“Rock of Ages” is a hit song by Def Leppard from their Diamond-selling 1983 album Pyromania. When issued as a single in the United States, the song reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #19 on the Cash Box Top 100. It also hit #1 on the Top Tracks Rock chart.
In 2012, the band re-recorded the song, along with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, under the title “Rock of Ages 2012”. Both were released digitally on 4 June 2012.
The song begins with “Gunter glieben glauten globen”, a German-like nonsense phrase introduced by Mutt Lange, who is of German descent. According to the official Def Leppard FAQ,
These four words that you hear at the start of “Rock of Ages”, mean nothing, though the band sometimes jokingly claims it means “running through the forest silently”. It’s actually just German-sounding gibberish, said by producer Mutt Lange during one of the later takes of the song. Lange was a perfectionist and would often do dozens & dozens of takes, and after repeatedly beginning so many with the standard count, “One, two, three, four” he simply started saying nonsense words instead, the band liking this one so much that they included it on the album.
As the song’s melody begins, Elliott speaks the lines, “All right/I’ve got something to say/It’s better to burn out/Than to fade away”; the second two lines are a reference to Neil Young’s song “Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue)”. Def Leppard’s four-line version was quoted in the 1986 movie Highlander by the film’s villain, the Kurgan. Young’s line would later become immortalized in rock history when it was used in the suicide note of grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain.
During the guitar solo, several vocal phrases were backmasked. When played forward the phrases “Fuck the Russians” and “Brezhnev’s got herpes” can be heard.
According to the liner notes of the compilation release Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection, the band was at a recording studio when lead vocalist Joe Elliott stumbled upon a hymn book left by a member of a children’s choir that had just used the studio. In the book, he saw the words “Rock of Ages”, which prompted him to write the lyrics of the song.
The music video was directed by David Mallet and shot on 8 December 1982 (Guitarist Phil Collen’s 25th birthday), in Battersea, London, England. Former Def Leppard co-manager Peter Mensch appears in this video as one of the monks.
The song features in the climactic scene of the Season 5 finale of Supernatural.
The phrase “Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen” reappears as the title of a poem by the contemporary American poet Michael Robbins. It was first published in The New Yorker and appears in his second collection of poems, The Second Sex (Penguin Books, 2014).