THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Hanging With Leppard

"I've got to know tonight
If you're alone tonight
Can't stop this feeling
Can't stop this fire"

How much is a hang with Def Leppard WORTH?

Twenty five thousand dollars and change. That's what this woman from South Carolina bid on eBay. For her and a guest to spend the afternoon watching Leppard shoot a video and rehearse.

They looked like girls from a video one step removed. They were dieted down to the point of having no asses. They had shag hairdos. Mules with stiletto heels. They'd driven from coast to coast in their Lexus SUV for this one moment, this four hour hang with Def Leppard.

So, Marc and I are sitting in the band's dressing room, enjoying the a/c, discussing our top ten favorite tracks of all time. Marc reels off "Message To My Girl", a few more, and then asks me to respond in turn. But I'm flummoxed. I mean I can name my top ten favorite ALBUMS, but songs? Are we talking singles, or just tracks. And, after Marc responds "tracks", Rick Savage walks in.

In your mind Def Leppard may still be in their early twenties. But time has passed. Oh, there's really been no attrition in Rick's face, or body for that matter. It's just that he's now a fortysomething adonis instead of being a twentysomething adonis. It's less a reflection of HIM than a reminder that we've all gotten older. And as he walks across the room, Marc posits the question to him, what are HIS favorite top ten songs. And, after taking a few seconds to cogitate, as if someone switched on his light, Rick's eyes start to gleam and he exclaims REBEL YELL!!


Yup, it's what the song represents!

And, after thinking about it for a while, after realizing Rick wasn't joking, I could see it. Billy Idol might be a cartoon, but "Rebel Yell" has this distinct ENERGY!

And, as Rick exited, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen entered. Joe towered over his PowerBook, yup, rock stars are wired today, Phil started changing some clothing, and then Marc asked them the same question.

And without missing a beat, Joe said ALL THE YOUNG DUDES!

And, from further away, Phil said he couldn't decide between "Walking On The Moon" and "Every Breath You Take".

These guys were not fitting the description. They were not toys of Mutt Lange, lucky men in the game of musical stardom. They were BELIEVERS!

And while I pondered their answers, Joe looked at us and said he HAD to include some Bowie. Figuring I'd play, figuring I knew Bowie's canon, I suggested "Moonage Daydream". Joe agreed! Then PHIL! Joe started waxing RHAPSODIC about "Moonage Daydream", about covering it with another aggregation, about it being released in Japan.

And then as we started to discuss if we needed Queen, and what we would include, the band was called back to the stage, back to the shoot.

It was like the eighties. When we still believed. The video for "No Matter What" was being shot in a REHEARSAL HALL! Not some giant soundstage where you could see the money tick by like the wheel on an electric meter. It was ratty, there was a small backdrop, it was clear, rock and roll lived here. It reminded me that deep down inside my dick still gets hard for the music, the scene, that I still believe.

After another hour and a half of pickup shots, after devouring pizza (most of the band would only eat the VEGAN 'za), it was back to the hall, for the performance!

You see that was the deal. In addition to getting the chance to hang, the girls got to pick three numbers, that the band would perform, for them.


Marc and I agreed, we had to hear "Hysteria". We debated, and then Marc put it to the guys, could they play "Hysteria" for US?

Marc returned with the thumbs-up sign.

The band started with "No Matter What".

And I think next came "Bringin' On The Heartbreak".

I started off on the couch…what, was it five feet from the stage?

But then I had to get up. I had to stand in the exact center. I had to hear both guitars, I had to hear a BALANCED SOUND!

And then the band broke into "Pour Some Sugar On Me".

We don't even EXPECT anybody can play today. We expect the singers to be aided by tape, if they're singing AT ALL! And it's not only them, half the show seems to be prerecorded. It's more about how the show LOOKS than how it SOUNDS! But, there was no audience here, not one that mattered anyway. There were only insiders, and the two South Carolinians. The band wasn't mugging, they were just PLAYING! And they could hit EVERY NOTE! I've got Viv in one ear and Phil in the other. God, the sound could lift a SPACESHIP! Rick's slamming the drums, Joe's singing on top of it all, and I couldn't help singing ALONG! It was positively mesmerizing, it sounded like the record, but MORE, because they were playing it like a band in a garage, but instead of being the teenagers next door, they were DEF LEPPARD!

And then, after loitering on stage a bit, wandering around in circles, you know how rehearsals are, Rick started pounding out a beat, Rick Savage came in on the bass, the guitars started to sting, and suddenly there I was, in the middle of HYSTERIA!

You've got to understand. I could have spent the evening with a member of the opposite sex. But I couldn't do that, I had to go to CHURCH, I had to go to SYNAGOGUE, because, you see, I'm a BELIEVER! In the power of rock and roll!

My foot started to tap, my leg started to thrust, my head started going up and down, I was like a kid at a concert. But the lights weren't out, I wasn't anonymous, I was in a crowd of about twenty five people, crew members, relatives, children, insiders, we're supposed to be JADED, we're supposed to be COOL! But I couldn't hold back. Fewer than ten feet away from Joe Elliott, I couldn't help but SING ALONG!

Every word.

And then, the band broke down, and like the ALLMAN BROTHERS, Viv and Phil started playing twin leads! I had this amazing grin on my face. THIS IS IT!

And "Hysteria" is a long song. I could luxuriate in it, enjoy it.

And having thrown off my shackles, having decided to be myself, to be possessed by rock and roll and not worry about how I looked, I glanced down the line of people standing behind the couches. And startlingly, they were all just like me, their legs moving, heads bobbing up and down, singing along. And on the couch, where I'd started, off to the left, Marc was alone, he didn't know I was looking, he couldn't see me grinning as he too sang along with every word.

And before I could clap when the song was over, Leppard went straight into "Photograph", that anthem from the spring of '83, when we still had hope, when rock and roll still ruled the world.

And then "Animal".

We were in BONUS TRACKS! We were in ENCORES! They were only supposed to do THREE! You know how it is when you get more than you expect in life. When you get MUCH MORE than you expect. THIS is what you live for, it's like you're drenched in honey, like you've been shot up with adrenaline, life is a CARNIVAL!

"And I want
And I need
And I love

I'm singing along with the chorus, thrusting my Arrowhead bottle in the air, feeling like I'm fifteen, and I'm LOVING IT!

And when they were done, Phil and Joe came over to hang. We were talking how it used to be. When bands were in it for the music, not the fame. When labels employed music lovers, not bottom liners. It was like a revival meeting. They may have appeared pretty boys once, but that's not who they are, they were infected just like you and me, they feel PRIVILEGED to be part of the legacy of rock and roll. It was all they ever wanted, and they got it. Sure, they don't mind the money, but really, they love to PLAY!

"I get hysterical, hysteria
Oh can you feel it, do you believe it
It's such a magical, mysteria
When you get that feelin', better start believin'
Cause it's a miracle, oh say you will, ooh babe
Hysteria when you're near"

Def Leppard's new double CD greatest hits album is going to enter the chart at number ten, with 60,000 units sold. Their ballpark tour with Bryan Adams is one of the surprise hits of the summer.

Eighties nostalgia is in full swing.

But it's more than that. You see, they don't do it like that anymore. It's no longer how you play, but how you look. It's not about going to the rock show, but dancing in the club. They say rock is dead, but I think the major labels and the media have abandoned the audience. Instead of giving the people what they want, HYSTERIA, EUPHORIA, they're giving them something two-dimensional, phony. Hell, if it were real, people would want to see it live, again and again, year after year, whereas you're lucky today if people want to see it live ONCE! The business has jumped the track. Everything it was built upon has been ignored. The culture has been cast aside. We didn't used to need TV and magazines to sell music, music SOLD ITSELF! It wasn't a prefab construction, but something built by religious zealots, who didn't get plastic surgery, who didn't cross over from teen movies, but practiced, in their bedrooms, for HOURS after school, just hoping to develop the necessary skills to make it.

And they were looking to make money, and to get laid, but really, it was about making a joyful noise, one that got people excited, one that removed them from their everyday lives, one they could BELIEVE IN!

"I've got to know tonight
If you're alone tonight
Can't stop this feeling
Can't stop this fire"

The fire's not out. If you're alone tonight, know that I'm thinking of you. That you're tied to me, and millions of other music fans who still believe. Just put on your favorite record. "A Night At The Opera". "Regatta De Blanc". "Mott". And know that not everybody's in it for the money, that the music itself is STILL enough. You can STILL base your life around it, it STILL has meaning.

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