Elliott - born August 1, 1959 - vocals.
Steve Clark - born April 23, 1960 - guitars.
Pete Willis - born February 16, 1960 - guitars.
Rick Savage - born December 2, 1960 - bassist.
Rick Allen (born November 1, 1963 - drums
Phil Collen (born December 8, 1957- guitars, replaced
Willis in 1982.
All original members from Sheffield, England.
the most successful pop-metal bands of the '80s, Def
Leppard became an inspiration to would-be teenage
hairspray arena rockers everywhere.
an average age of only eighteen, Def Leppard burst onto
the heavy metal scene back in 1980 like a group of
seasoned veterans. "This band frequently transcends
the mundane through sheer musical energy and playing
ability," wrote Jim Schwartz in Guitar Player. In a
genre known for clichéd riffs and monotonous beats, these
heavy metal heads have created a sound of their own while
becoming one of the top-selling groups in rock and roll.
five original members, Joe Elliott, Pete Willis, Steve
Clark, Rick Savage and Rick Allen, come from the
steel-producing town of Sheffield, England. Before
employment as a van driver, lead singer Elliott used to
dream about forming a band in school, creating song lists,
logos, and band names while others in his class were
Willis was studying engineering at college when he met
fellow axe man Clark. Already playing with Savage on bass
in the band Atomic Mass, Willis asked Clark to sit in and
he soon joined the group. With the addition of Elliott and
drummer Allen, they changed their name to Deaf Leppard and
later dropped the a. In July of 1978 they made their debut
at Westfield School in Sheffield earning a grand total of
$12.00. With a twin guitar assault reminiscent of Wishbone
Ash, they began gigging in bars with a repertoire that
included 50% of their own originals.
experienced a new wave of heavy metal as the '80srolled in
and Def Leppard was in a prime position to cash in. They
recorded a privately-made EP, Getcha Rocks Off, which sold
out its initial 24,000 copies. AC/DC manager Peter Mensch
picked up the group and convinced Polygram to sign them to
a deal. In 1980 the chartbreaking On Through the Night was
released, climbing all the way to #51 in the US. "We
actually wrote the first album nine months before ever
playing a live concert," Willis told Guitar Player.
"We wanted to do it right from the start and be
polished." Songs like "Rock Brigade,"
"Hello America," "When the Walls Come
Tumbling Down," "Overture," "Sorrow is
a Woman," and "Wasted" were recorded in
just eighteen days and made for a remarkably strong
outing.The band then toured the UK opening for Sammy
Haggar and AC/DC before coming Stateside to warm up
audiences for Ted Nugent.
follow-up LP, High 'n' Dry, was an even bigger seller
breaking the Top10. Their sound also expanded as "Bringin'
on the Heartbreak" stretched the metal boundaries
even further. In 1982 Willis was replaced by ex-Girl
guitarist Phil Collen who told Guitar World, "We
offer a lot more melody than most heavy rock bands,
vocally as well as musically." Def Leppard was now a
headline act after only two albums, and Collen's style
differed enough from Willis's to create a unique
combination with Clark.
employed the services of ace producer Mutt Lange for
1983's Pyromania, another Top 10 LP which eventually sold
over two million copies. The album also included three hit
singles: "Photography"(#12), "Rock of
Ages"(#16), and "Foolin' " (#28). By now
the five members were being featured in teen magazines and
ruling the MTV airwaves.
was used again as producer on 1987's Hysteria LP and more
hits followed. "Animal," "Women,"
"Hysteria," "Pour Some Sugar on Me,"
"Armageddon It," and "Rocket" each
received substantial air-play. In 1988 Def Leppard issued
a seventeen-cut video entitled Historia providing an
excellent summary of their musical career.
hard to believe that arguably the most successful heavy
rock band of all time were ever in such a position of
unpopularity but that is exactly what Def Leppard faced
before they took the world by storm with multi-million
selling albums and classic rock anthems. But then Def
Leppard’s whole career has been built upon triumph over
tragedy and overcoming the odds.
band’s first hurdle was in the late seventies. The U.K
music scene was dominated by disco and punk. Rock and
metal had been forced underground and the big labels were
just not interested in bands such as Iron Maiden, Diamond
Head, Samson, Saxon, Angle Witch and Def Leppard.
1979 Def Leppard overcame this problem by releasing their
own independently produced E.P, ‘Gethca Rocks Off’. In
the space of ten days it sold out and the band were soon
forced to reissue the E.P which peaked just outside the
U.K charts at number 84.
big deal was soon signed with Polygram and in late 1979
Def Leppard began work on their debut album. In the space
of two weeks lead singer Joe Elliot, guitarists Steve
Clarke and Pete Willis, bassist Rick Savage and drummer
Rick Allen recorded ‘On Through The Night’. Released
to lukewarm critical acclaim, the album peaked at number
15 in the U.K charts and spawned two minor hit singles,
‘Wasted’ and ‘Hello America’. Perhaps it was the
title of the second single that influenced British rock
fans into thinking that Def Leppard were selling out to
the American market. Whilst rivals Iron Maiden were
greeted as emerging heroes and conquerors of metal,
Leppard were seen as traitors.
was perhaps therefore not ironic that Def Leppard managed
to crack the U.S market before their rivals. In 1980 all
the emerging rock and heavy metal bands were grouped
together and referred to as ‘The New Wave of British
these groups only Def Leppard and Iron Maiden would go
onto achieve major international success but in 1980 Iron
Maiden were unheard of in the U.S whilst Def Leppard were
impressing U.S fans on the A.C.D.C tour. So much so that
their debut album was certified gold for sales of 500,000
units and peaked at number 51 on the U.S album chart by
the end of the year.
this level of success saw the band taking on more
responsibility and hard work. Responsibility and hard work
which guitarist Pete Willis could not cope with which
thus, ultimately, forced him to leave the band under not
so pleasant circumstances.
his departure saw the arrival of a key member in Def
Leppard’s history, Phil Collen. Phil Collen, already a
friend of the band, was brought in just in time to finish
of work on the third Def Leppard album.
in 1983, ‘Pyromania’ was the album that launched Def
Leppard to mega star status in the U.S and finally saw a
slight reversal of fortune in their home market.
‘Pyromania’ saw the band return to the U.K top twenty
and spent two months in the U.K top seventy five album
December 1984 Def Leppard were in a position few bands
ever reach. ‘Pyromania’ had continued to keep on
selling with sales in the U.S alone standing at 8 million
and the rest of the world starting to pay attention.
However, tragedy was just round the corner.
new years eve Rick Allen 1984, the bands drummer, was
involved in a serious automobile accident that for a while
saw his life hanging in the balance. Fortunately he pulled
through but at the expense of losing his left arm. Through
his own extreme dedication and support from fellow band
members, Rick Allen would continue to play with the band
with the aid of a specially designed drum kit. However it
took a few years for this to happen and for a while Def
Leppard were ignored by the world which believed the band
would never return. But Leppard did eventually return and
when they did it was complete HYSTERIA.
the bands fourth album was released in the late summer of
1987, nearly five years after ’Pyromania’. The album
was an instant hit all over Europe where the band had been
warmly received through some high profile festival gigs
during the summer of 1986.
the first European single debuted at number 36 in the U.K
charts giving the band their first top fourty hit in their
homeland. Impressively the single went onto climb all the
way to number six and helped the album debut at number 1!
further top thirty hits would keep the album in the charts
for just under two years and allow the band to play some
of the biggest arenas in the U.K. This success was
repeated in Europe and also Asia whilst in Canada
‘Hysteria’ would go onto become the biggest selling
album of all time by a band with 14 platinum discs awards.
the eighties drew to a close Def Leppard were not just the
biggest rock act in the world, they were the biggest band
in the world. The international eighteen million sales for
‘Hysteria’ dwarfed the sales of U2’s ‘Joshua
Tree’ at thirteen million, Bon Jovi’s ‘New Jersey’
at ten million and their long-term rival Iron Maiden who
clocked up six million for ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh
Son’. Def Leppard were now in mega-stars status league
with rivals being acts such as Madonna and Michael
Jackson. Def Leppard were on top of their profession and
on top of the world.
that meant nothing for guitarist Steve Clarke. During the
working of their fifth album he found himself becoming
more and more addicted to alcohol. In January 1991 Steve
Clarke literally drank himself to death and was found dead
in his London apartment by his girlfriend on January 8th.
He was only thirty years old.
the four remaining members of the band vowed to continue
and slowly but surely completed work on the fifth Def
Leppard album that fittingly had writing credentials for
Steve Clarke and was indeed dedicated to the deceased
April 1992, ‘Adrenalize’ was unleashed to the world
five years after the release of ‘Hysteria’. The music
world had changed a lot in five years, all the indications
were heavy rock and metal was dead. Bands such as Poison,
Whitesnake, Motley Crew, Extreme and so on no longer
reached the charts and were forced to play gigs on postage
sized stages in the smallest clubs.
Leppard had no such problems. ‘Adrenalize’ shot to the
top of the world’s charts and sold a staggering two
million copies in its first week of release. In the U.S
the album became the first British album by a band to
enter the Billboard album charts at pole position and its
reign of five weeks was equally impressive.
success of it’s first single also proved a pleasant
surprise, hitting top ten all over Europe, South America
and Asia and climbing as far as number 2 on the U.K charts
making it the bands biggest hit to date. Only in America
was the success of the single slightly disappointing.
Though a top ten selling single in U.S, it failed to make
enough airplay to reach the top fourty airplay charts. It
was a sign of what was coming: grunge!
Green Day and Pearl Jam led the attack on the eighties
supergroups that killed off all but the biggest of the big
hair rock groups. Def Leppard’s closest rival Bon Jovi
suffered particularly badly with their 1992 album ‘Keep
The Faith’ managing to hit only number 5 in the U.S and
stalling at two million sales. Def Leppard also suffered
with ‘Adrenalize’ failing to sell the phenomenal
amounts of its predecessors and it’s singles failing to
chart as highly as the classics from ‘Hysteria’. Only
a further three singles were lifted off the album that
managed to make the top fourty. The biggest being the
ballad, ‘Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad’ which
peaked at number 12 on the U.S Billboard chart.
with sales of ‘Adrenalize’ at five million in the U.S
and a further three million world wide, there was no
doubting that Def Leppard had survived the shift in
fashion. More importantly the band now more than ever had
a large and loyal fan base. This became apparent in 1993
when the band became the first act to play a gig at
Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium infront of a sell out
crowd of fourty thousand. The home coming gig was an
emotional and very enjoyable day for the band that was on
227 date tour for seventeen months with new member Vivian
band took advantage of the show and made a premier live
performance of ‘Two Steps Behind’. The song was
previously a b-side to a single in the U.K only but was
soon reissued as a single in its own right.
song went on to give the band their eleventh top twenty
hit in the U.S billboard charts and became their biggest
selling single worldwide. The success of this single led
the band to releasing ‘Retro-Active’ in late 1993. The
album was a collection of previously released b-sides and
rarities compiled and produced by the band whilst on tour.
album shot to the top ten all over the world, (number 6 in
the U.K and number 9 in the U.S) and went onto spawn two
more international hit singles: ‘Action’ in the U.K
which peaked at 14 and ‘Miss You In A Heart Beat’ in
the U.S where the single peaked at number 39 and scrapped
the band their fifteenth U.S Billboard top fourty hit.
world sales now in excess of fourty million albums, the
band spent 1994 and 1995 writing on their next album, the
first with Vivian and the first since their debut not to
have any production input by John Matt Lange. Furthermore,
given the change in the music scene it is not surprising
that when the album was represented to their record
company, everyone noticed how different the album was from
it’s predecessors. So much so that the band were
persuaded to release a greatest hits collection in late
1995 to put a close to chapter one in Def Leppard’s
was unlocked to the world in October 1995 and became a
massive hit on a truly international level. The album
turned platinum and charted highly in all major
territories including at number 3 in the U.K. In the U.K
the one new song featured on the album, ‘When Love And
Hate Collide’, shot to the number two spot in the
singles chart and became the bands biggest selling single
spending no less than five weeks inside the top ten.
Further more as part of the promotion for the album the
band played three acoustic gigs in three continents in the
space of twenty four hours and thus earned themselves a
place in the Guinness Book Of Records! The only downside
to the success of ‘Vault’ was it’s initially poor
performance in the U.S where the album failed to hit the
top ten and managed to peak only at number 15.
it would eventually go onto earn the band a further two
platinum discs bringing their U.S tally to a staggering 33
discs and clocking up total worldwide sales of the album
to an impressive six million.
was soon followed by ‘Slang’ in the spring of 1996,
which was released on Mercury Records. The album was
produced by Def Leppard and Pete Woodroffe and was written
and recorded over the period of year in the Spanish resort
album saw the band going from heavy rock to post grunge
and thus was critically acclaimed by even the critics.
Strangely, or perhaps because of this change, commercial
success was luke warm by the bands now blockbuster level
of success. ‘Slang’ only managed to turn gold in the
U.S and peak at number 14 whilst in the U.K it managed to
hit only number 5.
most recent album, Euphoria, was released on
Mercury in the spring of 1999.
The band are already legends, fifty-five million-album
sales is testament to that, and they will forever have a
legion of fans. They have outlasted their contemporaries
and even the grunge bands that for a while threatened to
oust Def Leppard from the world’s music scene.
they may never be biggest band in the world again, they
can be and still are a force to be reckoned with and one
that deserves nothing more than legend status and complete
respect is now coming with the band ending 1998 with the
‘Life Time Achievement’ award from national music
awards ceremony in India and VH1 in the U.S paying tribute
to the band as ‘living legends’
make no mistake, though they have achieved more than what
most bands do in their entire life span, the life of Def
Leppard is far from over. The best is yet to come!