The second track on Hysteria, “Rocket,” was eventually released as a single in 1989 and hit #12 in the US and #15 in the UK. According to a quote ascribed to a “band message” on the Canadian EP release, the song and video are about or concern their childhood.

“Rocket” is a melange of aeronautic imagery, rock history and the usual sexual subtext. It fits well in the sub-cannon of self-referential rock songs about, well, rockin’. See any number of great rock songs, but as examples “Rock and Roll Music” (Chuck Berry), “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll” (Rolling Stones), “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” (AC/DC), or “Rock of Ages” (Def Leppard). As an oedipal genre born and raised in rebellion to the parental generation, Rock has a chip on its shoulder about its place in the world, loudly proclaiming that it will never die, and always offers suggestions on how to rock, when to rock, and why to rock. “Rocket” adds to this collection by comparing a good rockin’ time to space rockets (the ultimate phallic image) and serves notice that we are still on familiar ground even as we lift off.

Yet like “Women,” “Rocket” manages to go a lot deeper than one might initially expect. The lyric is impressionistic, combining a list of popular rock acts and songs ranging from The Beatles to T.Rex to (a lot of) David Bowie with references in the video to the US space program and artificial satellites. The song is a pointillistic nexus of music, rocket science engineering, and fist-pumping stadium bliss. One good question with which we can approach the lyric is to ask which “Rocket” is in reference? There are a multiplicity of answers. The music itself rockets us into another space. We see the Saturn V rockets lifting astronauts into space in the video. The music of the 1970s was a launch pad for Def Leppard in the 1980s. In the thought world of this song, Def Leppard themselves are the rocket. As is often the case with rock songs, if we hear the “I” in the singular there are obvious overtones to romantic love. If instead we choose to hear the “I” as plural (the band) brings another field of meaning into view: Read the rest of this entry »