Def Leppard

Def Leppard are an English hard rock/heavy metal band that has been active since the late 1970s. Thanks to a string of fist-pumping epics (“Bringing On the Heartache,” “Rock of Ages,” “Stagefright”) and singalong ditties (“Rocket,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me”), the band became one of the top-selling concert draws and radio/MTV fixtures during the 1980s.

Members: Joe Elliott (vocals), Rick Savage (bass), Pete Willis (guitar, 1977-82), Tony Kenning (drums, 1977-78), Frank Noon (drums, 1978), Rick Allen (drums, 1978-present), Steve Clark (guitar, 1978-91), Phil Collen (guitar, 1982-present)

Formed by teenage aspirants hoping to carry the torch of idols such as Queen, Sweet, and Led Zeppelin, the first pro-lineup of Def Leppard coalesced in a Sheffield garage circa 1977/78. The band made its vinyl debut with the Vertigo single “Wasted” / “Hello America” in November 1979. Both tracks were included on their first album, On Through the Night, released the following March.

In 1981, Def Leppard made transatlantic headway with the sophomoric High ‘n’ Dry, propelled by the cuts “Switch 625”, “Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes),” and the rising bridges and breakout chorus of “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” which became a staple on cable’s then-fledgling MTV. The 24-hour music-video channel would prove instrumental in breaking the band when the post-apocalyptic cage sets of subsequent clips became telecast to homes across the U.S.


Def Leppard evolved from the power-trio Atomic Mass, formed in 1977 by three teenagers from Tapton School in Sheffield: bassist Rick Savage, guitarist Pete Willis, and drummer Tony Kenning.

One day that November when Willis missed a bus, he met Joe Elliot, who auditioned to be their guitarist but was ultimately hired as their singer. He suggested the name Deaf Leopard, which he’d invented for an art class poster assignment. Thinking it looked like the name of a punk band, they altered the spelling to Def Leppard. The band rehearsed at Portland Works, a Victorian metal trades factory.

In January 1978, they hired classically trained Steve Clark as their second guitarist. He won the audition by playing “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd in its entirety. That November, Kenning left the band. With drummer Frank Noon, they entered Fairview Studios in Hull and demoed three songs: “Ride into the Sun,” “Getcha Rocks Off,” and the eight-minute epic “The Overture.” By Thanksgiving, fifteen-year-old Rick Allen joined as their permanent drummer.

In January 1979, the three songs appeared as The Def Leppard E.P., a limited-issue release (1,000 copies) on self-press Bludgeon-Riffola. Elliot photocopied the lyric insert at work and glued the sleeves together with help from his mother. During an event at Sheffield University, he handed a copy to DJ John Peel, who played the record on his BBC Radio 1 show. This exposure sent the record onto the BBC singles Top 100.

During 1979, Def Leppard became a live attraction across the UK, where they rose to the fore of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement alongside Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tygers of Pan Tang, and Saxon. That year, Leppard signed to Phonogram/Vertigo (Mercury Records in the US).

On Through the Night

Def Leppard released their debut album, On Through the Night, on March 14, 1980, on Vertigo.

1. “Rock Brigade” (3:09)
2. “Hello America” (3:27)
3. “Sorrow Is a Woman” (3:54)
4. “It Could Be You” (2:33)
5. “Satellite” (4:28)
6. “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” (4:44)

7. “Wasted” (3:45)
8. “Rocks Off” (3:42)
9. “It Don’t Matter” (3:21)
10. “Answer to the Master” (3:13)
11. “Overture” (7:44)

Recorded December 1979
Studio Startling Studios (Ascot, Berkshire)
Producer (Colonel) Tom Allom

Joe Elliott – lead vocals, backing vocals
Steve Clark – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Pete Willis – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Rick Savage – bass guitar, backing vocals
Rick Allen – drums, backing vocals

Additional musicians
Chris M. Hughes – synthesiser on “Hello America”
Dave Cousins – voice on “When the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down”

(Colonel) Tom Allom – producer
Louis “Snook” Austin – engineer
Dick Plant – engineer
Alan Schmidt – artwork

Released: 2 November 1979 (UK)

“Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom”
Released: 8 February 1980 (UK)

“Rock Brigade”
Released: 14 May 1980 (US)

UK Albums (OCC) 15

High ‘n’ Dry

Def Leppard released their second album, High ‘n’ Dry, on July 11, 1981, on Vertigo.

1. “Let It Go” (4:43)
2. “Another Hit and Run” (4:59)
3. “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” (3:27)
4. “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” (4:34)
5. “Switch 625” (instrumental) (3:03)

6. “You Got Me Runnin’” (4:23)
7. “Lady Strange” (4:39)
8. “On Through the Night” (5:06)
9. “Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes)” (4:08)
10. “No No No” (3:13)

Recorded March – June 1981[2]
Studio Battery Studios (London, England)
Producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Joe Elliott – lead vocals, backing vocals
Steve Clark – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Pete Willis – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Rick Savage – bass guitar, backing vocals
Rick Allen – drums, backing vocals

Robert John “Mutt” Lange – producer,
Mike Shipley – engineer
Nigel Green – assistant engineer
Hipgnosis – cover design

“Let It Go”
Released: 14 August 1981 (UK)

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” / “Me and My Wine”
Released: 13 November 1981 (US)

UK Albums (OCC) 26
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan) 31
US Billboard 200 38


Def Leppard released their third album, Pyromania, on January 20, 1983, on Vertigo.

1. “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” (3:52)
2. “Photograph” (4:12)
3. “Stagefright” (3:46)
4. “Too Late for Love” (4:30)
5. “Die Hard the Hunter” (6:17)

6. “Foolin’” (4:32)
7. “Rock of Ages” (4:09)
8. “Comin’ Under Fire” (4:20)
9. “Action! Not Words” (3:49)
10. “Billy’s Got a Gun” (incl. “The March of the Wooden Zombies”) (5:56)

Recorded January–November 1982
Studio Park Gates (Battle, Sussex, England) Battery (London, England)
Producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange

Joe Elliott – lead vocals
Phil Collen – guitar solos on 1–3, 6 & 7, backing vocals
Steve Clark – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Pete Willis – rhythm guitars (all tracks)
Rick Savage – bass, backing vocals
Rick Allen – drums, backing vocals

Additional musicians
“The Leppardettes” – backing vocals
John Kongos – Fairlight CMI programming
Thomas Dolby – keyboard (credited as Booker T. Boffin)
Tony Kaye – additional keyboards (uncredited)

Robert John “Mutt” Lange – producer, mixing
Nigel Green – mixing (uncredited)[31]
Mike Shipley – engineer
Brian “Chuck” New – assistant engineer (Battery Studios)
Craig “Too Loud for Boys” Thomson – assistant engineer (Park Gate Studios)
Bob Ludwig – mastering
Bernard Gudynas – front cover illustration
David Landslide – back cover photograph
Satori – album sleeve concept and design

Released: January 1983
Mainstream Rock (USA)[18] 1
Billboard Hot 100 (USA)[18] 12

“Rock of Ages”
Released: June 1983
Mainstream Rock (USA)[18] 1
Billboard Hot 100 (USA)[18] 16

Released: August 1983

“Too Late for Love”
Released: November 1983

US Billboard 200[39] 2
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[33] 4
UK Albums (OCC)[38] 18

“Overture” – slow acoustic plucking/bass intro (D-E-D) herald’s Joe Elliots entrance @:32… Led Zeppelin VI feel (the folky numbers) instantly takes hold in the arrangement, key choices and vocal characteristics… lyrics that deal with mankind’s resolve to rebuild civilization after a catastrophic event… the bass presents sharp turns as the fingered guitar and wordless harmonies mesh… abrupt shift into fast-paced rock number @ 2:15, tight cohesive gallop in Dmin, tonal clarity between the searing leads, buzzing chords, breakneck bass…. solo breaks @4:15, bendy sustains, drum rolls… slow/heavy passage @4:40, harmonized lyrics, epic tom-rolls, wailing leads scaling high (Dmin-C-G-Amin)… I’m reminded here of Kansas (who leaned heavily on Dmin in their intense passages) and the song “Last Chance” by Shooting Star… used fades into a plucked recap of the first section @6:35… ends at 7:40, much like it began… the young band’s noble attempt at creating an epic in the grand tradition of their maximalist rock forebears: Zeppelin, Heep, Queen… even Yes and Tull..



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