March 28, 2008

Def Leppard's "Gunter Glieben Glauten Globen"

Stupid Question ™
March 21, 2002
By John Ruch
© 2002

Q: “Untan Gleebin Glouten Globin”—what the heck is Def Leppard mumbling at the beginning of their song “Rock of Ages”?

A: This strange phrase, spoken in a comical quasi-German accent, opens the song “Rock of Ages” on Def Leppard’s 1983 hit album “Pyromania.”

According to the band itself, the phrase is actually “Gunter glieben glauten globen.” (The lyric sheet in a recent rerelease misprinted “glauchen” for “glauten”; most people hear the “t.”)

While the band’s web site reports that its members have joked about the phrase meaning, “Running through the forest silently,” it actually is just plain nonsense used in place of the usual “One, two, three, four” beat count.

The guy saying it is Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the album’s producer and co-songwriter. Reportedly, he spontaneously blurted out the phrase after getting sick of saying, “One, two, three, four” over and over. (He’s infamous for demanding multiple takes of recordings.)

Lange’s also the one who says, “Yes, it does, bloody hell!” near the end of “Love Bites” on the band’s 1987 album “Hysteria.” Def Leppard included many such in-jokes on its albums.

Lange is an interesting guy who maintains strict personal privacy despite being a renowned songwriter and producer. He’s written hits for Michael Bolton, the Backstreet Boys and Huey Lewis. His production credits include Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black,” plus albums for XTC, Billy Ocean, the Cars and Foreigner.

His most extensive writing and production work has been for Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and now Shania Twain, the pop-country singer to whom he is married and whose career he’s been molding Svengali-style by some accounts.

Exactly how Lange came up with such a weird little series of words is a mystery to many, probably including himself. To most people, it sounds like mock German, and the band chose to spell it in German style. In fact, “Globen” means “globes” in German, though Lange’s usage is probably coincidental. (Start inventing German-sounding words and you’ll surely hit on a real one.)

If you wanted to get insanely conspiratorial, you could take the “G” off the beginning of each word. This would leave you with “under lieben lauten loben”—all of which are German words. Unter can mean “under,” “in,” “between,” “among,” etc. Lieben is “to love,” “to make love,” or “things that are loved.” Lauten could be a form of the adjective “loud,” or a plural of “lute.” Loben is the verb “to praise,” and might also be used as a noun.

An extremely generous translator could wring, “To make love in loud praise” out of these words. But it’s best if we get back to reality.

Interestingly, Lange is a South African native, so it’s possible he was actually imitating Afrikaans (the Dutch-derived language spoken by descendants of early European colonists). But Robert Kirsner, a professor of Dutch and Afrikaans at the University of California Los Angeles, assures me that the words are not Afrikaans, and that it looks more like fake German to him.

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