For rock fans unfamiliar with the latest news about Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise, the “Rock of Ages” tour featuring Def Leppard and Poison is simply a reference to Def Leppard’s 1983 song “Rock of Ages.”
But the tour is likely dubbed the “Rock of Ages” tour because the film version of the musical “Rock of Ages,” starring Hough and Cruise, opens this weekend, and Def Leppard and Poison songs figure prominently in the flick. Synergy, in pop culture, can be an awesome thing.
Besides the two hard-rock bands having their songs playing at movieplexes this summer during “Rock of Ages,” opening act Lita Ford has already seen her songs captured on film. She was a member of the 1970s all-female rock band The Runaways, whose brief career was chronicled in the 2011 Sundance-premiered film of the same name.
Rick Allen from Def Leppard, Rikki Rockett from Poison, and Ford talked to The Tribune in separate interviews about how rock lives imitate movies and vice versa.
Def Leppard • Drummer Rick Allen, 48, has seen the film. He even visited the south Florida set with singer Joe Elliott to watch Cruise sing the British band’s epochal hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
“I though the movie was a wonderful celebration of the 1980s,” Allen said of the comedic musical. “I nearly wet myself — it kept me engaged.”
Def Leppard commanded the musical scene in the 1980s, releasing classic albums such as “On Through the Night,” “High ’n’ Dry,” “Pyromania” and “Hysteria,” the latter selling more than 20 million copies. For Allen, a 1984 auto accident changed his life and threatened his career. He lost his left arm, but with the help of Elliott and the band’s crew, an electronic drum kit was designed so that Allen could still drum rhythms with one hand, using his left foot to play the snare.
“It was horrible,” Allen said. “Because I survived it, and got through it, I can share that. It’s not combat trauma, but it’s trauma nevertheless.”
The death of guitarist Steve Clark in 1990 due to a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs was another blow to the band. “It’s about moving forward in a way that is healthy,” said Allen of the band’s effort to overcome the death and use it as positive motivation. “It’s about sharing your life experience.”
Come to think of it, the story of Def Leppard could be the basis for a film.
But the 1984 mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap” interests Allen far more than any movie about his or the band’s life. He called the movie “brilliant.” “I’ve seen that type of behavior. [The film] captured it.”
Poison • The band has been a big supporter of the “Rock of Ages” film since the story was adapted from a Broadway musical, said Rikki Rockett, 50.
Poison even performed a song from the musical at the 2009 Tony Awards — which incidentally led to a lawsuit filed by the band against the organizers after lead singer Bret Michaels was struck in the head by the closing solid curtain and claimed that the injury led to his 2010 brain hemorrhage.
It was just another life-threatening moment for a band that has lived on the edge since its ascent to the top of the charts in the late 1980s with songs such as “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” both numbers in the new film.
In fact, the band’s life would make for a good movie. “As long as they get it right,” Rockett said. “The most interesting part of our career [was when] we were starving, when we didn’t have anything.”
A film based on the L.A. band would likely be beset by the pitfalls of the genre. “Movies never get rock music right,” Rockett said. If they did, those films would receive “double-X” ratings, he added.
Regardless, he has seen early clips from “Rock of Ages” and praised one actor who he said was doing a “a real good job.” The guy? Tom Cruise.
While Def Leppard and Poison have toured together before, Rockett was excited to have Lita Ford tour with him. “She is arguably the first lady of hard rock,” he said. “I wanted to have sex with all of the Runaways. They were the older hot chicks who were playing instruments.”
Lita Ford • Although “The Runaways” received plenty of attention because of starring roles for Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, Ford still hasn’t seen the film. “From what I understand, it’s [about] Cherie and Joan,” said Ford, referring to Runaways frontwoman Cherie Currie and guitarist Joan Jett. “I’m not a movie buff.”
Instead, Ford, 53, has been busy readying “Living Like a Runaway,” her new album to be released Tuesday. The Runaways — the band, not the film — were a touchstone for Ford as she made the record. “I wanted to make a basic rock record,” she said. “I went back to the Runaways days — [when songs] were made before people put all kinds of digital effects on it.”
When not performing past hits such as “Close My Eyes Forever” and “Kiss Me Deadly,” the British-born, guitar-playing mezzo-soprano prefers documentaries to films, especially when it comes to music. “I think [filmmakers] pick out the drama,” she said. “They want the fighting and the drugs and sometimes it can be overdone.” In documentaries, she said, “you get the truth.”
As for the film “Rock of Ages,” its PG-13 rating pretty much ensures that the rock ’n’ roll excess won’t be excessive. If you want R-rated excess, along with big hair, loud riffs and songs about sex, pass on the movie ticket and buy a ticket to the Usana rock show.
Rock of Ages
Def Leppard & Poison with Lita Ford.
When • Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City
Tickets • $35 to $100 at SmithsTix