January 1, 2019
After leading the fan voting for practically the entire time, Def Leppard was finally elected to The Rock and Roll Hall of fame recently. This band from the working-class town of Sheffield, England first slagged their way to the top in 1983 with the release of the album “Pyromania” and then followed it four years later with the multi-platinum “Hysteria” album.
Starting out as a guitar-driven hard rock act driven by Steve Clark’s Jimmy Page-influenced guitar, paired with singer Joe Elliot’s gravelly voice, their first release – 1980’s “On Through the Night” album placed them firmly in the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) group of artists that became a resurgence of Hard Rock, along with other British bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, Motorhead and others. As their career continued, they released “High and Dry” in 1981 which contained the hit “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” Still, they largely struggled until the release of “Pyromania.” That album, coupled with the emergence of the TV cable channel MTV and videos for the songs “Photograph”,”Rock of Ages” and “Foolin’” made them breakout stars and shot “Pyromania” all the way to Number Two on the Billboard charts, second only to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Their 1987 release “Hysteria” proved to be an even bigger hit album, with producer Mutt Lange incorporating multi-layers of guitar tracks and a decidedly more crossover-friendly sound which appealed to the masses and not just the Hard Rock fans.
Not much exists on video of those first two albums but here is “Hello America” from the “On Through the Night” album with original guitarist Pete Willis on rhythm guitar:
“High and Dry” from the album of the same name:
With “Foolin'” off of “Pyromania” you can see how they evolved from less of an AC/DC influenced sound to one of their own creation:
They proved they could still rock hard on “Hysteria” as the clip of “Women” shows:
All their success was not without tragedy, however. Drummer Rick Allen lost an arm when his Corvette overturned on the rural roads of England on New Year’s Eve in 1984. Refusing to relinquish his role in the band, he taught himself to play drum parts with his feet and remaining arm on a custom-made drum set made to accommodate him. The band carried on without missing a beat, literally. Unfortunately, this was not their only challenge to overcome. Guitarist Steve Clark, after years of alcohol abuse and stints in and out of rehab was found dead of alcohol poisoning in 1991. Struggling to complete the album “Adrenalize” after Clark’s death, guitarist Phil Collen had to learn to play Clark’s guitar parts and mimic his style of playing in order to finish the album. The album was a success but not to the level of the previous two. Guitarist Vivian Campbell (formerly of the bands Dio and Whitesnake) joined the band permanently in 1992. In 2013 Campbell was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and was forced to miss several tour dates in order to receive treatment. His cancer is in remission. Bassist Rick savage suffers from Bell’s Palsy Syndrome. Still, the band carries on; they have never let unfortunate circumstances deter them. They have released several more albums since but their reputation as a touring band has made them perennially one of the top grossing live acts in the past twenty five years. They recently completed an eighty-four date world tour of the US, Europe and Australia.
Along with being band members, they continue to explore their talents as individuals as well. In addition to being lead singer, Joe Elliott has excelled in the studio – working as a producer on albums for acts such as The Black Star Riders. He also has a live radio show broadcast on Saturdays on Planet Rock. Rick Allen is also an accomplished artist. His paintings have garnered critical acclaim and he has several appearances scheduled, showcasing his art this coming Spring. Phil Collen has a solo band (Delta Deep) in which he plays blues-influenced tunes that show off his guitar-playing diversity and most recently toured with Joe Satriani as part of the “G3” touring guitarists troupe. Campbell records and tours with his group “Last in Line” whose band members he played together with in the band “Dio.”
They are a perfect example of hard work paying off. Congrats, boys!