steve clarke

DVD REVIEW: Def Leppard – Visualize (1993)

Part Sixteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD –  Visualize (1993, 2001 Mercury DVD)

Perhaps a tad prematurely, immediately after Adrenalize had given all it had in terms of singles, Def Leppard released the spiritual sequel to 1989’s home video Historia.  That thorough collection of videos was composed of music from four albums, while Visualize only covered one (and a bit).  As such, this time they added interviews and interesting TV clips to fill out the run time.

Since Historia closed on “Love Bites”, it’s only fitting that Visualize opens with the next video, “Rocket”.  As far as cool 80s videos go, “Rocket” was a success.  It was even an educational slideshow of all Def Leppard’s musical heroes!  It’s also very very 80s, with lots of TV sets hanging about.

Then Visualize takes a different track.  The next big event in the lives of Def Leppard was a sad one:  the passing of Steve Clark.  He is commemorated with TV clips, interviews and an excellent all-Steve video for “Switch 625”.  Joe Elliott laments that all Steve had in his life was a guitar and a bottle, but at least he left something worthwhile behind — the music.

Interview tracks are interspersed between music videos.  Rick Allen discusses his drum kit and how he uses his left leg to do what he used to with his arm.  Then there’s a surprising video of a live Ben E. King TV performance, featuring his new backing band, Def Leppard.  “Stand By Me” is not the complete clip but enough to show you that Leppard could do it!  Rick Savage plays a strange 80s synth bass guitar, and Steve Clark was still with them.  Another partial clip, “Jean Genie” with Joe, Ronnie Wood and the Hothouse Flowers, is cool but just a snippet.  Same with an acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust”.  Shame they couldn’t use the full tracks.  The origin of the track “From the Inside” is discussed with a short clip as well.

“Let’s Get Rocked” is opened by an amusing interview with Sav about filming in front of a blue screen.  Indeed, “Let’s Get Rocked” was a pioneering video, if terribly dated.  It’s also their only video as a four-piece band without Steve.  The next interviews address this — the hiring of Vivian Campbell.  His big debut was the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in early 1992.  His music video debut with the band was on the mediocre “Make Love Like A Man”.  Its gimmick was a big screen behind the band; pretty standard stuff.  The rarely seen “I Wanna Touch U” follows, with Leppard once again live in the round!  The fake crowd screams are distracting but the video is cool, if not triumphant.

The big ballad “Have You Ever Wanted Someone So Bad” has a gothic look, but oh so 90s in style.  The picture-in-picture (some colour, some black and white) look was overdone.  A small batch of interviews from the period are followed by “Tonight”, an excellent understated ballad.  The conceptual side of these videos was getting progressively foggy, but when they’re on the screen in start black and white, the band look cool.  “Heaven Is” was another rarely seen clip, and perhaps it’s better that way.  As always, the band stuff looks great but the conceptual shots are just bizarre.  Ditto “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”.  Dunno what’s up with the naked people or Cliff Burnstein playing baseball with a window.  A true shame, as this semi-ballad is a Def Leppard masterpiece of a song, simply top drawer.  It deserved better.  When the video came out, I was so disappointed. “What have they done?”  We deserved better.

“Two Steps Behind”, “Love Bites” and “Photograph” are live, from a hometown gig in Sheffield.  More of the show would be made available on a 1995 home video release called Video Archive.

Finally, the future:  Joe says there’s a long long way to go, not realizing he just wrote a future Def Leppard hit song title!  Collectively, they were excited to write together.  Rick Savage says it’s “Phase 2”, and Joe Elliott employs another Star Trek analogy about exploring.  There was plenty of creative energy in the band and it’s obvious.  But don’t hit “eject”!  Stay tuned for the post-credit scene!  An important message from Joe.

Visualize was one of those sequels that just came too soon.  Interview material is valuable and desirable, but Historia played more like a visual album.  It was a better entertainment experience.  Visualize is choppier.  It wouldn’t matter so much if all the songs were complete, but the TV performances are just teases of complete tracks.  Unfortunate.

3/5 stars

 

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active

Next:

17. Vault / Limited Edition Live CD

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Historia (1988 VHS)

DEF LEPPARD – Historia (1988 Polygram VHS)

When I was a kid, I wanted to collect “all” the Def Leppard music videos.  Hysteria was pretty much my favourite album for two years.  Their videos were ubiquitous.  Any time MuchMusic had a new one to debut, you could count on it being a hit.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was the anthem of the summer of ’88 and the video was on all the time.  But some Def Leppard videos were played far less frequently.

The 1988 VHS Historia collected all Def Leppard’s music videos up to “Love Bites”, along with some rare television performances that never aired over here.  They were introduced by quaint title cards, and each video was presented in full — no edits.

“Hello America” with Pete Willis was the first one we’d never seen before.  Why was the drum kit out front?  Nobody knew, but this cool song sounded like a lost hit.  The “fake live” trio of “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry”, and “Bringing on the Heartbreak” ended the Willis era of music videos.  These three were seen on TV here, but only rarely.  “Heartbreak” was the original album mix.

The big three Pyromania videos by David Mallet were up next, “Photograph” in its uncensored version.  Then there’s a TV performance (lip syncing of course) of “Too Late For Love”.  This includes a neat set up with Steve Clark and Phil Collen coming down these hydraulic staircases. When spending the money to buy a VHS tape of music videos you can see on TV, it’s nice to get real rarities like this.

“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” is another serious rarity from Japanese TV. With Union Jacks draped behind, Leppard rarely looked this cool. It’s no shirt required for Rick Allen, and a mop-topped Joe Elliot screams behind his hair into the microphone cupped in his hands. Unfortunately, during the guitar solo the director chose to focus everywhere but on Phil for most of it.

After Pyromania blew up all over the world, Leppard reissued Hign ‘N’ Dry with two bonus tracks.  Music videos were made for each:  The remixed versions of “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and “Me and My Wine”.  The DVD release is mucked up and includes the wrong audio instead of the remix of “Heartbreak” but the VHS has everything right.  These two videos are exact opposites.  “Heartbreak” is a high budget extravaganza with the two guitarists playing on massive silos, smoke all around.  Then there’s Joe crucified on a barge for some reason.  The performance stuff is pretty cool at least.  But “Me and My Wine” is a total contrast, just Leppard jamming it up in a cheap flat, wrecking stuff and playing in the showing.

And then finally it’s the Hysteria era, the big big hits with the million dollar videos.  “Women” was cool, with that Def Leppard comic book theme.  “Animal” and “Hysteria” had a lot of mainstream play.  There’s also the original UK version of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, with Leppard playing in a house in the midst of demolition.  The “fake live” US version is also included, with the familiar extended remixed intro that was actually unreleased in audio form at that time.  It is paired with “Armageddon It”, made from the same batch of concert footage.

Finally, in the days before hidden CD tracks were all that common, Leppard hit you with an unlisted bonus video.  It’s “Love Bites”, the brand new video that shortly took over the world for them once more.

Videos weren’t cheap to buy — they were $25 to $30 for something like Historia.  What you wanted was value for your money (stuff you didn’t see on TV) and rewatchability.  Historia was constantly in our VCR, often for a full play-through.  It more than earned its share of my allowance.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Tesla – “Call It What You Want” (single)

TESLA – “Call It What You Want” (1991 Geffen UK single)

Yesterday, I reviewed Tesla’s damn fine third album, Psychotic Supper.  As part of that, I wanted to talk about this single, the album’s second.  It’s an excellent companion to the album proper.

“Call It What You Want” isn’t a bad song.  It has a great chorus even if I find the verses sub-par.  Where Tesla have always excelled is in their rootsy but eloquent musicianship.  Not only are there Lizzy-esque dual guitar harmonies, but there are other things that border on country style.

I also dig the lyric, dated although they may be:

“Heavy metal, hard-core, punk, pop, or thrash,
You can call it anything, it don’t matter to me,
Call it what you want,
It’s all music to me.”

I think Tesla more than most hard rock bands around in 1991 were about breaking down boundaries between genres, and I’m sure this lyric was sincere to them.  I know guitarist Tommy Skeoch had a thrash side project going at the time called Thrash Tandoori.

I hate when bands use a regular album track as a B-side!  Nonetheless, “Freedom Slaves” is one of the best (if not the best) song from Psychotic Supper.  This is the hard rock/heavy metal side of Tesla shining through.  A Leppardy riff accompanies a song that boasts an anthemic chorus and dark verses.

The next two tracks are both previously unreleased, and both are covers.  “Children’s Heritage” is what I’d call an obscure cover!  I’ve never heard this, nor the band that wrote it, Bloodrock a 70’s band from Texas.  It’s a good song, straight ahead riff based hard rock.  It’s also self produced by Tesla, and is a lot looser than the album material.

More familiar is the old blues classic “Cotton Fields”, rocked up and slowed down from its CCR incarnation.  It bares almost no resemblance to the classic Leadbelly version, but it does rock.  Dirty slide guitars and wah-wah solos render this version almost as if Zeppelin were covering it.  That’s the overall vibe anyway, and few hard rock artists were sounding this raw and authentic in 1991!

In a rare  (I assure you) lapse of memory, I’ve forgotten where I got this CD.  I think Trevor got it in used, at his store, and sent it to me.  This would make sense, since one of his customers, Gord Taylor, used to sell him metal CD singles that he bought in Europe.  So that piece fits the puzzle.  Either way, whoever originally bought it paid £4.50 at HMV.

Tesla singles are rare in these parts, but thankfully both of these B-sides are now available on the compilation Tesla Gold.

4/5 stars

OMG MORE TESLA_0003

REVIEW: Tesla – Psychotic Supper (1991)

“We’re just children of the 60’s, watched the 70’s go by.  Now we made it through the 80’s, my my how time does fly!” – Jeff Keith

TESLA – Psychotic Supper (Geffen, 1991)

Psychotic Supper, the 3rd studio album by Tesla, is thus far their most adventurous and experimental. Is is neither as immediate as Mechanical Resonance nor as focused as The Great Radio Controversy, instead focusing on longer song structures and diverse influences.  It is difficult to penetrate, and even once you do finally dig in, there are some songs that simply refuse to stick to the memory. However one must applaud Tesla for sheer musical ability and refusal to do the commercial thing and sell out for the long awaited third album.

Taking their love of Nikola Tesla to the nth degree, they present a history lesson in the smokin’ “Man Out Of Time Edison’s Medicine”. What an incredible song. I still remember seeing the music video and being blown away by the solos. Not only are there guitar solos, but Tommy Skeoch torments the theremin, before Frank Hannon slipps on a bass and plays a bass solo too!

Great rock tunes include: “Change In The Weather”, the groovin’ “Freedom Slaves”, the jokey but smokin’ “Toke About It”, the aforementioned “Edison’s Medicine”, and the thrash-like “Don’t De-Rock Me”. Y’see children, back in the 80’s when Al Gore’s wife Tipper was a founder of a pro-censorship group called the PMRC, there really were places called de-rock centers. You could send your kids to detox them off rock music and turn them onto safe alternatives. No lie. (Is it any wonder that bands like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana came along during this period?)

There are also a series of long, exploratory songs such as the mournful “Song And Emotion”, dedicated to Steve “Steamin'” Clarke of Def Leppard who passed away in January of that year. Skeoch paid tribute to Clarke’s “Gods of War” parts with his E-bow solo, listen for it.  Tommy Skeoch was a devoted Def Leppard fan, and Tesla had also opened for the Leppard because they shared management.

There are ballads too. I don’t think any are particularly standouts in the way “Love Song” was, but “What You Give” was a respectable hit.  I don’t check out Tesla so much for the ballads (even though they are excellent at them) but for the rockers.  Jeff Keith’s raspy but powerful voice can excel at either.  The man is one of the most underrated singers in rock.

If grunge didn’t hit, I could have imagined this album spawning multiple hit singles and videos for at least a year.

4/5 stars

I only own one single from this album, which is “Call It What You Want”.  It has some interesting B-sides, so tomorrow, we’ll take a look at that one!  Hope to see you then.

Part 4: A Word About B-Sides

Hysteria singles collection

RECORD STORE TALES Part 4:  A Word About B-Sides

My definition of a B-side:

A song that is found on the B-side of a vinyl or cassette single, but not on the album; or a song on a CD or digital single other than the main track, not found on the album.

A well known example:  “Hey Hey What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin.  Up until the release of the Led Zeppelin box set in 1990, this great song was only available on the 7″ single for “The Immigrant Song”.

I’d known about B-sides for a while thanks to George, the neighbor next door with the Kiss albums.  He had a couple Iron Maiden 12″ singles such as “Aces High” with unreleased studio tracks on the B-side, usually two per 12″.  I’d also been aware of Maiden tunes like “Women In Uniform” (technically an A-side) that weren’t on any albums that we’d ever seen.

Right from an early age I’d always been a collector.  I had a massive collection of Lego.  Then later on I had a collection of Star Wars figures that put all others in the neighborhood to shame.  Then it was GI Joe and Transformers.  I didn’t do anything small.  When music came along, it inevitably became the next thing in this obsession.  Quiet Riot was the first band I pledged to complete (still incomplete 27 years later).  As I expanded out to more bands, I pledged to complete a lot of collections….

When Def Leppard came out with Hysteria I went wild for that album.  Definitely still to this day my #1 album of 1987; and that was a year that included new records by Kiss, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and a band I hadn’t quite discovered yet at the time called Guns N’ Roses.  Yes folks, I rank Hysteria higher than Appetite.  But listen, I’m not going to get into that debate right this second.  I’ll save it for another day.  I’m just giving you the setting.

I was really passionate about the Hysteria album and early in 1988 I acquired the Animal EP on cassette.  That 4-song EP contained three tracks not on the album:  “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, “Tear It Down”, and an extended mix of the title song.  I really got into “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, hard.  It’s still a great track.  That really set off a fire for me to collect these rare songs.  This was the first really awesome B-side track that I’d found so far.  If it was this good, there must be more coming…

I was in highschool, and on a weekly basis, I trekked into my local Zellers store to peruse the 7″ singles.  Some you could get as cheap as 99 cents.  Any time Def Leppard came out with a new video, I knew there was a new 7″ single to be had.  Up next came “Hysteria” itself, and I rapidly found a copy at Zellers.  On the flip side was a song called “Ride Into The Sun” (a re-recording of an early Def Leppard track) and it blew me away.  It was fast and heavy, there was nothing else like it on Hysteria.

In the summer came “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which appeared at my Zellers soon after the video started running.  The B-side was “Ring of Fire”, not a standout track, so I figured by now, Def Leppard were running out of good unreleased songs.

Me at the time, awesome hair

That fall, “Love Bites” started airing on Much, so I knew there would be another single to be had.  This one proved to be more elusive.  I finally tracked it down, not at my local Zellers, but at a Radio Shack store in Port Elgin, Ontario.  They rarely had any, but they did have this.  This time, the B-side was a live track.  “Billy’s Got A Gun” was definitely my least favourite B-side so far.  It wasn’t my favourite song on Pyromania, and it wasn’t a good live rendition either.

Hysteria continued to spawn singles.  “Armageddon It” was yet another game-changer for me.  Walking into Zellers I could barely believe my eyes:  A picture disc 7″ single!  I’d seen 12″ picture discs before, but I didn’t even know they made them in 7″.  And best of all it was only $1 more than a regular single.  I ran home with my prize, but puzzled over the B-side.  It didn’t appear to be even by Def Leppard.  The song was called “Release Me” and it was performed by Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys.

The notes on the flip side of the disc indicated that never in their travels had Def Leppard come across a talent as great as Stumpus Maximus.  And there was a picture of him.  A bald bearded man balancing a hat on his nose, with a backing band sillouetted behind him.

I cautiously played the single.  The strains of the Engleburt Humperdinck cover poured out of my tinny, shitty equipment.  It wasn’t even good!  This sucked!  Then it got weird.  Stumpus started screaming the lyrics in the most gutteral scream I’ve ever heard.  I’m telling you people he made Mike Patton sound sane.  Stopping, burping, and picking it up again, Stumpus screamed all the way to the end.

I got the joke.  But who was Stumpus?  I noticed right away that the sillouette of Stumpus’ backing band matched a photo of Def Leppard on the previous single.  A reading of the very long and small liner notes on the Hysteria album revealed that Stumpus Maximus was their roadie – real name Malvin Mortimer.

Hysteria was not dead yet.  There was one more single to be had, and once again I picked it up in a 4 song cassette format.  This single was “Rocket” which was presented in both remixed and extended remixed forms.  The other two songs were live versions of “Women” (taken from the Def Leppard home video) and “Rock of Ages”.  These versions were better than “Billy’s Got A Gun”, but I had a pretty clear idea that Def Leppard were not a great live band.

“Rock of Ages” however contained a little surprise.  This extended live take included a medley of rock and roll classics right in the middle of the song!  Def Leppard performed the most memorable moments of “Not Fade Away”, “Radar Love”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “My Generation”, and “Come Together”, changing the melodies and riffs slightly to meld seamlessly into “Rock of Ages”.  I gotta tell you people, it’s a fucking brilliant version.  Hunt it down.  Do what you have to do.  You’re listening to the tune thinking, “I know this part, what the fuck is it?”  And then you realize it’s “Come Together”.  It’s really cool.

That was the last of the singles off Hysteria.  It would be years before my Def Leppard collection would pick up again.  Sadly Steve Clarke died in January of 1991 — the first of my heroes to go.

So I’ll dedicate the blog to Steve, whose band Def Leppard is really responsible for why I have more CDs in my house than dollars in my bank account.