“Pour Some Sugar on Me”

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Do I really need a reason for this one?  Cause I’m in trouble if I do.

This is just pure dumb rockin’ fun.  And all the shirtless boys are kinda nice, too. (Seriously, these guys were pretty wealthy by this point.  They couldn’t throw down a few bucks for a pack of Hanes undershirts? 🙂 )

If you look at it lyrically, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is an asinine song.  But I’m also pretty sure the lyrics aren’t the point . . . except maybe the chorus, which is one of the worst metaphors for sex, ever.  “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was the fourth single from the mega-selling megahit Hysteria.  By the time they were finished milking this album, something like seven or eight of the twelve tracks were released as singles. This is Def Leppard at their Pop Metal peak; they would never be better.

I think they went pretty radically downhill after this.  They were slowed down a little after Pyromania when drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident, but they rebounded beautifully with Hysteria (and gained the distinction of having the best one-armed drummer in the business).  But their follow-up was marred when guitarist Steve Clark died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs.  (It wasn’t a surprise; Clark had been battling alcoholism for years, and had taken a leave from the band.)  I think they never quite recovered.  Clark wasn’t the main songwriter, or even the only lead guitarist, but the chemistry of the band was irrevocably changed after his death.  Subsequent albums relied too heavily on the Hysteria formula, forgetting that although it was produced by hit making wizard Robert John “Mutt” Lange, there really wasn’t a formula to Hysteria.  It was a marvelous confluence of style, skill, songs, and moment that could never quite be repeated.

“Photograph”

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After the influence of my family, much of my musical taste was shaped by MTV and music videos.  The next biggest influence is reviews and “best of” lists in Rolling Stone.  But since I spent so much of my adolescence glued to MTV, it makes sense that some of it stuck.  In fact, I hold MTV solely responsible for my affection for Hair Metal bands.  You know who they are: a bunch of pretty boys wearing WAY too much Aquanet, playing pop music disguised as hard rock by a lot of mediocre guitar solos and pyrotechnics.  There’s plenty of impassioned yelling, spandex and eyeliner.  Def Leppard were kind of the prototype.

Okay, Glam rockers like Mott the Hoople and Gary Glitter were the prototype, but Def Leppard were the first real Hair Metal band I really knew anything about. And I kind of hated them at first.  “Rock of Ages” was a pretty big hit, but it did not appeal.  They were still more “metal” than “hair,” and I had not yet developed any feel for the really hard stuff.  I think I was still listening to AM radio at this point.  As one of the first Hair Metal bands, Def Leppard also had some talent; they could play their instruments pretty well and the songs didn’t entirely suck.  They also got a huge stroke of luck when they got Mutt Lange to produce their albums; he presided over the three most successful albums of their career, including the massively successful Hysteria.  They got better at writing songs, including less working class metal sensibility and more Top Forty style hooks.  This is how a song like “Photograph” was born.

“Photograph” is about teenage daydreams and celebrity crushes.  It’s fluff, but it has just enough emotional substance to keep it from floating away.  The lyrics are some of the most coherent of their entire repertoire.  (I remember reading once that they didn’t really care about their lyrics, they just threw words that sounded good together; that broke my little bookworm heart just a bit.)  The guitar riff that opens the song is really good, too.  Nothing flashy, which is something that good bands get and bad bands don’t (style always loses to substance in the end).  The video adds a nice bit of slightly confusing menace by making iconographic references to Marilyn Monroe and Jack the Ripper (they are English, after all).  Watching the video again is sort of fascinating, although I’m not sure if it’s a train wreck or a time capsule.

I’m struck by quite a few things here.  Mostly by how young they all look, but also by the fact that guitarist Steve Clark is alive and drummer Rick Allen has two arms (he’s still the best one-armed drummer in the biz).  Oh, and singer Joe Elliott is wearing leg warmers.  God, the 80s were weird.