Thursday, April 21, 2016

Def Leppard Retrospective; A Fan Looks Back At Over Twenty Years of Music & More



I turned thirty-six this December in this year, 2004, which is rapidly becoming 2005. My son is now eight and I look back as a 30's somethinger, so if I use terms you're not familiar with just chalk it up to my frame of reference; growing up in the late seventies and eighties. Being of age in the nineties and living on my own with roommates until finally pairing up with the love of my life, Jack, I can honestly say the nineties were good years.

Rick had that horrible accident on New Year' Eve 1984 that left him an amputee. That changed things dramatically for them and as a fan for me as well. I felt terrible for Rick during those first few weeks. I sent him a card with photos of me wearing a pink vest I still have today that I might be motivated to take a picture of myself wearing to add here at some point in time. I was juggling in the photos and looked really into what I was doing, having just learned that year at the 'Ren Fair' as we Rennies referred to it as, I really enjoyed doing it for people. That was from the first set of pics of me doing it ever taken and was the first snail mail I ever sent to the band, despite having a big soft spot for their music in my heart before this.

I sit here typing away in Word, thinking about what I want to share and many things come to my mind instantly. How I want to get across what it was like living with only four TV stations, NO video games-pinball yeah, pool tables and bumper pool yeah. But it was such a radically different world then, a world far away from this day and age of wireless technology, websites and web-hosting email and digital photography. It was a world where eight tracks meant something other then a literal number of tracks-it meant a tape cassette, the most primitive form of getting tunes in your car besides radio stations.

Many of you probably have DVD players in your vans or trucks, or maybe you have a CD Radio stereo. I have a cassette radio with scratchy speakers, so I mostly listen to CD's with wireless headphones I adore that I got for Christmas last year. Like now, when I am working at my computer I like to listen to music. And I have owned a lot of music over the years, adding to my collection whenever I could. I actually have a couple heavy-duty garbage bags with my old albums and forty-fives, along with boxes of old semi-working cassette tapes. So to hear music on the computer speaker system is a nice feeling compared to my memories of warped tapes or scratched records.

Def Leppard have their own completely unique sense of sound and style that might have been imitated, but over the years they truly have ruled in my heart as my number one favorite group of musicians ever. Even now sitting here after thinking about the new 'Best of Def Leppard' CD & DVD set coming out I really can't wait, the excitement is the same as when I was the FIRST person in Pinellas county to BUY "Adrenalize" at the Peaches Records store there at MIDNIGHT! Of course I am graying at the temples, and I still use a wheelchair, but am trying walking again with the old leg tightened in because I've lost weight and it no longer fit properly.

I remember my parents setting up a trip to Mexico when I was about twelve or thirteen. We had a video game thing called an 'Intellivisionï' by Mattel and I loved it. Mother took me to Camelot Music at Countryside Mall and got me like $120 bucks worth of stuff-she got me EVERY album Def Leppard HAD available because I asked, those along with two more Rick Springfield albums all on tape. I walked out of that store armed to the teeth with distractions to help me weather the two weeks during October that they were to be gone. I missed them dreadfully and it wasn�t a good time for me, but that isn't the point.

The point is that having my headphones (big Radio Shack $40 ones that if you know what kind I mean you understand that they are to be nicely put, very awkward to wear but their quality rocks so you put up with it because it was the best you could get) and my 'Intellivision' I managed to get through it. I had my aunt and uncle to look after me so I was all right, don't feel bad for little old me. I had already fallen madly in love with the poetic lyrical stylings of Def Leppard and it was like falling in love all over again! The album Pyromania was literally on FIRE! But High & Dry along with On Through the Night, were my two next favorite albums, I bought them only knowing 'Bringing On The Heartbreak', a practice known as buying something on blind faith.

I was tested interestingly enough to note here, during this period of my life and calculated to have a college level reading skill judging from the tests the school gave me. I had read and really devoured J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy-it was unbelievable to me that there were three more books to the saga that 'The Hobbit' began for me in elementary school. The public library was awesome; beyond books I was able to go get other bands on vinyl albums, like Kiss, AC/DC among others were at my fingertips. Music was a powerful influence on me and definitely affected the way I looked at the world around me. This began early on in my life with the seventies music my parents listened to that rubbed off onto me.

Today for a pre-Christmas gift to the family we got a Ms. Pacman game controller thing that has like five games in it along with Ms. Pacman. When I was growing up THAT was the arcade quality of the game. Just looking back makes me smile because I still enjoy watching Jack play video games and I was enjoying watching my son playing on this Pole Position driving game tonight. I don't like to play video games as much anymore for some reason, perhaps relating to the traumatic memory of the accident that I was involved with Jack that I nearly died as a result of in the fall of 1987. It's like my nervous system jumps and I can't control the game well enough to really enjoy it. Watching is my thing.

True fans of Def Leppard will know 'Hysteria' came out in summer of that same year and if you know that chances are you might recall it as being the last album you saw on vinyl by the guys. Regardless of that what I am trying to convey here is that up to that point they had yet to disappoint me musically; their earlier work was raw and free spirited, something I found I heavily identified with. Originally I didn't enjoy all of Hysteria at first, it wasn't until later when I was stuck in a hospital bed with nothing to do but listen to my tape collection, that I began looking deeper at the other songs. My tape wallet (a plastic case that folded and could hold six cassette tapes) held mostly Def Leppard tapes and a couple others that meant a lot to me at that time.

Sure I totally loved 'Women', 'Animal', 'Rocket', 'Hysteria' and my long awaited favorite 'Love Bites'. I say that because I had read an old 'Kerrang' (a UK magazine I could get a record shop) that had a track listing for what they thought might get onto 'Hysteria' though it was only in its earlier stages. Some titles I naturally was very eager to hear in action, although one I thought sounded interesting from the title alone, 'Ring of Fire' was not on Hysteria. Around that time I had seen the first actual airing of the remixed 'Bringing on the Heartbreak' with Joe wearing that green pantsuit with sweatbands and brooding expression. It was like ten PM at night and I was babysitting two homes away from my place. It had been played by mistake and debuted officially two weeks later on MTV as a World Premiere Video.

I remember being at a pool party for friends celebrating eight weeks of being together, working at the Largo Renaissance Festival, when I first heard the song 'Me & My Wine'. It was quite an experience and I remember how I went out and got another up to date copy of 'High & Dry' on vinyl and tape just to have those two added tracks. The ending part of that song, the part that is mostly guitar, Switch 625; that was a special addition that sometimes you got lucky and the radio station let it play through back in the day before they'd released the re-mixed version. If they hadn't been sold out at the Pyromania tour back in 1984 I would have gone with a neighbor to see them live at fourteen. I really loved those years and look back with a fondness untainted by events destined to happen later in life.


So when Hysteria was first released you could say I was in a much different mindset then I was previously with the more recent albums after 1988. Once I had become an amputee myself and seen Def Leppard perform New Year's Eve 1987, exactly eight days after I was released from the hospital, that I had the pleasure of seeing Def Leppard live for the very first time. I was struck by how I managed to pick out Rick Allen air drumming to the opening act's show, probably thinking that no one could have possibly seen him, but I had. I was in the 'handicapped' section that was in use before they were doing the 'Live in the Round' setup. I was right above their dressing room and my mother had gone to the bathroom so there I was there all by myself-holding a red and white pom pom, the small kind you get at a high school pep rally.

Red and white are the school colors of my high school and so it was I had brought it with me to the concert. Rick made eye contact with me though it was only over several moments as he walked inside the dressing room and looked up at me waving frantically. I was unable to even stand up at the time because my right leg was broken in seven places and had twelve pins and two plates in it yet I had made it there. The unspoken communication we had was significant to me, enough so that I actually cried. I was that moved by it and the concert that followed. It was the first memorable concert I would attend of theirs and that it was done on an anniversary for Rick made it even more special to me. That he was able to play on a night like that showed me that I too could find the courage to face what was changed in my life since becoming disabled.

So when I saw them later in 1988 when they played two nights in a row at the Lakeland Civic center it was really awesome in and of itself, but I also got to have my picture taken with Rick Allen earlier in the afternoon in front one of the tour buses so that was our second meeting and one I would never forget. One obvious difference between the 1987 show and the 1988 one (other then it now being done 'In the Round') was that they played 'Love Bites' and a few others that were missed in the first leg of the Hysteria tour. Another plus was that I ended up meeting them like the day after the second show, Joe had gone to Fort Lauderdale to have his throat looked at but I met Rick Allen, Rick Savage and Phil Collen.

I asked for them to sign some tour books and gave them a copy of a newspaper article where I had been on the front page of the local newspaper, a story under 'Accident Victim Walks Away With New Support' that is still archived on their paper's website. Without the pics of course, but I am going to see if I can't perhaps add that to my site here on cyber-soup pamster.net somehow. This article was done on me for a couple of reasons. The day of the accident, there was a photographer at the elementary school about a thousand feet away and she took a black and white photograph of me lying impaled on to my Honda Twinstar. I have it, digitized, it's horrific, they would not even tell me it existed until I was out of the woods and out of ICU. 6 Days, and then when they told me? I wasn't allowed to see it until I was gearing up to be discharged. That is how bad this particular photo was.

Because of that being in the paper the morning after it happened, my family and friends were very upset. Mainly school friends who might have seen that disturbing image of my body facedown on top of the bike, my legs hopelessly entangled. Easily able to see my eyebrows that were tightly frowned together which shows that I was indeed conscious during some parts of this initial trauma. They wouldn't let me even see this photograph until December after I was already on the Rehabilitation floor of Bayfront. Because I lived and called telling someone there that, before I had ever sat up in a wheelchair again, I told them to print an update saying that I was doing 'Very, very well'.



Because Joe Elliott wasn't there I asked Rick to see that he got to see the article and we shot some photos together. I really enjoyed the forty-five minutes we shared there in front of the Tampa Hyatt; even then I had a feeling that our paths would cross again and I was right they would. I had a friend, an ex and former friend gone romantic who had assimilated some of my Def Leppard paraphernalia during our break up, but he was the spitting image of the virtual reality character in the cool Rock Video, "Let's Get Rocked!" named Flynn. The main difference however was JR had been born with cataracts so his eyesight was not the best: his glasses magnified his big blue eyes to superhuman proportions.

Now here I was, back in 1994, during the Adrenalize tour, a local radio station offered two front row seats to the show for a banner judged to be the best made with certain conditions, 1) it had to have '95 YNF Rocks the Bay With Def Leppard! Written on it 2) had to be original and creative and something made within five days of the announcing of the contest, the show being that weekend. Well I don't mean to brag, but I did not need to be a rocket scientist to be able to ensure my banner won. My mother who always supported my love of their music helped me. We went on a mission: to gather supplies we needed to make a poster off my walls come to life on a white bed sheet, with color and exact precise lettering, as that too was something I was quite practiced at making.





I called that night, after mother took me out and had made enlargements of the poster for us to use to help transfer the image onto the sheet. I remember talking to a DJ there asking him, "I am in a wheelchair, I have seen Def Leppard three times from the handicapped sections. If I win that banner contest, and trust me I wouldn't be asking if I wasn't certain I have what it takes to do just that, so please humor me. If I win can I still go front row despite having a wheelchair?" He told me confidently, "Honey if you did win yes, we'd make sure you got to go front row, no problem."
I remember laughing and telling him, "I want you to know you're talking to the winner. My banner will put any others to shame, trust me. I'm from a family of artists and I just have to make sure before I begin that I won't run into trouble when it's judged as best there." I told him to mention it to the others there because I wasn't kidding. He told me a lot of people have called up about the contest and he told me he hoped I didn't get my hopes up and again I reiterated that there was no way I could lose with the design I had come up with. When the day of the concert came it was more then just my banner that looked awesome.

The banner was full color and can be seen here with me sitting by it-this condition it is in now is nothing compared to when it was all fresh and the yellow from the Def Leppard lettering I did was crisp and lively. My stepfather, my mother and I went to work on it for three days and it had a day to set into the cloth. We had it stretched out and held onto a long partition of paneling. Bede, my step father made good use of paneling and had developed techniques that we used to create that banner you see there in its current, older worn state.

I also made a blue jean vest with the Eyeball album cover for Adrenalize straight out of the video along with a ball cap and special tee shirt for JR to wear that only existed in the 'Let's Get Rocked' video on the character, of Flynn. It was free handed of course, but we even had his costume setup to have matching studded bracelet and red sweat bands. It was kind of eerie how close he was to the strange weird looking character of the video. When we were front row, I have to admit between seeing me there with a bad perm, a red shiny sequin covered bow tie. Wearing of all things, Zebra printed spandex I bought from the local beloved Renn Faire, with the banner up in front of me, I didn't get to experience Joe's expression completely when he came around our side of the stage.

I saw him put both hands up to his head like he was holding his jaw up after being shocked silly, then he took like a few paces backwards and that was the only time he was by our side of the stage. However Rick knew it was me, I had written a letter to him, because I was just that certain I had that contest won, which I totally did with planning and hard work. The DJ was surprised by the banner, mine was the only one to have any type of picture-the rest mostly were like spray painted words. As you can judge for yourselves, mine really did deserve to win and the smile Rick gave me after that show was just wonderful, I could tell he knew it was me.

I would have thrown it (the banner itself) onstage but you know what? With all that planning and hard work did I figure on taking some pics of it ahead of time? Nope. Big drawback when you meant to be able to let go of it. So it just goes to show that even with the best-laid plans, you can still forget to think of everything. If I had it to do over again, I would take pictures before we left to go to the concert so that I could have thrown the banner up to Rick Allen after the show. But I just didn't trust myself to make it all the way up to him without dropping it or a security guy intercepting it and taking it away or something.

That taught me that you really have to just live your life really experience it every moment of every day. I stood for as much of that concert as I could and if I had thought about it more, I probably would have brought my prosthetic leg to use to help stand. There is much to my own story and I hope that you were entertained by my sharing some of my own memories over the past twenty odd years that Def Leppard has been part of my life. I think that it would be nice if Rick somehow got to read this, but even if he never does, itï's enough that I have shared it for others who think that dreams can't come true. If you are motivated enough to work hard you can overcome anything you put your mind to.

Coming soon, my look back at the albums of Def Leppard. Thank you for checking out my look back at the past twenty years of my being part of the Def Leppard fandom. In the next piece I plan I will share some of how it was being pregnant when Slang was out, how I wished I could have gone to see it live, but just couldn't. Then look back at the recent efforts of this really inspiring group of guys from England, Def Leppard.

No comments:

Post a Comment