This week marks my first anniversary as an Angeleno. I know, right?! It seems like just yesterday I was happily clomping around the greater Los Angeles area for the first time, scared to death everyone could tell I’m a hillbilly, reacting to sights I now consider routine as if I were some kind of excited Southerner.
At some point over these last few months, LA has begun to feel truly like home, and I gotta say — it feels great. You’d think that sort of fondness towards Southern California would manifest itself in a greater appreciation of say, The Doors or the Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Mamas and Papas or something that makes sense, right? Nope. My warm fondness for my new home has taken the form of — you guessed it — timeless, ageless, hundred-million-album-selling New Wave of British Heavy Metal rockers Def-fucking-Leppard. Even typing their name gives me goosebumps. I’ve seen some ridiculously badass classic rock acts in my time in LA, and Def Lep can hang with every single one of them.
What better time to take another look at their most righteous hits than when I’m blasting into my second year of LA living? Nothing like a little Def Leppard to fire me right up for the future. It’s damn-near impossible to whittle my list of favorite hits down to five, but that’s how much I love you, baby. Shut your office door, tell Linda to hold your calls, bust out the bottle of whiskey you keep in your desk drawer, and just appreciate Def Leppard while you’re still breathing, for crying out loud. (P.S. RIP Steve Clark, late guitarist who’s pictured in the photo, although Vivian Campbell has done a fine job these last two decades or so.)
“Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Hysteria, 1987
Okay, okay. This song is the reason you don’t like Def Leppard. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, and only in the iffiest of situations to begin with: your wet t-shirt contests, your thong contests, your nudity-based contests in general. This track was the theme song for drunk college girls for thirty years. You have every right to be sick of it.
Now please just humor me and listen to it again. Listen to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it. For me. In the name of love.
You know it’s awesome. Let it happen.
“Love Bites” – Hysteria, 1987
I’m thirty years old. I’ve been around the block a time or two, and yet whenever I hear “Love Bites” — I don’t wanna touch you too much baby / cause makin’ love to you might drive me crazy — I turn into a fourteen-year-old girl. What is it about this song that so exactly captures the agony and the ecstasy that is being in love? If I could answer that, then I suppose I’d be as wildly successful as the men of Def Leppard, wouldn’t I?
It tears me apart to choose just one of Def Leppard’s more-monster-than-monster ballads to represent their entire body of ballad-ridden work, but “Love Bites” is my Sophie’s choice.
“Photograph” – Pyromania, 1983
My too-nuanced familiarity with my personal favorite songs has led me to notice many strange and trivial patterns in my preferences, one of them being that I seem to enjoy songs about looking longingly at a picture of someone you love/want to bone. Examples: The Cure’s “Pictures of You,” Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” The Vapors’ “I’m Turning Japanese,” and the crown jewel of these, Def Lep’s flawless “Photograph.”
Here we begin to feel the awesome force that is the Def Leppard video experience. The Passion Killer strikes again! Joe Elliott’s wearing the sleeveless Union Jack belly shirt/scarf combo! There are women in cages! Oh! Look what you’ve done to this rock ‘n roll clown! For the third or fourth time since I began writing this, Def Leppard’s gone and given me chills.
“Animal” – Hysteria, 1987
Is the excitement starting to build inside of you? Do you feel like, oh, I don’t know, putting on a badass rock and roll circus of some kind, or even just a regular circus? That’s what Def Lep does in the “Animal” video, more or less. It’s way cooler than it sounds.
In my estimation, Joe Elliott never sounded sexier than he did in this song. And guess what? He still sounds exactly like that at 54. Of all of the classic rock acts I’ve seen — and the modern bands as well, actually — Def Lep holds the truest to their incredible, larger-than-life, ’80s studio sound. Like the drivin’ rain, like the restless rust — I never sleep!
“Armageddon It” – Hysteria, 1987
Simply the nastiest, baddest, most fist-pumpable Def Leppard song there is, and I’d bet it tops the all-time list by any band in at least one of those categories. “Armageddon It” is everything I could ever want from a rock anthem: big hair, big bass, big guitar, lots of too-obvious innuendo, and an underlying message that I can get behind fo’ sho': the best is yet to come! I know they’re certainly not the first figures to make that observation, but somehow it carries more weight coming from Def Lep than from sleepy old Frank Sinatra. (Relax, fools. I love Frank Sinatra. I’m trying to make a point here.)