PERMANENT RECORDS: WHAT DO YA WANT? I WANT ROCK 'N' ROLL!
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.
22. DEF LEPPARD - PYROMANIA (1983)
Personnel: Joe Elliott, vocals; Steve Clark, guitar; Phil Collen, guitar; Pete Willis, guitar; Rick Savage, bass; Rick Allen, drums
Producers: Robert John "Mutt" Lange/ Label: Mercury
Def Leppard saved my life.
I'm not kidding. They really did.
When I was ten, my parents got divorced, and in the middle of fifth grade, I was sent to a private Christian school. I had grown up in a public school, so I was used to big classes and freedom and enough kids that there was room to have cliques that could stand on their own and not collide with other cliques. You could have a place to belong, and that place would act as a bubble against where you did not.
Not so at this school. It was run by the Pentecostal church we attended, and each grade only had one class. So, everyone is fifth grade was in one room together, and everyone knew everyone. There were maybe five or six other boys in my grade, and they all knew each other because they had been going to school together for a while. I had transferred halfway through the school year. I was odd man out.
I was also an extremely depressed kid. The divorce hit me hard. We were a very religious family. My father had been a preacher until I was seven, and he had raised me to believe that divorce was wrong, it never happened to good Christian people. It certainly would not happen to us.
Only then it did, and while I would later come to realize it was the best thing for all concerned, my pre-adolescent brain was not ready to process this information. My world had been rocked...
...and as a result, I was tossed in with boys who rocked. Hard, as it would turn out.
All the other boys were into heavy metal, you see. I was really only beginning to get into music. My father had bought me a tape player for Christmas and with it a membership to the Columbia House record club, and I had picked my first twelve for a penny from songs I had heard on the radio. Somewhere after that, when it was time to buy my three at astronomical prices, I must have ordered Pyromania. I liked "Rock of Ages" and "Foolin'" and "Photograph" enough to buy the whole album. I remember not being as impressed with the songs that weren't hits, but little did I know that knowledge of Pyromania would soon come in handy for earning me acceptance.
You see, I didn't get bands like Judas Priest and AC/DC and all the rest. I still don't. Back then, though, it wasn't just a question of good taste, I was a little cowardly about heavy metal. Maybe if I hadn't believed all the stories about backward masking and satanic messages hidden among the open chords and hairspray I'd have bought a chunk of the rawk and been a full-on metal dude. We'll never know, because my sixth grade self did believe that hard rock would send me to Hell. I wasn't yet ready to buck the system I was rapidly losing faith in.
Keep in mind, I also wasn't good at sports, and I was already a smart mouth and a little girly. So, when the guys stepped up to me to suss me out and started tossing around names like Ozzy Osbourne, there wasn't much else I could distract them with. I had to find common ground and quick. There was only so far I could get pretending to know anything about the Scorpions. When they asked me who my favorite band was, I said, "Def Leppard." The honest answer was Duran Duran, but I was a couple of years away from discovering that girls would hang out with me if I admitted that; right then, I just didn't want to get beat up.
The ploy worked. Matt Auna, a Hawaiian kid who was the biggest in our class, also loved Def Leppard, and so he decided I was all right. He sort of adopted me as his sidekick, and I was all set. It was the first of this kind of relationship that I remember, but I had several other older and/or bigger kids who would take me under their wing at the various schools I would be shuffled around to after this one. The best I could make of it was that I was funny and always willing to pass answers in class. It would unconsciously manifest in my fiction as I got older, most obviously in the Jack and Mason relationship in Cut My Hair. But fifth grade and Matt Auna--that was my first.
The strangest memory I have of this friendship was when some other guy was giving Matt a hard time, Matt decided to humiliate him in the worst way possible--by having me beat him up. Now, this wasn't a case of him saying, "Hey, Jamie, kick that guy's ass." No, Matt stood behind me and reached around and held me by the wrists. We advanced on the other boy while Matt moved my arms, using my fists to punch his enemy. I also remember Matt and me killing bees by clapping our hands on them. We would then chase girls with the bee carcasses balanced on the tip of our finger. Once I accidentally cupped my hands a little and actually caught the bee instead of smooshing it. It stung me on one of my palms. I have to tell you, it's a pretty inconvenient place to be stung.
I would only last a year and a half at this school. As sixth grade was ending, I insisted I be sent to a real junior high, and somehow the Christian school helped me out by discontinuing its upper classes due to a lack of students. That would be the end of my friendship with Matt, but not before he had crossed over to the other side and gotten into Duran Duran. But that's for next week's entry...
What about Pyromania? It's an odd one for this list, because I haven't listened to it in probably twenty years. I dug Hysteria more, but I never owned it, and at some point I sold my Pyromania cassette to buy something by one of those weirder British bands I was getting into. Of course, I hear all the hits from time to time on the radio, and the Pyromania quartet--the title track, "Foolin'," "Photograph," and "Rock of Ages"--still hold their own. At the peek of their creative powers, Joe Elliot and the boys were big dumb fun, and I make no apologies for that.
In preparation for writing this entry, I downloaded the record just to see what I thought about it. My initial impression was pretty accurate. The album cuts don't have the pop edge of the singles. They're more of the standard heavy metal stuff that I never cared for. (Though, I have to admit, I kind of like the chanty vocals on "Too Late For Love." It's so Stonehenge!) Even so, I can't be too harsh on the Leppard. For a year and a half when I was ten and eleven years old, they allowed me to be one of the guys. I wasn't ready to be the cheese that stood alone just yet, and the lads from Sheffield provided me with the appropriate disguise. Bless 'em.
Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.
Current Soundtrack: radio, radio
Current Mood: surprised
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich