The Story of DEF LEPPARD’s “Rock of Ages”

🔥Time to…. Rise up, gather round and rock this place to the ground!🔥

Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” – do I have to say more? It’s one of those groundbreaking hard rock albums which don’t really need an introduction or a bunch of fancy words, describing how awesome and influential it is. I will just say one thing, though – if I have to choose one album to be buried with, it’s going to be “Pyromania” (together with “Hysteria” most probably). Yes, it’s that special to me!

“Pyromania” defined Def Leppard’s career like no other album. Most importantly, it gave birth to a couple of smashing hit singles, including “Photograph”, “Too Late for Love”, “Foolin” and of course, the absolute fan-favorite, “Rock of Ages”. I could write books about each one of the songs on “Pyromania” because they are that valuable and worthy to me and to the history of hard rock in general. However, this time I would like to focus on “Rock of Ages”, mainly because of its significant presence in popular culture, which is a reason enough to know a little bit more about the background of the tune. Also, there are a couple of really interesting facts, surrounding the making of “Rock of Ages”,which some of you might not know. [My Rock Mixtapes] gives you the story of Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages”.


  •  “Rock of Ages” was released as the second single from Def Leppard’s multi-platinum 1983 album “Pyromania”, following the highly successful debut album single, “Photograph”. The song became an instant hit, peaking at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topping the Top Tracks rock chart.
  • “Rock of Ages” was written by Joe Elliott, Steve Clark, and producer Mutt Lange. The music was all set and done, however coming up with the lyrics turned out to be a challenge for the guys. Until of course, that faithful discovery of a bible, left behind in the studio by a bible study group. The book was open to the hymn “Rock of Ages”…the rest is history. Another example of how ideas and inspirations can come from all sides of the world, as long as we pay attention to the signs of the universe!

MV

  • The iconic music video of “Rock of Ages” was directed by David Mallet and shot at the end of 1982. Here’s what Joe Elliott had to say about it:

mtv“It was the ridiculousness of it, which is exactly what the video needed to be. (Director David Mallet) was like, ‘I want you to walk down this drawbridge holding this sword.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, f–k off. Don’t make me do that!’ Of course, like an idiot, I submitted to his blinked eyes, looking at me like some long-lost dog. David Mallet‘s got a great way of manipulating people like that. I was young and dumb and went ‘OK.’ I look at that now, and I think ‘What the hell was I thinking?'”

(MTV Ruled the World – The Early Years of Music Video)

  • The verses contain no guitars, focusing entirely on the strength of the vocals. However, that turned out to be a problem for the MV making. Here’s what Joe Elliott said about it:

“There’s a couple of shots where Phil  was clapping along on the verse – because there’s no guitars – and he’s standing directly behind me, so I look like I have these clapping antlers coming out of my head.”

“Pretty funny when you look back. The robe thing took about 30 seconds to film. You kind of forget about that,” said guitarist Phil Collen.

(MTV Ruled the World – The Early Years of Music Video)

  • An owl appears on the music video right when Joe says “all right”. Director David Mallet thought that it sounds like “owl right” so he decided to include the owl as a joke!

owlleppard

  • One of the most peculiar and heavily-discussed aspects of the song is the opening phrase. The German-sounding “Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen”, said by producer Mutt Lange doesn’t really mean anything in particular. It’s a rather funny way of simply saying “1…2…3…4…!” For those of you who are familiar with Mutt’s obsession with achieving that perfect recording, it won’t come as a surprise to find out that at one point, he got actually pretty tired of counting “1…2…3…4…!” Instead, he decided to make things more entertaining and used this gibberish. The combination of “Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen”, followed by the laughs of Joe Elliott and the famous line “All right, I’ve got something to say! It’s better to burn out, than to fade away”, has to be one of the most memorable openings of all time!

  • The instantly-recognizable slogan was re-used in 1989 for The Offspring’s Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).

  • bettertoAnother curious (lyrical) “Rock of Ages” moment is of course that empowering saying “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away” at the beginning. The lines are a reference to Neil Young‘s song “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”. According to some sources, however, Joe Elliott saw those lines on someone’s T-shirt and took them for the song, without actually knowing who they belong to.
  • The lines “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away” became even more important for the history of rock music when they appeared on Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994.

  • Def Leppard’s four-line version was used in the movie Highlander (1986) by the villain, the Kurgan.
  • “Rock of Ages” also appears on the Season 5 finale of the TV show Supernatural .

  • “Rock of Ages” is one of Def Leppard‘s most beloved live staples. It has been an inseparable part of their live shows, ever since its release.

1988 Live (Hysteria Tour)

2013 Live (Viva! Hysteria, The Hard Rock Hotel, Las, Vegas NV)


  • Similarly to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll”, “Rock of Ages” is a powerful anthem, written to inspire and spread that fiery rock & roll spirit. Here is what Joe Elliot said about the connection between “Rock of Ages” and “I Love Rock & Roll” in an interview with Kaos 2000 magazine.

“We’d have never written ‘Rock Of Ages’ if we hadn’t have heard ‘I Love Rock And Roll’ by Joan Jett. But we didn’t steal her entire sound. We took that one song and thought, ‘This is very anthemic. We could get away with writing songs of this standard and style.’ And that’s what we did. It doesn’t particularly sound that much like her, the chorus a bit. The actual structure of the song is nothing alike.”
(Quote, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/)

  • A high-praised musical, titled “Rock of Ages” opened on Broadway in 2009. The show featured some of the biggest music hits of the ‘80s; however despite named after Def Leppard’s song, “Rock of Ages” doesn’t appear on it.

  • In 2012, the musical was turned into a movie, in which Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was performed by Tom Cruise.

  • In 2012, Def Leppard re-recorded the song with the title “Rock of Ages 2012”. It was released in the summer of 2012, along with a newly-recorded version of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.

rock-of-ages-2012

  • “Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection” was released in 2005 and it featured some of the band’s most definitive classics.

the-definitive-collection

dl-433

 


“Rock of Ages” Lyrics

Gunter glieben glauchen globen

All right
I got something to say
Yeah, it’s better to burn out
Yeah, than fade away
All right
Ow Gonna start a fire
C’mon!
Rise up! gather round
Rock this place to the ground
Burn it up let’s go for broke
Watch the night go up in smoke

Rock on! Rock on!

Drive me crazier, no serenade
No fire brigade, just Pyromania

What do you want? What do you want?
I want rock’n’roll, yes I do
Long live rock’n’roll

Oh let’s go, let’s strike a light
We’re gonna blow like dynamite
I don’t care if it takes all night
Gonna set this town alight

What do you want? What do you want?
I want rock’n’roll, Allright!
Long live rock’n’roll

Rock of ages, rock of ages
Still rollin’, keep a-rollin’
Rock of ages, rock of ages
Still rollin’, rock’n’rollin’

We got the power, got the glory
Just say you need it and if you need it
Say yeah!

Heh heh heh heh
Now listen to me
I’m Burnin’, Burnin’, I got the fever
I know for sure, there ain’t no cure
So feel it, don’t fight it, go with the flow
Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme one more for the road

What do you want? What do you want?
I want rock’n’roll, You betcha
Long live rock’n’roll

[Repeat Chorus]

We’re gonna burn this damn place down
Down to the ground

Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh


References:
“Rock of Ages” lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/defleppard/rockofages.html
“Rock of Ages” on SongFacts: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1151

“Rock of Ages” Official Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_(Def_Leppard_song)

P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.

Cheers~

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