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Do you take sugar?

In the beginning...

I can't remember exactly when I first heard Def Leppard, although it had to have been via MTV during the Hysteria era. I only remember being singularly obsessed. I started playing guitar right around then, and if there was any single group that made me believe wholeheartedly that this was absolutely the right thing to do, it was Def Leppard.

Initially I idolized Phil; I thought it was great that you could rock out with short hair. As my hair slowly grew out, I switched to Steve; buying a Les Paul a few years later had every bit as much to do with Steve as it did Slash and Jimmy Page. I painstakingly tore my jeans as correctly as possible, slung my Japanese Strat low enough to get a great jump on carpal tunnel syndrome, and went to work.

The first TAB book I ever got was for Def Leppard's Hysteria album; I practically owned this before owning a guitar and an amp. In hindsight, the thing was probably loaded with inaccuracies but I studied it day and night as if it were gospel. The next step was to attempt to play along with the record...

I had this record player/radio/tape deck thing that I'd been using to listen to soundtrack albums (Top Gun, Footloose, Ghostbusters, etc) and American Top 40; I put my Hysteria LP on and started to play along. It was off right away - I wasn't in tune with the record player. I had to tune my guitar about a quarter step flat to match the record player; at the time I figured the band must've tuned slightly flat, but in my advanced age I've come to realize the record player wasn't exactly top shelf.

I hear everything on that record every time I play; it's probably what initially led me to play simple melodic ideas in solos, rather than try to burn through the whole thing while cramming every trick in the book into the minute and a half. After studying rock music for the next 20 years, of course I now know that what I'm hearing on that record is a young group's interpretation of its influences (all of which I adore, obvy), but there's nothing as magical as the first time you hear this stuff. It's a first love, I suppose - nothing ever quite like it.

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