Def Leppard’s video for “Bringing on the Heartbreak” made its debut on my parent’s betamax some time in 1984. I had left the betamax recording a daily video show that usually played pop songs. When I heard this piece, I was mesmerized. I had read about that band in the American rock magazines I was subscribed to back in my hometown of Caracas, but had not heard their music yet.
I replayed the song many times over so I could figure out the words, which were pronounced with a thick English accent. In the video, the singer was loosely tied to the crossbeams of a raft, seemingly crucified, expressing sorrow and pain by contorting his face. I often wondered why he did not jump off and get away. The boat was navigating at a snail’s pace on calm waters, making the getaway that much more plausible. But the man’s heart had been broken, and no amount of encouragement could make him break free.
Despite the strange imagery of the video, the music transcended and cut through my entire body, making me feel like I was floating. The heaviness of the guitar and beat of the drums possessed an immediate attraction, compounded by the singer’s powerful yet delicate voice. I pressed my ear against the TV speaker, feeling the sound waves shaking every molecule in my body. I wanted to jump inside the TV and join these pale long-haired men on stage and create mayhem with them. I wanted to be in the band. I wanted to play the bass looking cool, while the white smoke surfaced from the mystic lake and surrounded my denim-clad legs. I wanted to make the weird faces they made by pursing my lips and blinking at the camera. I wanted to stand back to back with the guitar player while sharing a microphone and singing backing vocals.
Soon thereafter an acquaintance loaned me the “High and Dry” album, which I recorded on a 60-min TDK tape. I would listen to it over and over again to learn the words to every song. The more I listened to it, the more I wanted to be in a band.
I continued to follow articles on the band, when terrible news hit the black and white pages of Rockline! magazine: their drummer Rick Allen had been in a horrifying car crash in which he lost his left arm. Many questions were raised after this tragedy. Would he overcome this? Would he continue to play? Would the band march on without their drummer? Millions of fans would wonder if their favorite rock band would go on or disband.
While this drama played out, I got my hands on “Pyromania” and was blown away. I prayed the band would set forth despite the difficulties. Surely a band so awesome and so famous could not hang it up. I pondered about this for hours on end, Walkman in hand, playing the Def Leppard tapes repeatedly.
The fans were not disappointed. Rick Allen’s determination, love of life and music manifested itself when the band announced he would continue playing in the band. They were working on a custom-made drum kit he could use with one arm.
By the time “Hysteria” was released, the band’s fame jumped to a new level, not only because it was highly publicized that a one-armed musician laid down the drum tracks, but also the songs were very easy on the ear; thus, dominating the rock charts for weeks. The songs were played even on Caracas radio. I was so proud of them. It genuinely felt as if a group of dear friends had made the big time.
And as Def Leppard rode deep into stardom, I bid them farewell. They evolved and triumphed and conquered the world. I would remember and cherish our time together but it was time I moved on as well. A gloomy, ugly, mystic, loud, obnoxious, aggressive sound had been floating around me for a long time, and it was summoning me to cross over to the dark side. It was time I gave in.