Traveling alone only begins to wear on me when The Thing happens. It is always brought upon by not having spoken to people in days, often in areas where I just simply can’t grasp the language (particularly countries where syllables like “yeoowowowowoweee” contribute greatly to an adverb). The Thing is simply this: One song gets in my head, loops and repeats for days.
You’re thinking, “That’s happened to me!” I’m thinking you’re very fucking wrong. You’re probably imagining “Beautiful” by James Blunt invading your mind for a few hours while cleaning, or whistling “Lady Marmalade” in the shower, eventually uttering “Geez, I wish that would stop.” The frequency with which you replay this song is 1/100th of how often I will hear it and 1/1,000,000th of the duration it will stay stuck in the front of my mind. It is not always just the ‘hook’ of a song that hangs upon me, either. It can be one line from a verse, a drum fill or even a throwaway grunt. There are moments, around day five, when I feel that there no cure possible, much like when any human enters hour two of the hiccups. Except there is BOO- ing it out of me.
Currently, The Thing is in high gear. The song in question is “Armageddon It”, the fifth single from Def Leppard’s multi platinum album Hysteria. The album purged seven singles and sold twenty million copies over the years 1987-1988. Two of the album’s tunes (“Armageddon It” and “Rocket”) were gigantic pieces of poo, only becoming hits based on the sheer momentum of the Leppard juggernaut and the audacity of singer Joe Eliott’s power-mullet. There is no reason why this song should have been filed into my memory banks – it is only mildly significant given the amount of trash that I have since consumed. Yet my brain has chosen to remember every lyric. This is the same brain that cannot hold onto the Spanish translation of “I think I am dying. I need a doctor.”
The song revolves around one main hook, in the form of a poignant question: “Are You Getting It?” Many, many times that question is answered, “Yes, Armageddon It”. Upon first listen, you could have no idea how doomsday figured into this whole catastrophe of a hit, because this reply is sounded out phonetically like “I’m-a-getting-it”. Then, around listen #2 one realizes that one is privy to some kind of sinister wordplay, a dialect that the band assuredly deemed “fucking brilliant” during the writing process.
“Armageddon It” is insipid, vulgar and trite. For this reason, I also believe it to be a shining example of America’s tone in 1987. It would never have occurred to a majority of the record-buying public that lyrics like these (“Pull it. Pull it. Trigger the gun.”) were any less important than books being delivered by Updike. This was the year during which the decade went off the rails, just before the populace entered rehab or began Pilates class (yoga’s older aunt). The country was deeply imbued in a collective conscious where anything went, where anything could be bought and where any problem could be dimmed by nineteen rails of blow.
Injecting Def Leppard into this particular decade was masterful work on the part of Whoever Is Up There. The band sensed no irony in their fame and their career is chock full of debaucherous stories. This bravado would have fallen flat in any year after 1992 but Def Leppard hit the sweet spot, dropping affable hits on a public that also accepted bands w ith names like Ratt, Cinderella and Poison. They’ve sold a jaw-dropping 65 million albums. To put that into perspective, the top three albums of 2008 sold a com bined seven million copies. These ka-ching sales were bolstered by lines like “You know you got it. So don’t rock it. You know you got it.” It really makes you wonder about the human race, and where it was headed before thermal replaced spandex.
When The Thing is in full gear, I will sometimes role play that I am the singer. Especially in this song, when Elliot suggests that the guitarist tear into an unusually horrific solo. I mouth along “C’mon Steve, get it”, just before he mauls the fretboard with ill-advised wizardry. Unfortunately, Steve is no longer Armageddon It because he died in 1991, after downing painkillers and allegedly consuming a triple vodka, a quadruple vodka and a double brandy within thirty minutes. He will serve as an example of those who never came back from the dark side of the 80’s, adjusting poorly to a life that didn’t involve excess.
It is very easy to point out the absurdity of “Armageddon It” now but in the interest of full disclosure, I owned the single on both twelve inch and cassingle (an equally absurd format, with fidelity that sounded like the vocals were being played through the other side of a mattress). By the time Hysteria was released, I had seen Def Leppard eight times over the course of two albums. I had served detention for carving their logo into my school desk, spooged myself when I learned the first chords to “Photograph” and did not have hair dissimilar to bassist Rick Savage (note: his real last name). It is not that I am judging anyone for writing this song, nor for pumping fists along with its melodies. It’s more that we were all that stupid for feeling emotion when we sang along.
“Armageddon It” became a Top 20 hit in the UK and reached #3 on the USA pop charts in 1988. Right now it is #1 with a bullet in my head, stuck in The Thing for at least a while longer. I’m just praying that Billy Squier isn’t waiting around the corner.