In 1987 I was just 12 years old when Def Leppard released Hysteria. Twelve years old and in middle school is a time of big discovery for any young person. For me it was a difficult time. My parents were having problems and my Dad would come and go from our lives. Music provided a much needed escape. Like most young people in the 1980's I loved Madonna and Michael Jackson as well as Stevie Nicks because that's what my Mom listened to. By 1987 I had evolved to like Bon Jovi and Quiet Riot because that is what my friends were listening to. We would shoot hoops for hours listening to Living on a Prayer. Then Hysteria was released. It changed everything. This was a band I could really get into. I started buying the rock magazines and finding out anything I could about the band ( how did we survive without Google?). I would race home from school and watch MTV hoping to catch a video.
I went so far as to cut my hair into a fantastic mullet. I tore my jeans like Joe. Unlike most girls my age I wasn't lusting over the band, I wanted to be in a band and be just like them. My best friend Natasha and I had our stage names, mine was Arista Rockett (sorry Rikki, I thought that was just the coolest name so I had to steal it). In a time of family trial this was the ultimate form of escapism. I would use any item I could find to pretend to play drums. I begged my Mom and Dad for a drum set, a guitar, anything...it took a while but my Dad, who had been a musician and had even cut a few records, bought a brand new Fender Precision Bass. Not exactly what I wanted but I was happy to have access to anything at that point.
By the time I could save enough babysitting money it was near the end of the Hysteria tour and the second time coming through my area in Washington State. I was ecstatic to see Def Leppard play in the round in October 1988 at the Tacoma Dome. It was the last very night of the Hysteria Tour, what turned out to be guitarist Steve Clark's last show with the band. For me it was a dream come true! I was able to be on the floor and get close to the stage. My friend Natasha and I were on cloud nine for weeks talking about the show.
Life moved on, my parents eventually divorced and being a child of the Seattle area, grunge music took over. I never wavered in my love for Def Leppard but like most teenagers I wasn't going to flaunt it. In the coming years I never missed a tour if I could. I went and saw Lep play in the round again with new guiitarist Vivian Campbell in Seattle in 1992. By 1996 I'd just had my first baby and was then living near Dallas, Texas. My then husband heard that the band had a soccer game lined up before their concert so we went and were able to meet the band. I was young, just 21 years old and shy and was a mess meeting them. Back in those days I had a little 110 Kodak Camera and I was able to spend a few minuted chatting with the band. Phil was so nice that day and even held my 4 month old baby. Joe was great too. I still don't know how I made it through. I got into our car to go and was almost in tears.
The years went by. I had two more children. I moved around with my first husband who was in the military to California, Washington State and Virginia. I got divorced and remarried. I managed to see the band in ballparks, state fairs and any other venue in which I could catch them. By 2015 my kids were older and I was able to take my middle daughter to her first Def Leppard show. Def Leppard had begun a resurgence in popularity that made my heart sing. Since then I have shared the shows with both of my daughters. It was so much fun to take my oldest Cat to her first Lep show in Baltimore in 2017. Full circle from the soccer game 21 years before.
In the last few years I was able to take my Mom, Stepfather and sister to various Lep shows. The fan pages that exist through social media connect us, and I know I can pop into a show anywhere and know someone from the fan pages. It creates a family atmosphere at the shows. We look at the band as an extension of that family. I always wonder what the band thinks when they see people like me at multiple shows across the country. In 2018 I was able to catch 4 shows.
The first in Raleigh I did solo, except I knew about a dozen people once I got there. I also did my first meet and greet which I have previously written about. I then caught the Virginia Beach show which is where I usually go, as it is considered my home venue. My daughter Reagan went with me to that one. In the fall I headed home to Washington State and took my sister Lisa to the show at The Gorge. It was amazing. Two nights later Lisa and I took our parents to Vancouver. It's crazy, I know, but oh so much fun!
When the announcements were made that Def Leppard was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 I knew I had to go. My travel in the last year to concerts was extensive but there was no way I wasn't going to go to New York. I booked my hotel the day the nomination came out. It took me a while to tell my husband who is more of a Todd Rundgren type fan that we were going. We were very disappointed that Todd didn't get in. Well, Def Leppard did get in so off we went to Brooklyn. Getting tickets was dicey and I was blessed to have help from some fellow fans getting our seats .
We set off for Brooklyn on Thursday morning March 28th. It took us just under seven hours to make the drive from our home in Virginia to Brooklyn, New York. We checked into our hotel and the fun began. My friends Janet from Washingon State and Kelpie from Colorado were staying at our same hotel. My husband Jay and I explored the area around our hotel in the Park Slope neighborhood and had a wonderful dinner at The Douglass. The next day we went to the Botanic Gardens to walk around and ran into someone Jay knew from Virginia. Small world.
At 5 pm we met up with a big group of Def Leppard fans in front of the Barclay's Center. My friend Karen runs the Def Leppard Die Hard Fan page on Facebook and she had organized this. Karen had a dress custom made from more than a dozen Def Leppard Shirts. It was stunning! Lorelei Shellist, who was Steve Clark's girlfriend for many years before his death came by with her amazing boyfriend Larry Baldauf. Lorelei is a supermodel in her own right as well as a clothing designer. She took photos with many fans and talked with so many of us.
Once inside the venue the party got underway. A group of us including Lorelei and Larry hung out at the bar near the entrance talking, laughing and taking photos. More reunions of friends from the many shows over the years. I help run a fan page for Vivian Campbell's side band Riverdogs and it is always amazing to me when strangers approach and ask me if I am the Riverdogs girl. I love that. We found our seats inside and it was fabulous. Amazingly our seats were right next to a group that belonged to Def Leppard. Steve Brown, the guitarist from Trixter was seated across the aisle from me. Steve is the go to guitarist for the band when life invades the fantasy. Steve filled in for Viv when he was undergoing cancer treatment a few years ago and again last May when Phil flew home to be with his wife Helen after she had complications during the birth of their son Jaxson. Next to him sat Phil's daughter Savannah and her mother who I had seen backstage at the show in Raleigh last year. As I was sitting there a present from a friend arrived at my seat, two of the official VIP programs. Needless to say, I felt like a celebrity in my section, with everyone around asking how I got the programs. I think my husband was proud to be with me as he told the lady next to him about what I do with the Riverdogs Fan Page. I do love my Riverdogs!
The show started and it was a pleasure to see Stevie Nicks perform with Don Henley. It was another night of listening to the music that is the soundtrack of my life. Def Leppard was the last performance of the night. I had so many friends that could not come so I decided to live stream the induction on the Riverdogs fan page. I made it though Brian May's speech and then the induction speech by Joe Elliott on behalf of the band. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when Joe talked about Rick Allen.
The videos below are not mine as the Facebook live quality wasn't the best, but thanks to YouTube you can see the same footage as I had. Video Credits to their creators.
Def Leppard followed this with an ass kicking 4 song performance. True to form, Phil was without his shirt. I didn't go live for the performance, knowing this would be my last Lep concert for a while.
The night ended with Leppard performing with Brian May, Ian Hunter and others. They covered Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" I don't think I have ever seen the band smile so big as I did during that performance.
The night ended over 5 hours after it began. The next day we made the long drive back to Virginia. A whirlwind three days! It really was the rock and roll road trip of a lifetime. Congratulations to Def Leppard on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019! Thank you for being the soundtrack of my life.
To visit my Riverdogs Fan Page on Facebook click here
To visit Karen's Def Leppard Die Hard Fan Page on Facebook click here