Released: January 20, 1983 by Mercury/PolyGram Records
The idea behind this blog was hatched years ago and has moved in fits and starts ever since. As a result I have a number of reviews already written and waiting to be posted, but for the first one I wanted something that felt a little special, at least when compared to the randomness of what is in my cue. So it seemed fitting to start with the very first album I ever owned.
Growing up in the 70’s, radio was a dominant force in my life. We didn’t get cable TV until 1984, a VCR until 1987, and the internet for another decade after that. So for the first ten years of my life, even though I was only marginally aware of it, I was being groomed to love music thanks to the FM airwaves. Now had things been left entirely up to mother, you’d be reading a blog about the greatness that is Anne Murray or the wonderful world of Barry Manilow. Thankfully I had an older brother and older sister who set me straight before that kind of long-term damage could be wrought. My formative years were spent building Lego masterpieces while the strains of 70’s and 80’s arena rock slowly seeped into my consciousness. I knew what Led Zeppelin was before I knew what a zeppelin was and I’m all the better for it.
Now even though I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my siblings for introducing me to the music I would come to love, there comes a point where you forge an identity of your own and for me that came sometime in 1983 when I first heard that magical phrase “gunter glieben glauten globen”. I mean really, what more needs to be said? Between that bit of gibberish and the accompanying guitar riff, I had discovered my musical destiny and its name was “hard rock”. The song “Rock Of Ages” from whence the bizarre intro comes had been a solid radio hit for awhile when I was introduced to the rest of the album by a friend who had a vinyl copy. I still have a vivid memory of listening to it the first time and being completely sucked in by the grit of the guitars and the roughness of Joe Elliott’s vocals. I would never consider Def Leppard a true heavy metal band, but they were certainly tougher and darker than the likes of REO Speedwagon or Night Ranger, and as a result they drew me in. Tracks like “Too Late For Love” and “Die Hard The Hunter” had a slightly sinister quality, something a little more menacing than what I was used to. So off I went one day, armed with a $10 bill and the freedom to spend it however I chose to make the first of many, MANY musical purchases: my very own copy of Pyromania on cassette, making me one of ten million people and counting who have done so.
Obviously a record that has sold that many copies doesn’t really need a sales pitch from me to move a few more units, but if you’re a fan of rock music at all and don’t own a copy, I’m sorry, but you’re a moron. The riff from “Photograph” alone is required listening for any true fan, and the album is chock full of other classic pop-metal tunes such as “Foolin'” and “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”. Legendary producer Mutt Lange was still perfecting his 80’s uber-polish when he helped make this album, so it retains quite a bit of the dirt and grime that the Leps carried with them from their days slogging through the scene known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. By the time the follow-up, Hysteria, was released 4 years later they would leave that party completely, but the stench still lingers here. Not quite as raw as the previous record High N’ Dry, the songs on Pyromania were all shaped by Lange to be hits, his often stated goal being to create a rock record where every song was a possible single. Of course, this approach tended to turn off the band’s original fans (as did the ousting of guitarist Pete Willis mid-way through recording) and for many this album is seen as the turning point that took them from burgeoning metal band to pop-star sellouts. Given the sales figures that accompanied both this and Hysteria, it’s kind of hard to blame the guys though.
As for me, it’s hard to really listen to Pyromania with a truly critical ear given its arrival in my life at such a pivotal moment and the way it truly shaped my listening habits going forward. This album with all its crunchy guitars and attitude was the gateway that lead me to discover bands like Kiss, Quiet Riot, Ratt, and the Scorpions, and then later true metal acts like Iron Maiden and Metallica. It solidified my undying love of heavy guitar riffs and melodic songs that packed a punch. It’s really not hard to trace so much of what I own and listen to today back to this very first purchase. You only get one chance at something like that and I thank the rock n’ roll gods that my mother wasn’t there to steer me towards The Carpenters section, thus ruining what has been a lifetime of rock majesty. Rock Of Ages indeed.
ALBUM RATING 10.
1) Rock Rock (Till You Drop)
7) Rock Of Ages
8) Comin’ Under Fire
9) Action! Not Words
10) Billy’s Got A Gun
Joe Elliot (V), Steve Clark (G), Phil Collen (G), Pete Willis (G), Rick Savage (B), Rick Allen (D)
Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange