down, I was like a kid at a concert. But the lights weren’t out, I wasn’t
anonymous, I was in a crowd of about twenty five people, crew members,
relatives, children, insiders, we’re supposed to be JADED,
we’re supposed to be COOL! But I couldn’t hold back.
Fewer than ten feet away from Joe Elliott, I
couldn’t help but SING ALONG!

Every fucking word.

And then, the band broke down, and like the ALLMAN BROTHERS, Viv and Phil
started playing twin leads! I had this shiteating grin on my face. THIS IS IT!

And "Hysteria" is a long song. I could luxuriate in it, enjoy it.

And having thrown off my shackles, having decided to be myself, to be
possessed by rock and roll and not worry about how I looked, I glanced down the line of people standing behind the couches. And startlingly, they were all just
like me, their legs moving, heads bobbing up and down, singing along. And on
the couch, where I’d started, off to the left, Marc was alone, he didn’t know I
was looking, he couldn’t see me grinning as he too sang along with every word.

And before I could clap when the song was over, Leppard went straight into
"Photograph", that anthem from the spring of ’83, when we still had hope, when
rock and roll still ruled the world.

And then "Animal".

We were in BONUS TRACKS! We were in ENCORES! They were only supposed to do THREE! You know how it is when you get more than you expect in life. When you get MUCH MORE than you expect. THIS is what you live for, it’s like you’re drenched in honey, like you’ve been shot up with adrenaline, life is a fucking CARNIVAL!

And I want
And I need
And I love
Animal

I’m singing along with the chorus, thrusting my Arrowhead bottle in the air,
feeling like I’m fifteen, and I’m LOVING IT!

And when they were done, Phil and Joe came over to bullshit. We were talking
how it used to be. When bands were in it for the music, not the fame. When
labels employed music lovers, not bottom liners. It was like a revival
meeting. They may have appeared pretty boys once, but that’s not who they are,
they were infected just like you and me, they feel PRIVILEGED to be part of the
legacy of rock and roll. It was all they ever wanted, and they got it. Sure,
they don’t mind the money, but really, they love to PLAY!

I get hysterical, hysteria
Oh can you feel it, do you believe it
It’s such a magical, mysteria
When you get that feelin’, better start believin’
Cause it’s a miracle, oh say you will, ooh babe
Hysteria when you’re near

Def Leppard’s new double CD greatest hits album is going to enter the chart
at number ten, with 60,000 units sold. Their ballpark tour with Bryan Adams is
one of the surprise hits of the summer.

Eighties nostalgia is in full swing.

But it’s more than that. You see, they don’t do it like that anymore. It’s
no longer how you play, but how you look. It’s not about going to the rock
show, but dancing in the club. They say rock is dead, but I think the major
labels and the media have abandoned the audience. Instead of giving the people
what they want, HYSTERIA, EUPHORIA, they’re giving them something
two-dimensional, phony. Hell, if it were real, people would want to see it live, again and again, year after year, whereas you’re lucky today if people want to see it
live ONCE! The business has jumped the track. Everything it was built upon
has been ignored. The culture has been cast aside. We didn’t used to need TV
and magazines to sell music, music SOLD ITSELF! It wasn’t a prefab
construction, but something built by religious zealots, who didn’t get plastic surgery,
who didn’t cross over from teen movies, but practiced, in their bedrooms, for
HOURS after school, just hoping to develop the necessary skills to make it.

And they were looking to make money, and to get laid, but really, it was
about making a joyful noise, one that got people excited, one that removed them
from their everyday lives, one they could BELIEVE IN!

I’ve got to know tonight
If you’re alone tonight
Can’t stop this feeling
Can’t stop this fire

The fire’s not out. If you’re alone tonight, know that I’m thinking of you.
That you’re tied to me, and millions of other music fans who still believe.
Just put on your favorite record. "A Night At The Opera". "Regatta De
Blanc". "Mott". And know that not everybody’s in it for the money, that the music
itself is STILL enough. You can STILL base your life around it, it STILL has
meaning.

12 Responses to Hanging With Leppard »»


Comments

  1. Comment by Jonathan Levine | 2005/05/25 at 20:11:05

    3 words: A Fucking Men.

  2. Comment by Josh Zieman | 2005/05/25 at 20:11:25

    You were hanging with a bunch of really good guys who love music and their
    fans. I had the privilage of getting to know them a little and working with
    them for a few of their albums and they were the nicest, most down to earth
    people you could ever want to work with. They could also put on an unbelievable
    show.

    But here’s a cool Def Lep story that doesn’t get told much. After Adrenalize
    sold over 3 mil copies U.S. in the early ’90’s, I got a call from Q prime
    saying the band wanted to thank Mercury Records U.S. for all their hard work on
    the album. They arranged for Mercury employees to enter a pool to win a
    trip on Lep’s private Jet, to a concert in toronto, an after party with the band,
    and a stay over at the Ritz Carlton hotel. There was 1 condition, the pool
    was not open to executives! coordinators, production people, creative people,
    assistants and the day to day people who worked on the release…but no execs!
    I think about 25 of us went…Needless to say the trip was a big hit and
    showed how cool Q Prime and the band really are. Let’s Get Rocked!

  3. Comment by Mike Campbell | 2005/05/25 at 20:11:42

    I interviewed Joe Elliot for MuchMusic, on the stage after sound check, in
    Halifax a number of years ago and my impressions of the band were pretty much
    the same as yours. Aside from being really, really nice guys – they could sure
    as shit play AND sing! I got a huge kick out of wandering behind the wall of
    Marshall stacks to see what I knew were empty cabinets with one real miked rig
    in the midst of them. The average fan would never know but it was a nice nod to
    when you really did need that many amps to fill a hall with a bad P.A…

    Anyway, I asked Elliot about the music that turned him into a rock star in
    the first place and, without a moment’s hesitation, he rhymed off Mott The
    Hoople and Faces, two of my favourite bands of all time. Lads’ bands both of them,
    and it occured to me – same as you – that these guys were for real and that
    they’d be doing it for as long as anyone cared to listen, and maybe even after
    they didn’t. It’s good to hear they’re still at it!

  4. Comment by Billy Fields | 2005/05/25 at 20:11:58

    And that’s how I justify what I do every day. If it wasn’t about the MUSIC
    for ME, I’d open my 7th floor window and jump out sans parachute.

    Awhile back you asked how the employees could work at WMG. How we could look
    at ourselves, something like that.

    Well, it’s because a ton of us still believe. Even though we SEE everything,
    we still HOPE.

    And most days I feel like a whore and I feel like I’ve sold out.

    But I still turn the music on first thing in the morning, and turn it off
    last thing at night.

    As much as I want to walk away I know that if I do I’ve given up.

    Can’t do that. Gotta keep the believers in the trenches. Gotta keep
    fighting. Gotta keep asking, "What’s best for the artist? What’s best for the
    MUSIC?"

  5. Comment by Dan Millen | 2005/05/25 at 20:12:19

    not a surprise to those of us who never stopped digging lep man.

    I’ve seen them a dozen times and they are one of the few bands I’ve NEVER
    SEEN SUCK.

    they deliver the goods they get on stage kick your ass, GET YOU OFF!

    what a great email to start the day off!

    thanks bob
    rock on!

  6. Comment by Josh Freni | 2005/05/25 at 20:12:36

    You. Lucky. Bastard.

  7. Comment by Eric Alper | 2005/05/25 at 20:12:51

    I just bought tickets to their Toronto show after reading this. I knew they
    were good live (saw them twice during the Hysteria tour), but thought they lost
    the plot. I still listen to the Hysteria CD – made for car radios and
    speakers.

  8. Comment by Darren Eggleston | 2005/05/25 at 20:13:08

    I don’t even like Def Leppard and I got goose bumps reading this.
    It is , was and always will be about the live experience and how it moves you.
    When it does, you are a fan for life.

    You nailed it.

  9. Comment by Scott Struber | 2005/05/25 at 20:13:47

    I was in the car with a buddy in NYC this weekend. I’ve got a 2001 BMW with
    no iPod connector (they didn’t put that in ’til 2002…D’OH!) and have yet to
    find an FM modulator unit that doesn’t sound like AM. So, I dug out one of the
    mix CD’s that my fiance had made for the car. As we’re driving out to Long
    Island, ‘Hysteria’ comes on. My initial reaction (despite LOVING that song)
    was to change it, thinking maybe it was "not cool." My friend (we’re both
    33…and very adventurous with our musical tastes) was like "what are you doing!?!
    I love that fucking song!!!"

  10. Comment by Steve Lukather | 2005/05/25 at 20:14:09

    Hey Bob
    Rick Allen was my next door neighbor for many years! Great old pal. I love
    all the guys and I am a fan as well. Glad to see that you can still dig a band
    that can play and write great tunes but maybe isnt "hip" by Rolling Stone magaz
    ine and the like. Rock isnt dead..its the fucks that WRITE about what they can
    nor will never do. That is the vibe that is dead. My son is 18, on the road
    playin his ass off and all he listens to is Def, VH, my old shit, Floyd, etc…
    Somethin is goin on. I think kids are tired of all the fake shit as well.
    People are NOT stupid. maybe a bit lazy sometimes but not stupid. My old Pal
    David Foster was on a TV show, the View..and he brought a pro tools rig in and had
    Star Jones , who cant sing a lick, sing something into it badly and Foster
    made it sound like she could sing. Finally the truth shown to the masses. My
    mother in law saw it and said " NOW I know why Steve gets so pissed off at the
    fake pop music of today". hahaha Had to laugh.
    Rock is not dead. Pop is.
    Luke

  11. Comment by Bob Welch | 2005/05/27 at 08:11:52

    Bob…Right..! But let’s not go too far in dissing the "Pro Tools" era. Even in 1977 , you had to lip-sync if you did "Solid Gold" , or "American Bandstand" because they were "pop" shows. We always snickered about the promotional necessity of doing those shows as opposed to "Rock Concert" or "Midnight Special" where they taped live. But management always insisted ; great exposure ! But there’s ALWAYS been a "pop" "manufactured" side to the biz. I mean the "1910 Fruitgum Co." was on the charts at the same time as Jethro Tull and Fleetwood Mac and Frank Zappa had current releases. We all looked down our noses at "…..Fruitgum’ or "The Archies" etc…..but we all also wished to hell we were making the $ that we imagined these records made……for the execs , of course ;-) Also ; there was always a difference between records and "live". The Frank Sinatra generation dissed us rockers because we did overdubs rather than recording live, reading from charts. They said our records were therefore phony , and "manufactured" by no-talents who couldn’t really sing or play. And of course , by Frank Sinatra standards , Bob Dylan , for instance, CAN’T sing….but he set a new standard where technical chops didn’t matter. So….it’s not "Pro-Tools" that’s the problem , although I’m sure David Foster had a ball showing off on TV , but the choices PEOPLE are making. Notice too, that all of the American Idol winners are "chops monsters" , albeit rather faceless and devoid of originality . Last note ; David Foster turned down doing the strings on my "French Kiss" album because , to his mind, the music wasn’t hip enough. He had 1st shot. Gene Page , Motown’s arranger wound up doing them instead… So…..there are a lot of things that are not hip enough for David Foster, apparently. Having said that….Foster , Lukather , Nathan East, Michael McDonald et. al….my idols !! Always will be . But there’s snobbery even among our "believing" generation. I doubt if Lukather would rank Def Lepard alongside the McDonald era Doobie Bros. for example……. Or Steely Dan , the ultimate musicians band , over and above Toto , even ;-) I could go on , but for now……………..

  12. Comment by Scottboy79 | 2006/02/16 at 02:13:44

    Too bad the McDonald era Doobies blew! Tommy Johnston sang some of the finest music EVER as lead vocalist for the ‘Bro’s’.

    Please do me a favor. Don’t EVER, EVER EVER EVER, put Michael McDonald’s name in the same sentence with Def Leppard. Not to mention Steely Dan, The REAL Doobie Brothers or Toto. What a slant against bands that WERE actually bands. Mr. McDonald was nothing more than a coat-tail riding douche-bag, who to this day (as of Feb. 16th 2006) squeezes financial milk out of others’ hard work and genious. (Hello Motown?? It’s Michael McDonald. Can I borrow some more classics to wipe my feet on??)

    Thank you and good day…….


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