Rocket (Def Leppard song)

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Def Leppard Rocket.jpg
Single by Def Leppard
from the album Hysteria
B-side "Release Me (UK),
Women (live) (US)"
Released January 1989
Format 7" / 12" / CD / CDV
Recorded 1985–86
Genre Glam metal, heavy metal, hard rock
Length 6:34 (album version)
8:41 (Extended Lunar Mix)
7:06 (Lunar Mix/Remix)
4:38 (edit)
4:25 (Lunar Mix – single version)
4:10 (video version)
4:07 (Visualize video edit/Vault version)
Label Mercury
Songwriter(s) Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Steve Clark, Rick Savage, Robert John "Mutt" Lange
Producer(s) Robert John "Mutt" Lange
Def Leppard singles chronology
"Armageddon It"
"Let's Get Rocked"

"Armageddon It"
"Let's Get Rocked"

"Rocket" is a song recorded by English rock band Def Leppard in 1987 from the album Hysteria. It was the sixth (seventh in the US) and final single release, coming out in January 1989 and hitting the Top 15 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart.[1]

The song was considered[by whom?] experimental for hard rock at the time. Most notably, producer Mutt Lange used backmasking effects to feature the line "We're fighting with the gods of war" (from "Gods of War", also on Hysteria) sung backward throughout the track. This sample was omitted from the single version of the song. The words "Love" and "Bites" (from "Love Bites") are also used as a sonic effect midway throughout the song, in order to replicate the sounds of a rocket launch through musical samples.

In its single release, "Rocket" was heavily edited from its original length of 6:34 for radio airplay, but would omit many of the portions that greatly distinguished the track from the rest of the album. At some shows, the album version gets performed, while at others they play the edited version instead.

Guitar World Magazine voted Rocket's guitar solo the 17th worst of all time in a countdown published in December 2004's issue. The magazine commented that "[Rocket has] a solo that any four year-old with a rack-mounted effects unit could play."[2]

UK versions of the single release featured a cover of the Engelbert Humperdinck song "Release Me", credited to "Stumpus Maximus & The Good Ol' Boys", which was actually Malvin Mortimer, the band's future tour manager, backed up by the band members themselves. The sounds starts out as an exaggerated pub-singer version of the opening verses, becoming more and more extreme as the song progresses. In the last verse, Stumpus' histrionics are interrupted by a brief belch, followed by a polite "'scuse me" before going back up to eleven.

Background and composition[edit]

Singer Joe Elliott came up with the idea of "Rocket" after he overheard a friend's cassette of "Burundi Black" by Burundi Steiphenson Black, which had previously had an influence on such UK bands as Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. Elliott then borrowed the tape to make a rhythm loop and overlaid guitar chords over it for a rough draft on the song. When he brought it to Lange and the band, they re-recorded and developed Elliott's idea in a higher key. The song was nearly developed as a near-instrumental with only a short chorus ("Rocket! Yeah"), but after the lyrics "Satellite of Love", which referenced the song of the same name by Lou Reed in 1972, were added to the chorus, the band expanded on the concept of the song and added musical influences of the 1960s and 1970s as lyrics for the verses, including the vocal melody to "I Feel Free" by Cream as part of the guitar solo.

During one break in the production of the song, the band were surprised to find that Lange had added the extended breakdown, complete with the vocal sampling, to the middle of the song. Lange also instructed the band to record monk-like chants, that were also similarly used by Adam and the Ants in their song "Dog Eat Dog", to emphasize a guitar solo during the breakdown.[3] Although the drumbeat samples, played at the beginning of the extended and edited version after audio transcripts from the Apollo 11 Moon landing and again during the first half of each verse and the breakdown, are widely mis-attributed to be taken from the Royal Drummers of Burundi, they are actually a series of drum machines programmed by Lange and drummer Rick Allen to play slightly out-of-sync with one another to provide a tribal drum effect within the song.

Music video[edit]

The music video for this song was directed by Nigel Dick.[4]

The video is the last of the band with Steve Clark in the lineup.[citation needed] It was filmed in the same warehouse in the Netherlands used nearly two years earlier for the "Women" clip in 1987.[citation needed] Clips of the classic rock names, (see below) from the lyrics are flashed during the video, along with footage of the various artists performing live or on BBC TV's Top of the Pops.

The 1971 FA Cup Final, won by Arsenal, also features; particularly goal scorer, club legend and crowd favourite Charlie George. The lyrics and video are centered around the 1970s with various newsreels including Richard Nixon's disgrace, Edward Heath's fall from power to Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Conservatives, the Apollo 13 crisis, and a variety of clips/newsreels of 70's music icons.


For its lyrics, the names of classic rock artists, songs or albums are dropped as a tribute to the music of the band's youth.

In popular culture[edit]

The song has been used as the musical accompaniment in advertisements for Sony high definition televisions with a number of different themes being used for the adverts. In addition the song has been heard at the beginning and end of advert breaks surrounding the coverage of Formula One events on ITV in the UK, since Sony assumed the role as the sports main sponsor on the channel.

It was used by professional wrestler Flyin' Brian Pillman as his theme music, when he came to NWA/WCW in 1989.


Weekly Charts[edit]

Chart (1989–1990) Peak
Australia[5] 15
Irish Singles Chart[6] 5
New Zealand[7] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[8] 15
US Billboard Hot 100[9] 12
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[10] 5

Track listing[edit]

7": Bludgeon Riffola / LEP6 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Edit]"
  2. "Release Me"

7": Mercury / 872 614-7 (US)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Edit]"
  2. "Women [Live]"

12": Bludgeon Riffola / LEPX6 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Lunar Mix]"
  2. "Release Me"
  3. "Rock of Ages [Live]"

12": Bludgeon Riffola / LEPXP6 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Lunar Mix]"
  2. "Rocket [Radio Edit]"
  3. "Release Me"
  • 12" picture disc

CD: Bludgeon Riffola / LEPCD6 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Lunar Mix-edit]"
  2. "Rock of Ages [Live]"
  3. "Release Me"

CD: Vertigo / 872 614-2 (Can)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Extended Lunar Mix]"
  2. "Women [Live]"
  3. "Rock of Ages [Live]"
  4. "Rocket [Lunar Mix]"
  • only 5000 copies pressed

CDV: Bludgeon Riffola / 080 990-2 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Rocket [Lunar Mix-edit]" [Video]
  2. "Rocket [Edit]" [Audio]
  3. "Release Me" [Audio]
  4. "Rock of Ages [Live]" [Audio]


  1. ^ Neil Warwick, Jon Kutner, Tony Brown (2004) The complete book of the British charts: singles & albums Omnibus Press, 2004
  2. ^ Bienstock, Richard; Bosso, Joe; Epstein, Dan; Gill, Chris; Paul, Alan; Wiederhorn, Jon. "100 Worst Guitar Solos". Guitar World. New Bay Media. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Rocket "Song Stories", Rolling Stone
  4. ^ Nigel Dick Videography – Music Video Database – The Base Of Music Videos Archived 20 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Australian Charts". eMedia Jungen. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "The Irish Charts". IRMA. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  7. ^ "New Zealand Charts". eMedia Jungen. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Def Leppard Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  10. ^ "Def Leppard Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.

External links[edit]