Summer Sparkle

So I’m standing in the dentist’s office a few days ago chatting with the receptionist, working out a “convenient payment plan,” and I steal a glance at the big screen HD TV mounted in the otherwise drab waiting room. I see the words “Def Leppard w/ Tim McGraw” on the screen and the CMT logo in the corner. Surely I’m hallucinating . . . my mind getting things all mixed up as it tries to wrap its way around the four-figure number the lady with the 80s hairdo just quoted me. And sure enough there’s Tim McGraw doing his thing and the world returns to normal.

And then there’s Joe Elliot. And Phil Collen. Older. Rockin’. Country Music Television, if I recall correctly. Bon Jovi made sense. But this?! The heavy metal gods of my youth are on CMT. I’ve entered another dimension. The lady keeps talking but I’m not listening to her anymore. I need to wake up . . .

Or crawl out from under my oppressive pet rock.

Flashback to 1983. Joe Elliot, sweaty and pompous, draped in a Union Jack and hanging on my bedroom door, conveniently superimposed on a centerfold of Dorothy Stratten just in case the folks wander in. Pyromania, the song titles faded but memorized anyway, ensconced in the dime store cassette player with the wiry headphones that keep losing their oily, grey ear cushions. Gunter glieben glauchen globen. All right! For a kid looking to stray off the fast track to Christian maturity, nothing spelled rebellion better than The Lep.

New Year’s Eve – 1984. Rick Allen loses his arm in a drunk-driving accident. I’m in my bedroom hangin’ with John, his boombox crankin’ the hits as we ring in so many new things. New town. New school. New friends. And now this. Surely the end is near.

Summer of ’87. Hysteria hit both physically and metaphorically. Rick Allen is doing the one-armed electric drum thing but who cares! The Lep is back! Seven hit singles over the course of my first year in college. My future wife and I dance at a mixer at Itza Pizza as “Hysteria” blasts from the sound system, cementing our relationship with its harmonic super glue. We crank “Love Bites” in the KBSB studio just to hear the freaky ending: “Jesus of Nazareth . . . Go to Hell!” My InterVarsity friends find that disturbing, so I do to. I lose interest. Petra, White Heart, Mylon LeFevre and Vengeance CDs slowly replace the secular stuff as I genuinely try to grow up and get real with God.

[Insert years and years of spiritually ambiguous stuff here, all fodder for future blog posts.]

I’m in Wal Mart after leaving the dentist’s office. Still a bit flummoxed. And there’s Song from The Sparkle Lounge on the New Releases rack. I think once, not twice. And then the wife and I are in the minivan jamming to Def Leppard. Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Aside from the country-fried “Nine Lives” and the unnecessary ballad “Love,” this disc is a welcome mix of all things nostalgic and new. As the product description on Amazon says, it’s the glitz and glam of Hysteria meets the raw power of High ‘n’ Dry. I can buy that. “Hallucinate,” “C’mon C’mon” and “Go” could be outtakes from some lost 80s session, while “Cruise Control” and “Gotta Let It Go” have a distinctive “now” sound reminiscent of . . . is it Seether? Only without the heavy doses of barely-post-teen angst? Joe Elliot is still a fine singer, and Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell compliment each other nicely. After numerous spins, the standout song for me is “Tomorrow.” The vocal fills nod in Bono’s direction, the harmony is infectious and it sounds great loud. And there are guitar solos aplenty. Remember guitar solos? I do. And I missed them during the drought that was the 90s.

So it’s 2008. And I get to spend another summer with Def Leppard. I’m either really sick or just getting more sentimental as I age. But you know what that’s like, don’t you?

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6 thoughts on “Summer Sparkle

  1. At my writing workshop this morning, one of the prompts was “Good Vibrations”. Of course, it took me straight to the Beach Boys! Being a California girl, I love the Beach Boys. On the way home, I actually sat in the car for a few minutes, setting up my iPod to play Beach Boys songs all the way home! After all, it is 87 degrees outside and what says summer better than The Beach Boys?

  2. My parents listened to Def Leppart a lot when I was in elementary & middle school; my mom used to drive to the beat of ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ during my 5th grade carpool.

    Def Leppard is one of the ingredients of my soul!!

  3. well Brian-

    I went into a time warp a few years back. I have a 20 year old…back when he was in high school- it was IN to listen to the bands of the 70s and 80s…..wow, what a trip to hear him playing music while he was in high school from MY early high school years…ACDC- I kid you NOT…pink floyd…

    I was wondering WHY….his group said, well it was the ONLY GOOD music around! HA!

    This group of kids refused to listen to rap music, skipped the proms because that’s all they play- but they hung out here playing paintball, eating pizza and being teens….

    I worried about drugs because back when we listened to some things…….

    but he spoke honestly and told me who was getting high….and we kept them hanging out here with free pizza’s and snacks…on the condition they stay clean here….

    and our son graduated from high school with an honors chord, lives at home and commutes to a state university majoring in criminal justice.

    guess it wasn’t the music that got some smoking pot in those old days….

    I digress;

    yeah, I feel old when our songs are being played on the RETRO stations, and felt a little freaked out when hearing them be played when my son was in high school.

    weird to say the least.

  4. What up–Mylon and Broken Heart! Except for the synth drums, they pulled out a few licks. That was always a love-hate relationship with me.

    Whiteheart remains untouchable–If they were recording now, I imagine it to sound much like One Republic. Somehow, they managed to keep up and continue to redefine themselves–this is rare in the church.

    No mention of The Choir? Maybe that because it was only interesting for 8 minutes–They’re like “New Coke.”

    Def Leopard–changing topics–By far, Rock-it, and Armageddon-it define soccer season in high school.

    Petra–switching back–What-what! They are a monster and a mouse. Another love-hate relationship. Trying to be all things to all people, I guess. The best songs to come from them are N-O-T The Coloring Song and Not Of This World. Please, folks. They have to be categorized however because of the eons of time that they span.

    I. The old, old skool Petra: “Judas Kiss”
    II. The transitional (welcoming Schlitt and Cates) Petra: “Shakin’ The House”
    III. The we-really-mean-business Petra: “This Means War,” “Kanania,” and kick your-teeth-in “On Fire”–Most of the enitire album (1986 was their year!)
    IV. The Worship Phase: Did you all catch the intro to “King of Kings?” It’s track one of Petra Praise I. After 30 seconds it’s average, but dang, I’m still recovering . . .
    V. The Adult-Contemporary fad: Nothing

    Thanks for letting me stroll . . .

  5. I used to be able to write Def Leppard so perfectly, precisely like their logo. I wrote it in notebook after notebook after notebook….

  6. “And then the wife and I are in the minivan jamming to Def Leppard. ” On a road trip a couple of months ago, the husband and I woke the kids up with our ear-splitting version of Concrete Blonde’s “Joey”. When ya gotta rock, ya gotta rock, kiddies. Satellite radio, specifically the “Hair Nation” station, has gotten us through a lot of miles of ugly Saskatchewan prairie.

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