One of the benefits, if that’s the right word, of a long commute home in the evening is the chance to listen to some music along the way. This evening, for example, I found an old Def Leppard CD and put it in the CD player to make the Kennedy Expressway more tolerable. And as soon as the CD went in, it was as if I was in high school all over again. It was part of the magical power that music seems to have.
As I listened to song after song from Pyromania–which came out early in my high school days–and Hysteria–which appeared near the end of my college career–I once again felt like a kid who had never used so much as a cordless phone before. The kid who couldn’t talk to girls to save his life. The kid who didn’t know anything about anything, but thought that he knew everything that was worth knowing.
The kid that I was back in the 1980s is gone, and I couldn’t bring him back if I wanted to. Decades of life, and the lessons that it teaches, have made that an impossibility. I’m sure that 1980s me, and the me that drove home from work today, would both get a good laugh, if they could ever meet up with each other. And yet, the two of them were both getting into Rock of Ages and Foolin’ as my Prius made its way homeward this afternoon.
I knew pretty early on that I wanted to write about this CD, and the music it held, and the time-bending properties it seemed to possess. I listened for a good lyric that would tie this all up for a title to this post. I’ve even titled one of my earlier posts after a line from Photograph, which probably is the best song Def Leppard ever recorded. If I ever went to a Def Leppard concert (I think they’re probably still touring somewhere) and they played Photograph and a dozen other songs that I’d never heard before, I’d walk away saying it was a good show. Nostalgia is a very powerful thing, after all.
But every line I came up with (“Put your hurt on me, if you dare” anyone?) didn’t say anything about my main idea. And then, as I was driving into another amazing sunset on the final part of my trip, a throwaway line at the end of Hysteria sealed the deal for me. The music on the song itself is strangely affecting, at least for me, but the line “get closer, closer to me” seemed to be the sentiment I was looking for.
Def Leppard’s music is more a part of my life’s experiences than Led Zeppelin or the Doors or the Rolling Stones ever could be. I love the music that these other bands made, but I was in high school when Pyromania came out. The feelings that I had in high school, about life and everything that it was composed of, come flooding back to me whenever I hear anything from that album. Incidentally, I owned it on a cassette at the time, but now I wish that I had owned it on vinyl, for some reason. And who knew what a CD was back in 1983?
The music of Def Leppard is closer to me than most other music I hear when I listen to the radio. I enjoy songs like Takin’ Care of Business, but not because I have any memories about when it was on the latest BTO record. After all, that was a bit before my time.
Now that my sojourn to the 80s is over, and the middle aged father with a minivan and a mortgage has returned, I’m glad that the music of Def Leppard, and all of the other things I listened to back then, can still affect me like this. That time in my life must have had some redeeming qualities, or I’d want to turn this off and listen to some Soundgarden instead. And I can say with confidence that won’t be happening anytime soon.