This section looks at the 'Rocket' UK single release. A sixth hit single for the band in the UK following on from the 1988 singles 'Armageddon It' and 'Love Bites'.
""I feel that Rocket is the absolute pinnacle of Def Leppard."
Def Leppard released their classic Rocket single on this day in 1989 in the UK.
The sixth and final single to be released from the Hysteria album in the UK.
It was released on 30th January 1989 reaching Number 15 on the singles chart.
A song which referenced many of the band's early musical influences from the early 1970s Glam period including Elton John and David Bowie.
The follow up to 'Love Bites' which had reached Number 11 in July.
The single released on regular 7", 12", CD and cassette featuring a new B-Side called 'Release Me' and a live version of 'Rock of Ages' from Tilburg, Holland.
This song was jokingly recorded during the 'Hysteria' B-Side sessions in February 1987 with Steve Clark's roadie Malvin Mortimer on guest lead vocals.
The song was billed as being by Stumpus Maximus And The Good Ol' Boys. Malvin being Stumpus and Def Leppard as the backing musicians.
The CD, 12" Picture Disc and 7" 'Brit Pack' box versions included three different versions of 'Rocket'.
The main single edit, extended mix and radio edit. The main edit and extended versions were billed as 'The Lunar Mix'.
The two other versions of 'Rocket' were the regular album version and a shorter extended mix of 7 minutes that was released with the 'Love Bites' CD single.
This sixth UK single featured custom artwork using the back cover of the 'Hysteria' album. 'Love Bites' had been intended as the final UK single and was the last of the album cover segment singles, meaning only five UK singles could be used to make up the full cover art.
Shown below are some quotes from the band about this song.
Canadian Rocket EP - Band Message
"January 1989 - In your hands is Def Leppard single #7 from 'Hysteria'. You gotta hand it to the Brits for this one 'cause they thought it would be a great follow up to their last single, which was either "Sugar" or "Love Bites" (I've lost track). They wanted a video for the track and since we had such a good time making the "Rocket" video (our childhood, what can we say!), why not give everybody a chance to play and watch "Rocket".
Right now we're back making the 5th album, thrilled to bits with everything that's gone on and looking forward to putting out our live concert video; In The Round-In Your face (something like that). One track on this piece of vinyl/plastic/whatever comes from that live video. I believe it was song number 3 in the show: "Women".
"Thank you and goodnight."
Phil Collen - Vault Inner Sleeve Quote
"Probably our most adventurous song from 'Hysteria'. A cool video and my favourite live song."
Rick Savage - Interview Quote
"The whole point of the lyric in Rocket is a tip of the hat to all the 70's band's whether it be Gary Glitter, Sweet, David Bowie, Queen It was like the feeling that we had when we were 14 and 15 and it was like just being encapsulated in this piece of energy that was all those groups you know."
Phil Collen - 27th July 2011 Interview Quote
"My favorite song to play is "Rocket." I think that kind of represents Def Leppard in one sentence, you know? Big guitars, big drums, a tribal song, actually. It's what the song is about, our heroes and the whole thing."
Phil Collen - 5th July 2012 Interview Quotes
"Even in demo form, Joe said, 'I've got an idea to use the rhythm from this African Burundi tribe.' There was a song in the '70s called Burundi Black, and I remembered it, and so the idea was to use that feel and turn it into a real rock anthem. It was a little weird and quirky, but it really came together.
"I feel that Rocket is the absolute pinnacle of Def Leppard. It sums us up in a nutshell: massive drums, massive guitars, big choruses, and lyrically, it's what the Yeah! album was. So you've got all of our influences and elements right there.
"I used the Strat on all the jangle parts and the rhythms. We had a lot of fun making that Star Wars bit in the middle - you know, 'Countdown commencing' and all that. It was an absolute blast. It's Star Wars for the ears. And again, what was great was to not be restricted by your genre. We knew what we were doing was different and it sounded great.
"We had started taking weekends off, and I remember Nigel Green, the engineer, sitting in the studio with an AMS delay machine, and he was delaying all the stuff by hand. 'Ahh-ahh-ahhh…' Now you can do that so easily, but he had to do it the hard way - physically."
2004 Best Of Liner Notes - Joe Elliott Quote
"It’s sometimes compared to Adam & The Ant’s or the Glitter Band because they both made an effort to feature the drums. In fact. The idea came from an African band called Burundi Black. I first heard them while having a meal on a barge in Holland. I borrowed the tape. Took it to the guys and they loved it. The band took the ball. Ran with it and made it sound fantastic. Even making the mid-section sound like an updated version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Lyrically. We namechecked everything from our youth: There were references to artists diverse as Lou Reed to Elton John. A real team effort."
2004 Best Of Liner Notes - Phil Collen Quote
"Probably our most adventurous song. It’s also my favourite of ours to play live."
2018 Rolling Stone - Joe Elliott Quotes
"I'd been hanging out with somebody in Holland who had been playing me "Burundi Black," which has this immensely hypnotic African drum pattern. It really got under my skin and sucked me in. It reminded me of when I was 12 and I went to this children's disco and "Rock and Roll Part 2" came on. The "Burundi Black" thing was just a much more rustic, urban, natural version of that. So I borrowed it off that friend and made a loop of the actual drum pattern. I started putting chords on top of it, and that turned into what is now the chorus of this song. Then we all bashed it into shape as a piece of music."
"When it came to the lyrics, we started singing "rocket" because it was a simplistic phrase that fit the sort of space-age sound that had developed over this African drum loop. But I felt like Bowie had done the space thing to death. So I remember thinking, "Why don't we just use the rocket thing as a metaphor, and make the song a vehicle to talk about our childhoods?"
"Like, the Easybeats took the easy way out with "Friday on My Mind" — they turned it into a genius thing by just naming the days of the week. I said, "Why don't we do a similar thing to that? Let's just name-check as many artists that influenced us as we possibly can." And obviously there's artistic license with a few people who weren't part of our musical DNA but are there for rhyming reasons, like Jet Black [drummer for the Stranglers] and whoever. But things like "Bennie and the Jets" and "Killer Queen," all that kind of stuff, it just fit the whole vibe of what we were doing."
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