Def Leppard is a British band from Sheffield, England, that emerged in the late 1970s as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
The music of Def Leppard is a mixture of hard rock, glam rock and heavy metal elements. The band has occasionally been associated with the hair metal movement of the 1980s, although its sound is more accurately associated with the contemporary NWOBHM genre of the 1970s. It is understood that the band consider themselves a rock band rather than a metal band.
The band's songs generally feature simple guitar hooks and catchy, melodic choruses. The Def Leppard sound is also characterised by its combination of hard rock and polished melodic backing vocals. This approach is very much evident on their first international single, "Hello America", which featured the backing vocal style of Queen, with the guitar crunch of Thin Lizzy.
By the release of the Hysteria record, the band developed a distinctive, futuristic sound featuring heavily processed drums and effects-laden "space-aged" guitar sounds, overlaid with a layered wall of husky, harmonised vocals. Today Def Leppard are considered a classic example of the rock sound of the 1980s, which some consider cliché.
Rick Savage (bass), Pete Willis (guitars) and Tony Kenning (drums) formed the band in 1977 in Sheffield (see 1977 in music). Originally they were known as "Atomic Mass", but when Joe Elliott joined as a vocalist they adopted the name "Deaf Leopard" (which Elliott had thought of in school). The band changed "Deaf Leopard" to "Def Leppard" because they thought "Deaf Leopard" might lead people to believe they were a punk band. They began playing locally and soon added second guitarist Steve Clark. Tony Kenning was fired from the band and replaced by Frank Noon for the Def Leppard EP, the band's first recording. Rick Allen joined the band full-time in late November 1978, replacing Frank Noon. They signed to Mercury Records.
1980 - 1983
Their major label debut was On through the Night (1980 in music). High 'N' Dry (1981 in music) was their first album to be produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange. From this album, the "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" video was one of the first "metal" videos played on MTV video. Phil Collen, former guitarist from the band Girl, replaced Pete Willis who was fired on July 11, 1982 due to excessive alcohol consumption. Pete Willis later recorded with the bands Gogmagog and Roadhouse. This personnel change took place during the recording of their next release, Pyromania (January 20, 1983). Lange was again the producer. Aided by the singles "Photograph", "Rock of Ages", and "Foolin'", Pyromania sold six million copies in 1983 & 84 and was second on the charts only to Michael Jackson's Thriller.
1984 - 1989
The period after the album's success, however, was difficult: on December 31, 1984, Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash in which his Corvette veered off the road into a concrete 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.
Leppard's next album, Hysteria, again produced by Lange, was released in August 1987. The first released single, "Women," was not very successful. It was only released in North America, with a video that featured a futuristic comic book world in which women were invented by men as subservient androids with the acronym W.O.M.E.N. standing for "Worship Our Master's Every Need".
The first UK single from the album was "Animal", reaching #6 on the charts. In the UK, "Animal" was the first of the band's singles to feature a personalised catalogue number - LEP1.
Album sales were slow until a remixed version of the fourth single, "Pour Some Sugar On Me", became a hit. The album included a total of six Top 20 singles. The seventh and last single to be released from this album was "Rocket" in January 1989. The single featured an extended "Lunar Mix" of the song as well as a "Lunar Mix Edit" as the radio-length version.
Much of Leppard's success in the 1980s is credited to their producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who was considered by the band to be its sixth member. To this end, he received a writing credit on every Hysteria track.
1990 - 1999
After Hysteria 's release, internal problems (including the death of guitarist Steve Clark from a drug and alcohol overdose on January 8, 1991) resulted in a long delay before the follow-up.
Adrenalize was finally released in 1992, the only album recorded by Leppard as a four-piece (Elliott, Collen, Savage, and Allen). The album entered the US charts at number 1. It remained there for five weeks, selling six million copies, and the first single, "Let's Get Rocked," was on MTV's video countdown for a long time. It was also nominated for Best Video of the Year at the 1992 9th MTV Video Music Awards. However, it did not have the longevity of their previous albums, and in retrospect many fans consider it one of their weakest albums.
Retro Active was released in 1993 and is a collection of songs which, although not new, were either rare or never previously released. Some of this album's songs were written as B-sides for Hysteria singles. Retroactive was followed by the release of Vault: Def Leppard's Greatest Hits (1980-1995) 1995, Def Leppard's Greatest Hits, which has sold over 7 million copies.
In 1992, guitarist Vivian Campbell joined Def Leppard. Vivian Campbell had previously been in Sweet Savage, Dio, Whitesnake, Trinity, Riverdogs, and Shadow King. He collaborated in the songwriting for Slang, which was released in 1996. Slang was a drastic departure from Def Leppard's usual hard-rocking, guitar-heavy sound and was not well-received. Next came the album Euphoria in 1999, which returned to the classic Def Leppard sound of the 80s, with the hit "Promises" for which ex-producer Mutt Lange assisted in the songwriting.
2000 - 2005
X, Def Leppard's tenth album, was released in 2002. The band has stated that they are very satisfied with this album, and that in many ways they wish it had been the follow-up to Hysteria.
A best of CD was released in October 2004. The disc, entitled The Best Of Def Leppard was also available in a limited edition 2CD format. The first disc was basically a reconfigured Vault, while the second disc held more obscure tracks. From this collection a new single was released in the UK, a cover version of the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset." The 2CD set came emblazoned with a sticker erroneously claiming the collection held "34 Massive Hits". Many of the second disc tracks were only album tracks, selected after polling fans on which tracks they would like to have on the second disc.
Due to the fact that The Best Of wasn't released in North America, a slightly reconfigured double CD North American best of, entitled Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Def Leppard was released 17 May 2005. From this set came the single "No Matter What," a cover of the 1970's Badfinger tune.
It is reported that the songs "Waterloo Sunset" and "No Matter What" will be included on a covers album called Yeah!, due in September 2005 according to guitarist Phil Collen. However, it was learned on the Def Leppard official site recently that the Yeah! album will not be released on September 20. The album is now slated for a late 2005 - early 2006 release.
Because of the aforementioned 'greatest hits' collections, the album Vault is longer available as it is now out-of-print by the band's record label.
They also played at the Live 8 show in Philadelphia.
Collen and Elliot were both involved in the side project Cybernauts and released one Japan-only live album, which was subsequently released over the internet with additional studio material. Both albums were limited edition and have since been deleted.
Phil Collen has a side band called Man-Raze.
Vivian Campbell has two side bands, Clock and the Riverdogs, and has recorded a solo album, Two Sides of If, which will be released September 6, 2005.
Def Leppard was a guest DJ at WXRK K-Rock in New York during the Fourth of July Monster Metal Meltdown in 2005.