Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Def Leppard On Howard Stern | Lefsetz Letter

They sounded like a garage band.

And I mean that as a compliment.

I was listening to Joe Elliott tell stories of hanging with Bono and Bowie, that his favorite song was “All The Young Dudes,” and then the band fired up and played “Ziggy Stardust.”

That’s not the track that remains, not the one that gets airplay. People focus on the later hits, especially from the MTV era, like “Let’s Dance.” But before Bowie turned into a young American, he explored the rock genre, and his apotheosis was the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” which was much bigger in the U.K. than it was in the U.S., where Bowie didn’t really break through until “Rebel Rebel”

Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music, they were burgeoning in ’72 while America was still caught up in southern rock. It was a veritable hotbed of exploration I tell you.

And Joe Elliott was hooked. A dreamer. Who came up with the name “Deaf Leopard” before he had a band.

At first we wanted to be baseball players. Maybe a football/soccer player in England. And then the Beatles hit and we all wanted to be in bands. And this lasted a very long time, from the Beatles to the disco encroachment of the late seventies, to the rebirth on MTV until it became how you looked more than how well you played and the video outlet was no longer an AOR station.

Oh, there was a last gasp, with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the indie scene, but by the mid-nineties, it was all over. It’s still over.

You didn’t need lessons, only three chords. G, D and A. And when Viv or Phil, it’s hard to tell on the radio, busted out a demonstration you knew the feeling, of power and distortion.

So they’re gonna play a cover of the aforementioned “Ziggy Stardust,” the title track. I’d have preferred “Moonage Daydream,” but it wasn’t my call.

And then…

The guitars wailed. That’s one thing a non-athletic person could do well, make a glorious sound with guitar and amp.

And then you realized, they sounded just like the album, but a little bit different. And Joe started to sing and he was a bit overpowered by the guitars and he was doing his best to sound like Bowie but he too was a little bit different and it took me back to…

The garage.

Or in my case, Marc’s basement. And Michael’s living room.

We all plugged in, and then we started to play.

We looked at others for the chords, for the changes. There was always someone better in the band than we were. But we locked on to songs. Of course the Beatles, but stuff easy to play, like “Gloria,” the Shadows of Knight version, not the Van Morrison/Them original.

And we were into gear. We knew the models. The same way you used to know what was inside your computer.

And we went to gigs not to hang with our friends and meet people, but to bask in the glorious sound coming from the stage.

It was a religion, I tell you.

You went to the record store. You saw all that you couldn’t buy. A purchase was not a casual decision.

And you played those records until you knew every lick by heart. You’d sit in front of the turntable and learn the licks. Maybe slow it down or speed it up so it was in tune with your guitar.

And you’d write down the chords to remember.

And you’d dream about the guitar you were gonna buy.

And then you discovered you weren’t quite good enough. Your gear gathered dust. But the music was still in you, you were still addicted. You did everything you could to get closer to it. Became a roadie, worked in a record store, maybe even at the label, not because you wanted to get rich, but because you wanted to be closer to the dope.

It ain’t that way anymore.


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