Joe Elliott has looked back on Def Leppard’s classic song “Photograph,” revealing some fortuitous circumstances that helped inspire the song.

By Elliott’s account, he and his bandmates were “penniless” while they worked on their 1983 album Pyromania. At the time, the singer was living in a small apartment in the English town of Isleworth, and the home was not in very good shape.

“The previous tenant, obviously on a drunken rampage one night, had punched a hole through the bathroom wall,” Elliott recalled during an appearance on The Rockonteurs podcast. “So it looked like The Shawshank Redemption.”

Much like in the famous film, Elliott opted to cover the hole up.

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“I put a poster of Marilyn Monroe over the hole because I'm not going to fix it. It’s not my place, I'm renting it,” the singer explained. Over time, the poster covering the hole generated an idea in Elliott's head. “You're staring at this thing every day. And when we came to the idea of ‘Photograph’ I said, ‘How about we write it like [The Who’s] ‘Pictures of Lily’,’ where it's about this girl that you're madly in love with and then your dad taps you on the shoulder goes, ‘Sorry son, but she's dead.’ The ultimate want you can never have.”

At the time, the song which would become “Photograph” was just an instrumental without any words. “We knew from a musical point of view, this is really special,” the frontman recalled. “Just don't ruin it now [with the lyrics].”

Sure enough, Elliott’s hole-and-poster-inspired romanticism worked perfectly with the tune.

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“That rang a chord,” the singer noted. “We got it. We got it right. We nailed it.”

Released as the lead single from Pyromania, “Photograph” proved to be a life changing song for Def Leppard. The track broke the band in America, reaching No. 1 on the rock chart and No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Pyromania would eventually be certified diamond, selling more than 10 million copies in the U.S.

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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