A Deeper Look at Pyromania’s Most Fire Tracks

When Def Leppard released Pyromania in 1983, it made major waves, breaking the band into the mainstream in the US and worldwide.

By bonneville on May 1, 2024
crowd photo of a def leppard performance
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – MAY 22: Def Leppard perform live for the “The World Tour” at Sheffield Bramall Lane on May 22, 2023 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images for Live Nation UK)

Introduction

Def Leppard emerged in the late ’70s in Sheffield, England, situating themselves squarely in the British heavy metal scene by the early ’80s. The band’s current lineup includes Joe Elliott on lead vocals, Rick Savage on bass, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell on guitar, and Rick Allen on drums. Former members include Tony Kenning on drums, Pete Willis, and Steve Clark on guitar. 

The band gained a following in the UK after their first release in 1980, “On Through the Night,” but it wasn’t until their third release, “Pyromania,” that they gained a large US following. They toned down on the heavy riffs and melodic emphasis to distinguish themselves from typical heavy metal bands, paving the path for the emergence of grunge music in the early ’90s. In 2019, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the band for their contributions to classic rock.

They will be in Utah on September 10th to celebrate their 40th-anniversary release of “Pyromania.” The box set includes previously unreleased demos and mixes, two live performances recorded in Germany and LA, and music videos for the singles in a 4 CD/1 Blu-ray set. 

Def Leppard
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Keep reading to see a look behind some of the songs from this release. 

Behind the songs on Pyromania

“Pyromania” was released around the same time as Michael Jackson’s infamous “Thriller,” which made it challenging for the album to make it to the top of the charts. Regardless, the release made a massive impact on the music scene, a rare feat for hard rock bands at the time. In 1984, according to a US Gallup poll, the band ranked higher than their peers, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Journey.  

The album hits that charted include “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Foolin’,” though many other tracks on the album still rank among the band’s most played, like “Billy’s Got a Gun” and “Too Late for Love.” The cover artwork depicts a cartoon image of a huge flame emerging from the top floor of a skyscraper, with a bullseye aimed at the flame. 

“Photograph”

The lead single from this release was “Photograph,” which catapulted Def Leppard into the US mainstream. The music video became MTV’s most requested music video, surpassing even Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It.” The song reached #1 on the US Rock Chart. 

According to Forbes, the song was inspired by a poster of Marilyn Monroe that lead singer Elliott placed over a hole in his wall. The idea of timeless beauty that one can never attain became the focal point of the lyrics. 

“Rock Of Ages”

This second single released by the band, a “call to arms” song meant to excite large stadiums, also charted high for the group. It reached number one on the Rock Tracks chart, making it the second single to reach the Top 20 of the Hot 100, an unusual feat for rock bands of that time. 

This song features the infamous intro “Gunter Glieben Glauten Globen,” later sampled by The Offspring’s 1998 hit “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).” According to Song Facts, the reference is a playful way to count in the band with something other than “1, 2, 3, 4…” 

It also references Neil Young in the opening lines when they sing, “I’ve got something to say/It’s better to burn out/Than fade away!” The lines come from part of the refrain of his 1979 song “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).” 

The music video showcases the band’s playful nature. Elliott recalls that the whole making of the video was full of ridiculousness, and director David Mallett would propose absurd ideas that the band just went with. As just one way of illustrating this, the owl is included because when Elliott sings the song “All Right,” it sounds like “owl-right.” 

“Foolin'”

The third hit from the album, “Foolin’,” reached #9 on the Rock chart and #28 on the Billboard Top 100. The music video, also directed by David Mallet, begins with a woman playing the harp, which is not featured in the song. The harpist was Billy Idol’s then-girlfriend Perri Lister. For their video compilation “Historia,” the song begins with a text commentary that states, “Indeed, a face without eyes” as a pun on Idol’s song “Eyes Without a Face.” 

Conclusion

Robert Lange is the leading producer behind most of the songs on this album, who pioneered new sampling and electronic techniques to evolve the band’s sound from heavy metal into something never before heard. The band remarks that they tried to appeal to both men and women alike in their song production, a calculated move to launch into new territories, literally and figuratively. 

In that way, Pyromania is an album for everyone that led them to their subsequent most significant work with “Hysteria,” which the band released in 1987.

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