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Def Leppard

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The Pyromania album was produced by Mutt Lange, who came up with the line, "All I've got is a photograph." This gave them the idea to write a song about a guy who's crazy about a girl, but all he has of her is a photograph. Lange was so integral to the band's work that he got songwriter credit on the songs he produced. Def Leppard's next album, Hysteria, was also produced by Lange, and it wasn't released until 1987 because they waited until Lange could do it (that and their drummer lost an arm).
Ringo Starr had a #1 hit in 1973 with a song called "Photograph" that contained similar subject matter. The band was worried they were too similar, but Lange thought no one would notice.
In the video, there are photos of Marilyn Monroe, which made a lot of people believe the song was about her. The video got a lot of play on MTV, which was relatively new at the time and didn't have a lot of videos to run.
This was Def Leppard's first hit. The band formed in 1977 and released 2 major-label albums before this. Pyromania benefited from improved songwriting and slick production from Lange. It sold over 7 million copies.
For commentary of the shooting of this epic video, we turn to lead singer Joe Elliot's memoirs as captured in the book MTV Ruled the World - The Early Years of Music Video: "We'd turned up at this soundstage someplace in Battersea, in London, and there was David Mallet. Now, I didn't know who David Mallet was really, but I knew he had worked with Queen. That was good enough for me. We walked into this pre-built stage. We had nothing to do with it. We can take absolutely no credit for it. But Mallet had put this thing together - mesh flooring with lights coming up through it and these cages with all these girls in it with torn stockings and ripped tops and stuff. Hilarious now, but back in the time, it was like 'Wow, this is cool!'"

As for the scene near the end with the heel going through Joe Elliot's Polaroid, Elliot adds: "I remember where there's this one bit where the 'Marilyn character' stabs her heel through a Polaroid of me screaming. The first thing I had to do when I walked in at 8:00 in the morning - before I even had a chance to have a cup of coffee - David comes in, and he calls everybody 'dear boy' or 'darling.' 'Dear boy, I need you to scream into my Polaroid.' So I did this kind of scream thing, and he goes 'OK, done.' You got pulled along. You got directed, because we didn't know what we were doing. He just said, 'Be yourselves. Leave it all to me.'"
In 2011, Santana recorded a new version of this song with Chris Daughtry.
Shortly after recording his hit "She Blinded Me With Science," Thomas Dolby worked on the Pyromania album with Mutt Lange, who gave Dolby an unusual credit. Said Dolby: "By that time my name was known as a solo artist and I felt it might be a bit confusing to people to see my name on a rock record like that. And so it was actually Mutt that picked up a new moniker for me, which was Booker T. Boffin." (See our full interview with Thomas Dolby.)
Def Leppard
Def Leppard Artistfacts
More Def Leppard songs
More songs in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV
More songs featuring a cowbell
More songs produced by Mutt Lange
More songs about photographs

Comments (29):

This song reminds me that we may have a rough past, but somehow we all turn out to be good adults in the end.
- Anjali, Duluth, GA
@jedd, Savannah, GA
Same here, but Santa Cruz and her name was Dottie. Awesome time in my life.
- David, Petaluma, CA
This song reminds me of being 20 years old,tons of sex,living in Los Angeles and of a girl named Janis L.,such awesome times
- jedd, Savannah, GA
10th grade. Wow, I'm old. But where is "Bringing on the Heartbreak"???? Surely that was their first hit! I remember being stunned by the video for that one! Remember when the "M" in MTV actually meant something?
- Claude, Kingston, MA
to Michelle in MN - Def Leppard's "Photograph" and Nickelback's "Photograph" are two separate songs, not two versions of the same song.
- Stu, Philly, PA
A good song.Whenever I hear it I immediately think of My First True Love Teresa S.
Roy B.
- Roy, Dalton, GA, GA
So when are the rest of Def Lepp's song going to make this site?
- Linc, Beaumont, TX
excellent song not that big fan of def leppard but this song is awesome one of my favorites
- nick, covina, CA
I heard this song on a classic rock radio station and immediately wanted it. This is an awesome song! My dad loves Def Leppard and so do I! Like father like daughter! LOL =-)
- Myra, Chicago, IL
Joe Elliott said this song was about Marilyn Monroe when I saw them in Chapel Hill, NC in 1993. This song is almost 25 years old and is still on the radio.
- Mel, Mattoon, IL
Back when I first heard this song on Headbanger's Ball (the older HB), this song was stuck in my head for at least two days; ALL of Def Leppard's songs are very catchy, which is basically what makes them so great. Still, great song, but my all-time favorite is High 'N' Dry. =)
- Evan, Otway, OH
I love this song. It is meaningful and has a great sound. I love Joe Elliot's voice there.
- Joni, New York, NY
Uh, steve, the solo Pete Willis was trying to nail was for a song called stagefright, not photograph. Ronnie, Bringin' on the heartbreak was NOT off of On Through The Night it was off of their sophmore follow up High N Dry. Yes this song is about Marylin Monroe, Joe Elliot (vocalist) is a huge fan of hers. I ought to know these things I practically worship these guys. Rick Allen is like a God to me because of his influence on me as a drummer. Undoubtedly the greatest rock band in the world, Photograph is just ONE of the MANY MANY songs in their back catalogue that proves it.
- Greg, Fairmount, IN
i have always been a big def leppard fan but the song photograph is better than nickle backs version cause this one is the origional version
- michelle, minesota, MN
This was my favorite song when I was four years old, and I still love it now. Just great memories and really good lyrics.
- Sean, Phoenix, AZ
Mutt Lange was a genius at getting hits. He later built up Bryan Adams and his wife's, Shania Twain, career. I wish he would have just stuck with Def Leppard : )
- Duane, Wheatfield, IN
Classic song! Definitely included on the soundtrack of my life!
- Michael, San Diego, CA
"Bringin' On The Heartbreak" was actually on their second album, High n Dry.
- Rachel, waynesville , OH
This wasn't Def Leppard's first hit. The song "Bringing on the Heartbreak" got them big in the USA.
- Anonnymous, Nashville, TX
Anyone remember the cover of the album "Pyromania". Remind anyone of anything? Think 9-11. Creeped me out when I realized this.
- Sean, Brockton, MA
I'm no fan of Def Leppard, but this a classic hit, an all-time great. The best pop metal song ever. Great harmonies.
- Pete, NY, NY
this song was covered by a bluegrass trio in 2004, the video was shown a few times on C.M.T.
- kevin, Sandy, UT
A leftover from High'n'Dry, a really Thin Lizzy-ish thing. Mutt suggested we give it another try-a great example of never throwing away an idea because it broke us in the States. We were trying to think of a subject. We knew it was about a photograph, but because I had a big poster of Marilyn Monroe covering a hole in the wall of the toilet of my Isleworth apartment-and because she was dead- it ended up being about the ultimate example of something you can't possibly have."-Joe Elliot in the Rock of Ages: Definitive Collection pamphlet on the song.
- Kyle, Anna, OH
I don't know if this song really is about Marilyn Monroe, but at the Pyromania concert in Casper Wyoming in 1983. Joe Elliot said it was, and they had a laser show that display her face.
- Jeff Penman, Rawlins, WY
Probably the song that really makes Def Leppard the band they our along with "Rock of Ages". These two songs are timeless and will never get old. I realize "Bringin' on a Heartbreak" came first and I like it as well, but Pyromania just rocked. I'd love to go back to those more care free rockin' days of my youth.
- Dee, Indianapolis, IN
I had heard that Pete Willis was let go because he was too drunk (ironic). And "Bringing On The Heartbreak" was on the album after On Through The Night, called "High And Dry."
- Todd, Denver, CO
As far as the comment above, this actually was not Def Leppards first hit. Their first hit was "Bringing on the Heartbreak" from their On Through the Night album. That song actually got a decent amount of radio airplay before this album was released and was actually the song that put Def Leppard on the map.
- Ronnie, Ft. Meyers, FL
Excellent song!!! And band! I read somewhere directly from Def Leppard that the song WAS IN FACT ABOUT MARILYN MONROE
- EROC, Anniston, AL
The original band guitarist was fired after trying to work the right solo for the song. He spent weeks working on it, and it sounded horrible. His replacement had the solo down in a half an hour.
- Steve, Chino Hills, CA
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