1988 Countdown: Def Leppard, “Armageddon It”

Kevin Seal explains that the top-100 countdown will, in fact, have more than 100 songs in it. He doesn’t actually say they’re including the videos so they can pad out the countdown’s running time, but that’s the gist of it: “There are quite a few top-notch videos that you won’t see on this little countdown because they made it in just a little too late for the slow person who makes up our list to put them on, but they could easily be in the top 100 of 1989–like, for example, ‘Armageddon It’ from Def Leppard.”


I should say up front that I am still a big fan of Def Leppard’s music, and that I hugely admire the band for the way they retained drummer Rick Allen as a member, even after he lost his left arm (in a car crash on New Year’s Eve, 1984). I would hazard that 99% of the world’s rock bands would cut their one-armed drummer loose before people were singing “Auld Lang Syne,” some with a more generous check than others. (I was going to call it a “severance package” before good taste intervened. And then I remembered that things are about to get considerably more tasteless.)

When I watched Def Leppard videos with friends in 1988, the thing we were most interested in was something that wasn’t there: Rick Allen’s left arm. Initially this was gruesome rubbernecking combined with genuine curiosity as to how Allen would play the drums single-handedly. (The answer: he had lots of foot pedals and automatic sequences that he could trigger.) But then we became fascinated by how delicately the directors of the videos handled the subject, doling out views of Allen’s dangling sleeve in careful amounts, presumably because they were worried about squicking out the audience (I don’t think they were trying to increase the titillation factor for amputee fetishists, although anything’s possible). Cries of “stump shot!” were periodically heard.


The only other time I can remember a series of videos handling a member of the group as being taboo was two years later, with harmony trio Wilson Phillips. You may recall that two members of the trio–Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips–were slender young women. One–Carnie Wilson–was hefty. And so the Wilson Phillips videos went to unusual lengths to minimize Carnie’s presence, putting her out of focus at the back of the frame, or panning over the members of the group and cutting away just as they reached her. Yes, an overweight young woman was considered to be as horrifying a sight for MTV’s audience as a disfiguring amputation.

“Armageddon It” was towards the end of the skein of hit singles from Hysteria (many of which we’ll be seeing later in this countdown, I suspect). The chronological order was “Animal,” “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” and “Rocket.” At the beginning, in “Animal,” any stump shots were fleeting–but by this time, over a year later, everyone seems to have relaxed more. By my count, Allen appears seventeen times this video (not counting extreme wide angles where he’s just a dot at the back of the stage), and we see his dangling left sleeve in eight of those shots.

Amputee fetishism and memories of Moulty aside, this video isn’t very interesting. It’s framed by some backstage footage, including singer Joe Elliott in big fuzzy slippers, but basically recycles live footage from the same show that was edited down for the “Pour Some Sugar on Me” clip. Inevitably, it seemed less thrilling the second time around: the band is performing in the round once again, there are lots more reaction shots from beautiful female fans in the crowd, guitarist Phil Collen hasn’t found his shirt yet, and Elliott is still wearing heavily torn jeans and a Def Leppard t-shirt, presumably so we don’t get confused as to what band we’re looking at.


(R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills brought up this topic unprompted when I interviewed him last week: “I hate that shit, when bands wear their own shirts onstage. Yeah, I know who you are. Why are you wearing your own shirt? It just reeks of ego to me.”)

And while there are many reasons to love Hysteria— the glammed-up disco-metal rhythms, the yearning pop melodies, the extreme studio polish from Mutt Lange that rivals Spector’s Wall of Sound –this song isn’t one of them. The tempo is plodding, the lyrics are an extended complaint about a girl who won’t put out, and although few people like a dumb pun more than me, the one found in the title here has always made me cringe.

“Armageddon It” peaked at #3 in 1989. You can watch it here.

posted 5 June 2008 in 1988 and tagged , . 4 comments

4 Comments on 1988 Countdown: Def Leppard, “Armageddon It”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Great point about the Wilson Phillips editing. Of course, the real horror for me viz. WP was their very existence/popularity (I seriously thought “Hold On” was Contemporary Christian pop, and not a very good example of it, the first time I heard it), but that’s another discussion entirely.

    The chronological order was “Animal,” “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” and “Rocket.”

    Minor detail: the first single/video back in summer ’87 was actually the all-but-forgotten “Women.” (If you have only ‘The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,’ you won’t see it because it peaked at No. 80 on the Hot 100.) I suspect “Women” was Polygram’s attempt to shore up the band’s male-rock base after the half-decade hiatus, before releasing the poppier stuff. But it arguably nearly botched the whole comeback — peaked at a decent, but fairly anemic No. 7 on the AOR chart; four subsequent ‘Hysteria’ singles would chart better there.

    Confession: I kind of love “Armageddon It,” terrible/punny title and all. True, on the verses, it’s medium-level Leppard at best, but the build to the chorus, the “Gimme all of your lovin’/Gimme all that ya got” part, is a chewy hook — a more-than-solid example of the kind of anthem-pop they did so well.

  2. gavin Says:

    Thanks for the correction.

    What are you using for your source for top-100 info? Do you have those big hardcover Billboard Decades books, or something else?

    Writing up this entry, I realized that although I’ve heard “Armageddon It” dozens/hundreds of times, I had no idea what the lyrics in the verses were (until this morning, when I looked them up). Joe E gets a serious case of vowel mushmouth on the verses (which may be part of why the chorus is so much more memorable).

    I suspect the crazy level of Wilson Phillips’ popularity was fueled (at least in part) by unusually heavy payola from SBK. They created two “hit acts” (the other was Vanilla Ice) and then sold the company before they had to release followups.

  3. Chris M. Says:

    What are you using for your source for top-100 info? Do you have those big hardcover Billboard Decades books, or something else?

    Honestly, it’s a mix. I don’t have any of the decade books, but I should (they’re pricey, but now that I write a damn column on this subject I should probably plunk down).

    The single most useful Record Research/Joel Whitburn volume any chart fan can own is the roughly $75 hardcover The [Top] Billboard Albums (its title has been tweaked over the years). It’s a steal because you’re basically getting deep album data combined with a lot of Hot 100 data — not only is every song on every charted album listed, but those that made the singles charts are bolded with their peak position shown. Look up Def Leppard, and you’ll find “Women” listed in the fine print with “80” next to it.

    But when I wrote the above column yesterday I was at work, sans Whitburn book. I looked that “Women” peak up on Wikipedia — for little data items like this, it’s generally reliable

    Honestly the greatest weapon in my arsenal is my own memory; there are benefits to having read Billboard, the magazine, since age 14. I didn’t remember that “Women” peaked at No. 80, mind you (I’m not Rain Man), but I did remember its release as the first single and subsequent chart flop. (Summer ’87 I worked on my school’s paint crew and spent a ton of time listening to the local Connecticut AOR station; I remember thinking “Women” was a dull single when the station played it as “the return of Def Leppard.”)

  4. Tom Nawrocki Says:

    If you pick yourself up a copy of Rolling Stone from April 30, 1992, you’ll find therein a picture of a shirtless Rick Allen (with his eyes closed). It’s a must for all you stump fetishists: You can even see a little armpit hair.

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