In 1988 I was 13 years old. That year was a turning point in my family when my mother had enough of my father’s alcoholism. My father came and went from our home for much of 1988 (my parents finally divorced in 1991). My mother worked a job at our local country store to keep a roof over our heads and I babysat every weekend to earn money to buy the typical teenage things, including a CD player and the hot new CD’s that were coming out. Things my mother could not afford to buy me. These significant changes in our household meant I had to grow up, but I was still just a young teen filled with a desire to escape this reality. In the 1980's there was the ultimate teenage escape in the form of the music videos on MTV and in 1988 Def Leppard was the darling of MTV. These two together provided the perfect escape into a musically fueled fantasy world.
Back in 1983, as a child, I knew who Def Leppard was. My mother’s younger siblings were my babysitters and companions at my Grandparent’s house. I was raised on their music but was really to young to understand it. By 1988 EVERYBODY knew who Def Leppard was. I became more than just a fan. I became a fanatic. The highlight of each day was coming home from Junior High to watch Dial MTV to see if their video was #1. I devoured every magazine I could find. My mother, bless her, drove me around to every music store in two counties to try and find a Def Leppard shirt. My room became a shrine.
On October 27, 1988 I was able to see Def Leppard for the first time in concert, my first concert, ever. My Aunt Bonnie, who was just 23 years old, took me and my best friend Natasha to the Tacoma Dome in my home state of Washington. I had no idea that this was the very last night of the tour and what would eventually end up being guitarist Steve Clark’s last concert ever with the band. Getting tickets to this show was another life lesson in growing up as it was the first time I ever bought concert tickets. The 1988 Hysteria in the Round Tour was all about scoring those general admission tickets on the floor for the bargain price of $18.50. Back in those days you had just two ways to buy tickets: Over the phone or at a Ticketmaster Box Office. At 13 it was by phone for me. I still remember the Seattle Ticketmaster phone number 1-800-628-0888! It is etched in my memory forever! This was also the first time in my life I ever used a credit card. I had the cash on hand from working and had to pay my mom that day.
The concert solidified my love for the band. I was able to get pretty close to the stage and have a great time. I bought two shirts that night. A “Women” shirt and a tour shirt with all their photos on it. I lent the latter to a boyfriend at some point, never to be seen again. I still have the “Women” shirt which I wore this past year to meet the band.
I was never one of those girls who wanted to be one of the band members girlfriends, instead I wanted to BE a band member. I would turn the bass up and the treble down on the stereo so that I could hear the bass lines. I would dissect each song, picking out the multiple guitar parts. I went as far as to get my hair cut like Joe’s (yes, in a mullet) and I shredded my acid washed jeans, much to the chagrin of my mother. I played the part of Joe in a school lip sync competition (thank God it was before cell phone video!). They were my escape from a troubled teen-aged life.
I have pondered over the years why Def Leppard became “My” band. Now that I am nearly 44 years old I know the answer. They are real. They are authentic. They never pretend to be anything less than human, just like you and me. I think that at age 13 I could already relate to life not going as planned but still had hope that all would end well. I could relate to the perseverance of the band. I still do.
Over the years their music became the soundtrack of my life. We all cried together when Steve died. We cheered when Vivian joined the band. We continue to pray for Vivian and his fight with Cancer. We await each album with high expectations and we curse Ticketmaster when we can’t get our pre-sale codes to work for our yearly treks to see Def Leppard. I say we because there are many out there like me. Many who spent countless hours in their rooms listening to them, contemplating the complexities of life, when our biggest problems were school dances, getting our hair to stay up and getting concert tickets. Def Leppard has been there though my marriage and divorce, remarriage and raising my children. They were there when my father died at age 58. Their music always a familiar and soft place to turn to. We’ve raised our kids on their music and now we take them to their concerts.
Social Media and the internet have made the band more accessible and the fan pages connect us fans. We meet at shows and we cheer each other on when it comes to VIP experiences. We get excited when the band likes one of our posts. We share videos and are family. Not many bands achieve that level of dedicated fans. Me and many of my fellow fans will be front and center on March 29th to cheer our band on as the are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
So, to Def Leppard I say “thank you” for being the soundtrack of my life! Congratulations on your induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!