The British music invasion was a huge phenomenon of the 1960’s and 70’s. It all started with the Beatles, but they were quickly followed by acts like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. It seemed like every day there was a new mega rock band coming out of Britain. This didn’t stop in the 70’s – great bands continue to come out of Britain every year, but one of the biggest British rock bands to emerge in the 1980’s was Def Leppard. The first time I heard Def Leppard was the summer of 1983 – I was ten years old. I was just starting to form my musical tastes, and Leppard’s cassette Pyromania was one of the most influential compilations that helped form my musical tastes. They’ve remained a big part of my music collection ever since. Def Leppard’s story is an interesting one – they began life as a bar band in a working class area of Sheffield England. It was the late 70’s and Britain’s economy was mired in recession, for most young people the future looked pretty bleak. The founding members of Def Leppard chose music as their potential escape route from this drudgery. They began life as Atomic Mass, but when Joe Elliot joined them as an 18 year old singer they accepted his suggestion to change the band’s name to “Deaf Leppard”, which was later shortened to the Def Leppard name we’re more familiar with. Pyromania wasn’t there first cassette, it was actually their third – they had enjoyed some limited success with the previous cassettes, especially High ‘n’ Dry, but nothing like they would enjoy with Pyromania. This album turned them into a household name worldwide. They’ve since gone on to record seven more studio albums with varying degrees of success, but Pyromania is without a doubt the bands greatest masterpiece. Pyromania was released on January 20th 1983 and was the first cassette which would feature guitarist Phil Collen. His innovative guitar licks took the band to another level, and helped them produced the signature sound they would become known for. The cassette was a huge success in both the UK and North America, producing four hit singles: Photograph, Rock of Ages, Foolin, and Too Late for Love. I have to be honest, I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite amongst them – I love them all!

The first time I saw the video for Photograph I have to admit I pulled out a brush and pretended to sing along into my own personal microphone. There was nothing special about videos back then – the video for Photograph was basically just concert footage intermixed with a flash of a mysterious switch blade and a picture of a woman lying on the ground with chalk drawn around her. The implication being that she had been murdered and the body was being photographed. None of that really registered with my ten year old mind – it was just a good hard rocking song that happened to have a video to go with it, and of course it featured Joe Elliot in his trademark Union Jack tank top. It wasn’t long before I had one of my own!
The video for Rock of Ages was something a little different. In this video Def Leppard attempted to turn the video into a bit of a story. The video opens with dark hooded pagan priests looking on with a beautiful woman tied to a tree about to be sacrificed. As the video progresses Joe Elliot emerges as the maiden’s savior. It was all pretty cheesy, but it seemed pretty impressive at the time. While the video production may not be up to the standards of today, the music certainly is!
The third hit from this cassette was Foolin, and I love the haunting lyrics in this one. It’s got a sort of unreal quality to it. Def Leppard continued to increase the production quality of their videos with this video. They loved to tell a story with their videos and Foolin was no different. The video opens with a mysterious woman playing a harp, apparently casting a spell over the band. It also features Joe Elliot tied to a rack, desperately trying to break his bonds – he’s eventually successful. In those days I looked forward to each new Def Leppard Video to see what new story they would come up with next – and of course the music was great!
The last hit single from the cassette Pyromania was Too Late for Love. This one was really special because it was a song I shared with my little girlfriend at the time. Obviously we knew nothing about the opposite sex, but our parents sure thought it was cute! I remember my heart racing every time I head the song. They didn’t bother with a story line with the Foolin video – it was just the band playing a concert and a whole lot of dry ice. Funnily enough it’s probably the video that seems the least cheesy in retrospect. It let the music do the talking. Pyromania will always have a home in my cassette case. This was one of the most influential cassettes of the eighties by one of the most import rock bands of that era. It turned them into a household name, and while they’ve had their ups and downs since then they remain a rock legend.