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?