Def Leppard

Def Leppard

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Pour your sugar on me,
Ooh, I can't get enough,
I'm hot, sticky sweet,
From my head to my feet, yeah..."

There are few bands that exemplified the 1980’s the way Def Leppard did. Their combination of pop and metal had its finger on the pulse of 80’s record buyers. The high-tech sound they pursued on their albums helped define pop-music recording techniques of 1980’s. They were also one of the first bands to take advantage of the possibilities of MTV by creating a string of videos that played up their good looks and youthful appeal to help sell their records. As a result, they became internationally successful and their sound and style set the tone for many future pop/metal acts.

Def Leppard got their start in the English town of Sheffield in 1977. They united over a mutual love of bands like T-Rex and Mott the Hoople and began to write songs that fused hard-rock riffs to pop-music hooks. The group made a successful independent EP which brought them to the attention of a record company. They released On Through The Night as they began to build a fan base in both the U.K. and the U.S. through touring. Their second album, High And Dry, became a Top-40 hit thanks to MTV’s frequently playing the video for “Bringing On The Heartache.”

In 1982, Def Leppard spent much of the year recording what would become their breakthrough album. The end result, Pyromania, perfected their mix of pop hooks and metal riffs. Songs like “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin” and “Photograph” mixed sweet harmonies and hard-rock swagger in a way that pleased pop fans and metalheads alike. The group’s videos took advantage of their good looks (along with some Dungeons & Dragons-like Medieval imagery on the ever-popular "Rock of Ages" video) and thus added teen appeal to the mix. Def Leppard embarked on successful world tour and Pyromania became one of the most internationally-successful albums of the year.

After a long break, Def Leppard reunited to record a new album. It didn’t come easily. The task would ultimately take three years, a change of producers, and several aborted recordings before the band produced a finished album. During this time, drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident. However, he triumphed over his misfortune by learning to play a special set of electronic drums that used footpads to fill out his drum sound. The band also took advantage of the gap between albums to experiment with synthesizers and sampling techniques as they painstakingly pieced together their complex new songs.

Finally, Hysteria was released in the summer of 1987. Like Pyromania, it was a massive international success. The months spent in the studio paid off, resulting in a lush, high-tech album that smoothly blended cutting-edge rockers like “Animal” and “Armageddon It” with gorgeous ballads like “Hysteria” and “Love Bites.” There were also nifty surprises like the techno-styled “Animal,” which was successfully promoted in dance clubs through a 12-inch remix. All in all, Hysteria gave the band six consecutive Top-20 hits that kept them riding high on the charts for two years straight. Def Leppard followed their spectacular chart success with an equally successful international tour, an impressive spectacle that featured plenty of lights and lasers. Some of these shows were played 'in the round,' much to the delight of the fans. The band ultimately spent two years touring before returning to the recording studio.

Further tragedy struck Def Leppard when guitarist Steve Clark overdosed after years of drug and alcohol abuse. Carrying on as a foursome, the group released Adrenalize in 1992. “Let’s Get Rocked” became a #15 hit, and its video, which mixed a band performance with computer animation, became an MTV favorite. “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” was a trademark richly-harmonized ballad that also became a Top-20 hit.

After several years, it was time for a long hiatus, and the members of Def Leppard took a break to recharge and tackle individual projects. Although they played the occasional concert, they would be out of action until 1996. In the interim, they released Retro Active, a collection of rarities and B-sides, and Vault, a best-of album. The 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Last Action Hero also gave Def Lep a chance to show off their balladry on the soundtrack single "Two Steps Behind." The song hit #12 on the charts, boosted by a memorable video filmed entirely backward (but with lead singer Joe Elliot still mouthing the words in forward motion).

The group returned in 1996 with Slang, which stripped down the group’s trademark big sound to experiment with new styles. For instance, “Truth” toyed with an industrial sound, while the album’s title track was surprisingly r&b-flavored.

As the 90's closed, Def Leppard released Euphoria, an album that hearkened back to the 'big sound' of classics like Pyromania and Hysteria. They continue to tour all around the world, proving that their polished pop-metal sound is still very much in style.

Artist Release History

1980 - On Through the Night
1981 - High 'n' Dry
1983 - Pyromania
1985 - First Strike
1987 - Hysteria
1992 - Adrenalize
1993 - Retro Active
1994 - Mega Edition
1994 - Miss U in H'beat
1995 - Vault: Def Leppard's Greatest Hits
1996 - Slang
1999 - Euphoria

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Essential Music Albums

Hysteria (Polygram)
Vault – Greatest Hits (Polygram)

Band Members

Joe Elliott vocals
Steve Clark (1977-91) guitar
Pete Willis guitar (1977-81)
Phil Collen guitar (1981- )
Rick Savage bass
Rick Allen drums
Vivian Campbell (1992- ) guitar

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