New releases in New Zealand, 9 April 1989

Def Leppard – Rocket

To test the hardness of a specimen take it and try to scratch it with the first rock in your hardness kit.

Identifying Rocks and Minerals


In 1988 he had thought that Pour Some Sugar On Me was one of the great rock songs.

He would sit in the bedroom of his mate’s place playing D&D with ZM/FM on in the background on a tiny transistor radio pausing in epic combats against Gelatinous Cubes and Rust Monsters to sing: “Do you take sugar? One lump or two?”  He thought the lyrics were clever.  He understood that there was something sexual about them but he never really understood what the song was saying.  Reading it now the only way the words make sense is if the singer is covered in his own cum or the cum of his male lover.


When his friend was trying to get him into metal he lent him Pyromania, High ‘N’ Dry and On Through the Night.  He has always remembered the album cover of On Through the Night because it had a truck in space with a guitar on its flatbed trailer.  In 1987 this seemed cool but much like the lyrics of Pour Some Sugar On Me it doesn’t really make much sense.  He wonders now if that might be a thing with Def Leppard; that if you have a decent riff and can wail it right then you can say anything (“…ohhhhh, snake breasted devil birds…..”) and no one will notice.  Trucks are cool.  Space is cool.  Guitars are really fucking cool.  Truck in space with guitar = YOU. JUST. BLEW. MY. MIND.

He imagined, when he had a guitar and could barely play the riff  from Smoke On the Water, that it wouldn’t be long before he was leaping across the stage in tight pants peeling of solos like they do in It Could Be You as effortlessly as every dude in tight pants with a guitar and long hair seemed to be able to in the 80s.  That weird mix of highly coiffed men in beautiful costumes performing finger-tapping wizardry on their guitars seemed to him to have the same strange status afforded the Castrati in 16th century Europe.  How he desired to be like them.

Not castrated.  A guitar genius.


By the time Hysteria was released it seemed to him that Def Leppard weren’t really metal anymore.  This was important to know.  Hardness was important.  Which rock music you listened to and whether it was hard enough was as important among the bogan communities of New Zealand in the 80s as properly sorting rocks on the Mohs scale was to a geology student.  If you scratched Def Leppard against Iron Maiden which would be harder?  That was an easy one.  He knew Iron Maiden was harder than Def Leppard.  But what about AC/DC and Motorhead?  Was ZZ Top really hard or was he being distracted by the beards?

It was all relative of course and the ratings could all be changed any day by someone unexpectedly saying “have you heard Carcass?”, or “check out Festering Sphincter” who would both turn out to be so hard you couldn’t cut them with diamonds and everything else on the list would have to be re calibrated.  Suddenly a band hanging on to gypsum level hardness like Skid Row would be reduced to talc level and could never be listened to again in front of his metal mates.  18 and Life.


The album he listened to most by Def Leppard was Pyromania.  It sounded cool.  Especially a song like Photograph.  He played Photograph a lot for a time.  The vocals sounded a bit sad.  Stagefright was good.  An exciting start with a fake audience erupting in cheering.  He never noticed the bit about anal sex and blow jobs.  Photograph was also a bit lame, lyrically: “Put your hurt on me, if you dare.”  He often wondered about these bands and their lyrics and women.  He noticed that the women in the songs were hardly ever specific women – just hot women who seemed to be hanging about.  Women were also dangerous he noticed.  There was the chance of being tricked or trapped or possibly electrocuted in some kind of DIY misadventure with a grinder:

Shock me, make it electric
Shock me, oh bump and grind

Sometimes women seemed like they didn’t want “it” but they really did.

You’re the kind of woman gotta heart of stone
But watch it break when I get you alone

This didn’t seem accurate in his limited experience.  When he said: “Can I have some more chocolate chip biscuits” and his mum said, “no you bloody can’t” he was pretty sure she meant that he couldn’t, and when she came into his room later and said “who ate all the biscuits after I specifically told you that you couldn’t?” it was clear that his first instinct had been right.



Before he saw Spinal Tap he saw Bad News and More Bad News.  These two films reflected his own experiences more than Spinal Tap because all the characters in the band Bad News lived with their mums and were shit musicians.  When he was in a band at school for a talent quest they rehearsed in the guitarist’s garage and the guitarist’s mum brought them Raro.  He also knew that if he were anyone in Bad News he’d be Colin: the poseur who was actually a bit posh and went to university but pretended to be hard.

That was one of the things he loved most about metal: how it teetered on the verge of satire continually.  When it worked it was hugely exhilarating, when it didn’t it was just three twats standing on a fake knoll of skulls with tomato sauce running down their chests and into their leather underpants.

Afterword: New releases in New Zealand, 9 April 1989

  • Def Leppard – Rocket
  • Mike + The Mechanics – The Living Years
  • Enya – Evening Falls…
  • Bangles – Eternal Flame
  • Bomb the Bass feat. Maureen – Say a Little Prayer
  • Womack and Womack – Celebrate the World
  • Joan Jett and The Blackhearts – Little Liar
  • Ann Wilson and Robin Zander – Surrender To Me
  • Was (Not Was) – Walk the Dinosaur
  • S’Express – Hey Music Lover
  • Toots and the Maytals – Knock On Wood
  • Bonnie M – Rivers of Babylon

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō