The six-and-a-half-minute track was inspired by Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” and propelled by a trumped-up sample of the massive tribal drumming from Burundi Steiphenson Black’s 1971 number “Burundi Black.” But the track is best remembered for the references to their heroes, and the gallery below details them all.
Joe Elliott sings almost in staccato at times while nodding to the Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John and more, pointing to icons who laid down the foundation for Def Leppard – for the most part. He admitted years later that there was some artistic license taken to make the lyrics rhyme, leading to some confusion about who – or to what – each line is referencing. For instance, there’s a large contingent who think the line “Jet Black” is a combination tipping of the hat to the Paul McCartney and Wings song “Jet” as well as the Ram Jam hit “Black Betty.” Some have even opined that it may be an allusion to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, but all of the above guesses are incorrect.
See the Video for Def Leppard’s “Rocket”
The video for “Rocket,” the final one shot with guitarist Steve Clark before his untimely death in 1991, takes that dive even deeper — showcasing much of the climate when they were growing up in England in the late ’60s through the mid-’70s. There’s a heavy focus on the glam scene with images and footage projected on televisions of Gary Glitter, Mott the Hoople and Sweet, alongside hot-button topics like U.S. president Richard Nixon’s Watergate troubles, British Prime Minister Edward Heath losing his grip on power, the NASA space program and the always-controversial matter of European football.
So what exactly are Def Leppard talking about throughout “Rocket?” Read on for the breakdown of all the mentions in the song.