When members of Jump joined Atomic Mass, Deaf Leopard was born. The name was suggested by singer Joe Elliot and soon it underwent some alterations. Def Leppard had Rick Savage on bass. Pete Willis and Steve Clark handled guitars. Both suffered for their success. After a succession of drummers, Def Leppard finally settled on Rick Allen, another member who faced hardships. At least he would survive.
Def Leppard played their first gig in '78 and were recording the following year. While doing passably well in their native U.K., they didn't have much impact elsewhere and found themselves stuck in the "opening act" slot. Enter Robert John "Mutt" Lange who had built a reputation as a highly successful producer. His main function was to guide a group through the recording process. Part manager, co-contributor, creator and disciplinarian, a producer had to get the best out of a group. Lange did just that.
"High 'n' Dry" in '81 was Lange's debut with Leppard and "Bringing On The Heartache" was the standout track. With a successful album Leppard hit the road. But Willis was having problems with his bandmates and troubles with alcohol. He was fired and replaced by Phil Collen. With Lange producing for a second time, Def Leppard recorded "Pyromania." With "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph," the album was hugely successful. Def Leppard had arrived. And that's when things came crumbling down. First, Lange who'd been working with the Cars ("Heartbreak City") and Foreigner ("4") was not up to taking on a new project when Leppard was ready to record. So the band hired over-producer Jim Steinman. Those sessions failed to yield anything worthwhile. Soon Steinman was let go and the band decided to wait on Lange.
In the meantime, Allen, while racing another car on A-57 highway near Sheffield, crashed his Stingray. The impact torn off his left arm and seriously injured his right. At the hospital doctors managed to sow the arm back on only to have to remove it days later due to a serious infection. That might have ended the drummer's career but Allen, with the aid of computers and a custom-built drum kit, was able to continue.
Three years in the making, "Hysteria," had six singles, "Animal," "Pour Some Sugar On Me," "Hysteria," "Love Bites," "Rocket" and "Armageddon It." Commercially, "Love Bites" was the most successful, topping the charts, but "Hysteria" was the best song. With a strong melody, Elliot's passionate vocals, the track possessed a solid, churning rhythm and searing guitars along with some effective Lange touches (echo, phasing, etc.).
After a downward spiral into drugs, Clark was found dead by his girlfriend in '91. He died from a combination of alcohol, painkillers and anti-depressants.
Produced by the group "Adrenalize" rolled out in '92. "Let's Get Rocked" and "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)" were two reasons the CD sold over a million copies. Also, former Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Vivan Campbell was added to the line-up. Def Leppard also released another CD "Slang," contributed a song to "The Last Action Hero" soundtrack, "Two Steps Behind," and released a "Greatest Hits" package.
Def Leppard's '06 covers album "Yeah!" put the group back on the road. Touring has been called 20 hours of unfathomable boredom alleviated by 4 hours of pure adrenaline rush. There's being on stage, the after-show parties... and that's about it. Travel, bad diet (road food is awful but musicians aren't inclined to eat a balanced diet either), alcohol/drugs and lack of sleep make touring grueling. Most bands think it's enough to survive. However, a few bands try to make use of the down time.
During their '06 tour, Def Leppard had a backstage area for working on new songs. "It was a mini (drum) kit, mini amps, a tape recorder and sparkly lights," said Elliot. That led to the nickname the "Sparkle Lounge."
Because nobody could come up with a better name Def Leppard's '08 release was titled "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge." "The whole record's got a great '70s feel," said Elliott. "It's a very different album as we've been very adventurous, musically, on certain numbers."
The set's first single, "Nine Lives" featured Country singer Tim McGraw, who co-wrote the song with Elliott, Collen and Savage. The track was released as part of a downloadable "track pack" for the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock video game. It was also heard at the beginning of NBA games broadcast on ABC.
Prior to the album's release Def Leppard toured with fellow '80's relics Styx and REO Speedwagon. A Canadian trek was interrupted when an upper respiratory infection sidelined Elliot and forced concert cancellations. "The band and I really look forward to coming back to play (Canada) soon," assured Elliott.
Speaking of working toward recovery, Allen, drawing on his personal experience, began his involvement with wounded veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from their battlefield experiences and injuries.
Over the years, Allen invited Wounded Warrior Project participants to Def Leppard's shows and took part in Project Odyssey, an outdoor rehabilitative retreat. Also, Allen founded the Raven Drum Foundation, which provided drum circles to Wounded Warriors to encourage their healing.
But no good deed goes unpunished. In an example of cringe worthy scheduling, on the day "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge" was released, Def Leppard appeared on the ABC (again) reality series Dancing With The Stars. Having a song used to open b-ball games on TV was okay but doing a cheesy dance competition was over the line. Especially since Def Leppard had sold over 65 million albums worldwide, were inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame on Sunset Boulevard in '00 and were among the inaugural '06 inductees (along with Queen, KISS and Judas Priest) of the VH1 Rock Honors.
Still operating under the 'any time any place' mantra, Def Leppard subjected themselves to a rather odd pairing (English Rock band/waning North American sport). They opened the '08-09 National Hockey League season with the NHL Face-Off Rocks show at Detroit's Fox Theatre. The band performed "C'mon C'mon" before the Detroit Red Wings raised their 2008 Stanley Cup Championship banner. When Elliot was handed the Cup, he inadvertently placed it upside down on a nearby table. Not a big hockey fan, eh? C'mon, it wasn't a soccer trophy or something important. Fans, needless to say, were appalled.
"Like most Brits . . . I'd never seen [the Cup] until it was handed to me sideways," wrote Elliot in his online defense. "By which time I had a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right."
1980 On Through the Night
1981 High 'n' Dry
1993 Retro Active
2008 Songs From The Sparkle Lounge
2011 Mirrorball: Live And More
"Hysteria," with six singles, practically makes a Def Leppard greatest hits package moot. "Pyromania" containing "Photograph" is another strong choice as is "Adrenalize." If there's a desire for more the "Vault: Greatest Hits 1980-85" compilation delivers.
"Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection" hit in '05. This set contains every song on the previously released "Vault," along with an entire second disc of album tracks. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this collection proved massively popular.
Sure, it's got to be a bit tiring to regurgitate the same hits show after show. But is playing somebody else's tunes really the solution? Band members have said that "Yeah!" shows Def Leppard's roots. The Kinks, Badfinger, Faces, T. Rex and Bowie songs are represented. When a band does one or two covers on an album it's a chance to reinvent or reinterpret. A whole album of covers smacks of desperation. Also, Def Leppard's renditions are a little too close to the originals to make anyone forget them.
Collen does a nice job impersonating Rod Stewart on "Stay With Me" but there are probably countless singers who can do the young Stewart. "No Matter What" is an energetic romp but it lacks Badfinger's lean, clean drive. And the band never quite takes control of Bowie's "Drive-In Saturday."
There are some rather novel song choices. The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset," a kind of laid back, dreamy song originally, gets a bit of a work out. There's also the T. Rex track "20th Century Boy." Of course, the only reason anyone might be interested in "Yeah!" has to do with the group's majestic run in the '80s.
The rumor had it that Def Leppard tried to get Mutt Lange to produce at least a couple tracks for "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge" but their schedules didn't mesh. Too bad. The songs would have benefited from Lange's ear. As it is, the band and Ronan McHugh did a respectable job - but nothing special.
There are flashes of the old Def Leppard brilliance here and there. The intense "Go" and the catchy "Nine Lives" are right there with "Tomorrow" being the most 'vintage' sounding Leppard track. From there it gets a bit rocky. "Love," an acoustic ballad, is awful. "Come Undone" (not a Duran Duran cover) plods while "C'mon C'mon" lifts from Gary Glitter but still sounds bland. The uptempo "Hallucinate" is strong but the remaining tracks are simply serviceable.