Def Leppard

Biography

Members: Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell

Active: 1977 - Present

HISTORY

The music of Def Leppard is a mixture of hard rock, glam rock, AOR, and heavy metal elements. The band has occasionally been associated with the pop metal movement of the 1980s, although its sound is more accurately associated with the contemporary NWOBHM genre of the late 1970s. The band\'s songs generally feature simple guitar hooks and catchy, melodic choruses. The Def Leppard sound is also characterized by its combination of hard rock and polished melodic backing vocals.

By the release of the Hysteria record, it was apparent that the band had developed a distinctive, futuristic sound featuring heavily processed drums and effects-laden \"space-aged\" guitar sounds, overlaid with a layered wall of husky, harmonized vocals. Def Leppard are considered a classic example of the rock sound of the 1980s. Def Leppard is one of only five rock bands with two original albums selling over 10 million copies each in the U.S. The others are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Van Halen.

EARLY YEARS 1977 - 1979

Rick Savage (bass), Pete Willis (guitars) and Tony Kenning (drums) formed the band (Originally known as \"Atomic Mass\") in 1977 in Sheffield (see 1977 in music). Joe Elliott auditioned for a spot as their guitarist following a chance meeting with Willis. However, during Elliot\'s audition, it was decided that he was better suited for the role of lead singer.

Soon afterwards, they adopted the name \"Deaf Leopard\" (which Elliott had thought of in his school days). At the suggestion of Tony Kenning, the name \"Deaf Leopard\" was slightly modified to Def Leppard in order to avoid comparison to punk bands, and perhaps also as an indirect homage to Led Zeppelin\'s similarly styled band name.

While perfecting their sound as a band in a spoon factory, the band added another guitarist in Steve Clark in January 1978. Kenning suddenly left the band prior to recording sessions for a three-song EP in late 1978. He was replaced for those sessions by Frank Noon on what was known the Def Leppard EP.

Sales for the EP soared soon after the track \"Getcha Rocks Off\" was given extensive airtime by renowned BBC Radio DJ John Peel, considered at the time to be a champion of punk rock and new wave music. 15-year-old Rick Allen joined the band as its full-time drummer in November 1978.

Throughout 1979, the band won a loyal following among British hard rock/heavy metal fans, and were even initially considered the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (eventually relenting that spot to Iron Maiden). This emerging popularity resulted in a major label record deal with Phonogram/Vertigo (Mercury Records in the US).

1980 - 1983 SETTING ROCK ON FIRE

Their debut album was On Through The Night, released on March 14, 1980. Although the album hit the Top 15 in the UK, many early fans were turned off by the perception that the band was trying too hard to appeal to US audiences, with songs like \"Hello America\" and touring more in the US (supporting Pat Travers, AC/DC and Ted Nugent) than the UK. This hostility was highlighted at the Reading Festival in August, where audience members pelted the band with garbage during their set.

In retrospect, the hostility was unfair because the band was only taking advantage of opportunities not given to most young British rock bands at the time. However, the damage was done and it would take a while until Def Leppard won back their homeland fans.

The band then caught the attention of AC/DC producer Robert John \"Mutt\" Lange, who agreed to work on their second album, High \'n\' Dry. Lange\'s painfully meticuluous approach in the studio greatly improved on Def Leppard\'s potential from On Through The Night.

Despite mediocre album sales, the \"Bringin\' on the Heartbreak\" promo clip became one of the first \"metal\" videos played on MTV in 1982, and this brought increasing visibility (and momentum) to the band in the States.

Phil Collen, former guitarist with the glam band Girl, replaced Pete Willis who was fired on July 11, 1982, due to excessive alcohol consumption on the job (Willis later resurfaced with the bands Gogmagog and Roadhouse). This personnel change took place during the recording of their third release, Pyromania, released on May 20, 1983, which was also produced by Lange.

The song \"Photograph\" turned Def Leppard into household names, knocking off Michael Jackson\'s Beat It as the most requested video clip on MTV, and becoming a staple of rock radio (dominating the US Album Rock Charts for six weeks) while hitting #12 on the pop charts.

Fueled by \"Photograph\" and subsequent singles \"Rock of Ages\" and \"Foolin\'\", Pyromania went on to sell six million copies in 1983, then going to sell ten million copies in the U.S. in 1984, and was held off the top of the US album charts only by Michael Jackson\'s Thriller. The album has since been certified Diamond by the RIAA in the US, and is considered a classic in both the mainstream rock and heavy metal genres.

Def Leppard\'s US tour in support of Pyromania began by opening for Billy Squier in March, and ended with an audience of 55,000 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, CA in September.

As a testament of the band\'s popularity at the time, a US Gallup poll in 1984 saw Def Leppard voted in as favorite rock band over peers such as the Rolling Stones and Journey. Conversely, the band could not be any less popular in their native UK, a fact that greatly bothered them.

1984 - 1989 MASS HYSTERIA

Following their big break, the band moved to Dublin in February 1984 to begin writing for the follow-up to Pyromania. Mutt Lange initially joined in on the songwriting sessions, but then suddenly declined to return as producer due to exhaustion. Instead, Jim Steinman (producer of Meat Loaf), was brought in.

The Leppard-Steinman pairing was a disaster, as Steinman\'s methods constantly clashed with those that Lange had instilled in the band. This quickly led to his being fired, with Lange\'s assistant Nigel Green taking over, with no more productive results.

On December 31, 1984, tragedy first struck the band when Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash on the A57 in the hills outside Sheffield when his speeding Corvette left the road on a sharp bend and went through a drystone wall. Despite the severity of the accident, Rick was committed to continuing his role as Def Leppard\'s drummer. He practiced drumming with pillows, and realized that he could use his legs to do some of the percussive work previously done with his arms. He then worked with Simmons to design a custom electronic drum kit.

The other members of the band fully stood behind Rick\'s determination and never sought a replacement. During his recovery, Mutt Lange eventually returned to the fold as producer, and Rick\'s triumphant comeback was sealed at the 1986 Donington Monsters of Rock festival, with an emotionally charged ovation after his introduction by Joe Elliott.

Def Leppard\'s fourth album, Hysteria, was finally released on August 3, 1987. The second single from the album, \"Animal\", reached #6 in the UK and finally made the band into stars in their home country. Hysteria immediately topped the charts in its first week of release.

US album sales were relatively slow (compared to Pyromania) until the fourth single, \"Pour Some Sugar On Me\". The song hit Number 2, and Hysteria finally reached the top of the US Album Charts in July 1988. In October, the power ballad \"Love Bites\" would become Def Leppard\'s first (and only) Number One single on the Billboard Hot 100, and in January 1989 the band scored another US Top 5 hit with \"Armageddon It\".

Hysteria is one of only a handful of albums (and the third in rock history) that has charted seven singles or more on the US Hot 100: \"Women\" (#80), \"Animal\" (#19), \"Hysteria\" (#10), \"Pour Some Sugar On Me\" (#2), \"Love Bites\" (#1), \"Armageddon It\" (#3) and \"Rocket\" (#12). It remained on the charts for three years and has sold 18 million copies worldwide.

Equally as successful (if not infamous) was the accompanying Hysteria world tour which ran for 15 months and saw Def Leppard perform \"In The Round\". The concept proved wildly popular with fans, as evidenced in the videos for \"Pour Some Sugar On Me\" and \"Armageddon It\" (and was later used again for the Adrenalize tour).

By decade\'s end, although U2, Guns N\' Roses and Bon Jovi garnered more mainstream exposure, Def Leppard was in fact the top selling rock band of the 80\'s in the US.

1990 - 1999 ROCK SURVIVORS

After Hysteria\'s mammoth success and tour, the band quickly set out to work on their fifth album, hoping to avoid another lengthy absence between albums. However, Steve Clark\'s alcoholism issues worsened to the point where he was constantly in and out of rehab. Recording sessions suffered from this distraction, and in mid-1990 Steve was given a six-month leave of absence from the band.

This would culminate in Steve\'s death from an accidental mixing of prescription drugs and alcohol on January 8, 1991 in his London home. The other band members decided to carry on as a four-piece, with Phil playing Steve\'s intended guitar parts.

Def Leppard\'s fifth album Adrenalize was finally released on March 31 1992. The album simultaneously entered at Number One on both the UK and US album charts, staying there for 5 weeks on the latter. The first single, \"Let\'s Get Rocked\", was an instant smash hit and its video was later nominated for Best Video of the Year at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

In April 1992, acclaimed hard rock guitarist Vivian Campbell joined Def Leppard. He would make his live debut with his new band at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, held at Wembley Stadium. Adrenalize yielded six hit singles and sold 6 million copies worldwide. Another successful world tour followed, but the band\'s fortunes were beginning to be affected by the rise of grunge and alternative rock.

A collection of b-sides and unreleased tracks recorded between 1984 and 1993, Retro Active, was released in October 1993, preceded by the chart success of the acoustic ballad \"Two Steps Behind\", featured in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero.

Another acoustic ballad, \"Miss You In A Heartbeat\", hit the Top 5 in Canada, becoming one of the band\'s biggest hits in that country.

Two years later, Def Leppard issued its first greatest-hits collection, Vault: Def Leppard\'s Greatest Hits (1980-1995), which would go on to sell 7 million copies worldwide. Alternate track listings of the album were released for North America, the UK and Japan.

The compilation included a new track, the ballad \"When Love & Hate Collide\", which became their biggest ever hit in the UK, hitting #2. However, in a reversal of fortunes, the single did not reach the Top 40 in the US.

On October 23 1995, the band entered the Guinness Book of World Records by performing three concerts in three continents in one day (Tangiers, Africa, London, England, and Vancouver, Canada).

The next Leppard album, the first on which Campbell would actively collaborate in the songwriting and recording, was Slang, released in 1996. It was a drastic musical departure from their traditional hook-filled, melody-heavy sound, and had an altogether darker and grungier feel. While the album was not well-received by most fans, Q Magazine would feature it on their list of Top Ten Albums of 1996, and it is still one of the band\'s favorite albums.

Just when the 90\'s seemed to mark the beginning of the end for Def Leppard, VH1 revived the band\'s fortunes in 1998 by featuring them on one of the initial episodes of Behind The Music. The documentary, including interviews with past and present members, told of their compelling tale, and renewed interest in the band in the US (although they still had strong fan bases in Canada, Japan, and the UK). The episode remains one of the most popular in the Behind The Music series, and was even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

Also in the meantime, the spoken line intro from \"Rock Of Ages\" was now being heard on The Offspring\'s Pretty Fly (for a White Guy), the biggest hit single of their career.

Next came the album Euphoria in 1999. The first single, \"Promises\", reunited the band with former producer Mutt Lange, and hit the top of the US mainstream rock charts for three weeks. Another track, \"Demolition Man\", also featured guest guitar work from Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill, a fan of the group. The return to the classic Def Leppard hard rock sound proved a hit with both fans old and new as Euphoria was quickly awarded for gold sales over 500,000 units in the US.

2000 - PRESENT NEW BEGINNINGS

On September 5, 2000, Def Leppard was inducted into the RockWalk of Fame, on Hollywood\'s Sunset Boulevard by their friend Brian May of Queen.

In 2001 VH1 produced and aired Hysteria - The Def Leppard Story, a biopic that included Anthony Michael Hall as Mutt Lange and Amber Valetta as Lorelei Shellist (Steve Clark\'s girlfriend). The movie covered the band\'s history between 1977 through 1986, recounting the trials and triumphs of Rick Allen and Steve Clark. The July 18 broadcast produced some of the channel\'s highest-ever ratings. The movie is now available on DVD.

An interesting side project at the time would consist of Joe Elliott and Phil Collen teaming up with surviving members of the Spyders From Mars (David Bowie\'s former band), known as the Cybernauts. The group would play shows revolving around Bowie\'s Ziggy Stardust-era songs.

Def Leppard\'s tenth album, simply titled \"X\", was released in July 2002. It saw the band\'s musical direction moving more towards pop and further away from the band\'s hard rock roots. In fact, some tracks were produced by the hit factory behind Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.

The first single from the album, \"Now\", featured a video depicting the \"adventures\" of a classic Def Leppard Union Jack shirt between 1983 and 2002. Although it was greeted with generally positive reviews, X quickly disappeared from the charts, ultimately being the band\'s lowest selling record yet. However, the accompanying tour played to the band\'s strongest audiences since the Adrenalize period.

An expanded and updated greatest-hits CD, Best Of, was released in October 2004 worldwide. The North America-only version, titled Rock Of Ages - The Definitive Collection, was released on May 17 the following year. The compilations went platinum in Canada, the US and the UK.

In 2005, Def Leppard participated at the Live 8 show in Philadelphia, and toured baseball stadiums with Bryan Adams in the summer. The year also saw the band leave their longtime management team, Q-Prime, to sign with HK Management (Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz).

On May 23 2006, Def Leppard released an all-covers album titled Yeah!. The disc pays homage to the musical heroes of their childhood, including David Bowie (\"Drive-In Saturday\"), The Kinks (\"Waterloo Sunset\"), Blondie (\"Hanging On The Telephone\"), Electric Light Orchestra (\"10538 Overture\"), among others. It debuted at a disappointing #52 on the UK album charts, but fared much better in the US, debuting at #16 (their tenth consecutive Top 20 album).

Def Leppard is currently on a summer tour with Journey in the US. Along with KISS, Queen, and Judas Priest, the band was one of the inaugural inductees on the \"VH1 Rock Honors\" show on May 31, 2006. Recently, \"Love Bites\" has been featured in recent Sirius Satellite Radio TV commercials.

ALBUMS

1979 - The Def Leppard
1980 - On through the Night
1981 - High \'n\' Dry
1983 - Pyromania
1987 - Hysteria
1992 - Adrenalize
1993 - Retro Active
1995 - Vault: Greatest Hits 1980-1995
1996 - Slang
1999 - Euphoria
2002 - X
2004 - Best of Def Leppard -
2005 - Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection
2006 - Yeah!

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OptimusPrime

Submitted by OptimusPrime at Thu 29 Jun, 2006 8:09 am

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