Friday, December 14, 2018

Def Leppard Deserves It | Lefsetz Letter

If rock critics are so smart, why is Kraftwerk not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? They don’t come more influential than the German synth act, and if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, it’s mesmerizing, even a non-fan would be wowed.

But there’s a long history of critics being clueless. They use their outsider status to feel good about themselves, nerds outside the social circle, the only way they feel good is by excoriating your taste and trumpeting theirs. That’s why the Rock Hall is such a wank. There’s all this b.s. about influence and political correctness when the truth is rock is a steamy, sexy affair and if you don’t know this, you’ve probably never been laid, but if you go to a Def Leppard show you’ll see all the women you wish you had.

But you didn’t.

These women who let go, who were not too uptight to go with the flow while you were home with your punk records decrying their taste.


Scenesters knew of Def Leppard, they had a tiny bit of traction, and then…

“Photograph” positively EXPLODED out of the radio.

You were driving your car and your mind was suddenly centered on this exquisite sound coming out of the speakers, a mash-up of rock, metal and surf…HOW DID THEY DO THIS?

Of course Mutt Lange deserves credit. And while we’re giving it, how about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for Janet Jackson?

Talk to Cliff and Peter. They thought AC/DC was gonna exit Contemporary Communications along with them. But it was not to be. They got Def Leppard, not even the Scorpions, and when put together with Mutt there was suddenly hysteria, the managers woke up to an exploding answering machine, back when that was a thing, everybody gets excited about a hit, everybody wants a piece of a hit. And that’s what they got, Def Leppard was all over MTV, and unlike the scribes, they were cute and attractive and viewers were drawn to them and…

The album was too good to believe.

Of course it started with “Photograph.”

But then they created rock of ages with “Rock Of Ages,” with its nonsense intro and then the reference to Neil Young and then the essence of rock, the beat, listen and you can see heads bobbing in the audience.

What do you want, what do you want?
I want rock ‘n roll
Long live rock and roll

It was a pile driver with melody. No one had quite done it this way before, not successfully anyway, blending headbanging with melody, with incredible changes and choruses.

We got the power, we got the glory

We were burnin’ with the feeling. Suddenly everybody had to own “Pyromania,” you burned out the tape in your car, played the album at home at parties…

Because it set you free.

They weren’t FFFF…FOOLIN’!

Metal acts were pissed, these also-ran pretty boys ran away with their audience. The music still had elements of darkness, but they resonated with a broad audience.

It was definitely not too late for love.

But then it was four years till the follow-up.

Too long according to conventional wisdom.

We all knew the story, the car accident, the false start, we didn’t believe the band could survive the trauma.

And unlike “Pyromania,” “Hysteria” did not explode out of the box, it wasn’t until the fourth single, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” that the victory lap was complete, that people realized Def Leppard was not only back, but they were bigger than ever, and that they’d captured the ears of listeners everywhere, this was a people’s band, and that’s what the critics hate.

And the first track that I liked was “Animal.” You know how you buy a long-anticipated album and play it over and over again until it reveals itself to you?

It happens track by track, your favorite constantly shifts.

Then came the majestic closer, “Love And Affection.”

And, of course, “Armageddon It” and “Love Bites” and “Rocket.”

But the cut that ultimately got under my skin, that never lets go, that I hear in my brain all the time, is the title track, “Hysteria.”

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

Come on, you’ve been there, oftentimes without a condom. It’s physical, you cannot fight the urge.

And it’s the groove of the track, like building to orgasm.

You’re no longer flaccid, the blood is flowing, you’re erect.

Even better, it’s reciprocal, you’re not alone doing the hand jive.


It’s such a magical mysteria.

Suddenly the stories were legion, of what happened under the boards at Def Leppard shows. Unlike the rappers they didn’t have to brag about it, the magic was irresistible, the women came to them.

And maybe that era is past. Maybe Me-Too has eviscerated it.

Then again, the members of Def Leppard were not dripping hot wax upon women (girls?) like the denizens of the Continental Riot House.

Then again, Led Zeppelin was deplored by these same critics. Pretty boy Plant. Bombastic Bonham. Taking himself too seriously Page. Forgotten Jones. They were blues imitators, they were rip-off artists, and suddenly they climbed the stairway to stardom and were selling out stadiums and no naysayer wanted to admit they were wrong.

But the little boys understood.

And the little girls understood Def Leppard, and therefore the act wasn’t taken seriously.

And this is not a guilty pleasure, this is a band hitting it out of the park again and again.

And speaking of parks, that’s where they play, BASEBALL STADIUMS!

While the has-beens inducted into the Hall of Fame sit home with their trophies telling tales of the old days.

And isn’t this the core of rock and roll?

A feeling between the legs.

A letting go of the world.

Awash in the glorious sound.

Only in this case, Def Leppard did it wrong. Instead of being seen as outsiders undeserving of attention, everybody glommed on to them, both boys and girls.

But still, they got no respect.

They weren’t even nominated previously.

They weren’t taken seriously.

But when given a chance, the fans overwhelmingly voted them in.

Isn’t that what we keep hearing, that it’s all about the fans?

Hell, if you let the audience vote, Bryan Adams would be in too. How many hits does it take? Or is the fewer you’ve got a badge of honor. Just because he makes it look easy he should be excluded?

Then again, the Rock Hall is a joke, always has been, after they inducted the no-brainers they’ve been conflicted, to the point where everybody now deserves to be in.

Except for the popular who satiated fans, the bedrock of rock and roll.

‘Cause it’s a miracle Def Leppard got voted in.

But one thing’s for sure, they light that fire every night, there’s hysteria in the audience.



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