Inductee Insights: Def Leppard
Before Hysteria and Pyromania, and the global tours with larger-than-life pyrotechnics,
2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Def Leppard were a group of fresh-faced teenage friends with rock band aspirations. Crank up one of the band's irresistible anthems and follow the new Inductees through Inductee Insights powered by PNC Bank.
2019 Inductees Def Leppard set the stage for metal’s domination of the masses.
The band defined visual theatricality. They staged larger-than-life concerts filled with pyrotechnics, intoxicating energy and seductive swagger. To this day, their pop-rock hooks and jaw-dropping stage shows resonate with millions of fans worldwide.
Rock domination started with a group of fresh-faced teenagers. Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England in 1977. Budding rock star Joe Elliot met guitarist Pete Willis by fate when he missed the bus one day. Willis introduced Elliot to his band, Atomic Mass, where he met bassist Rick Savage. Rather than audition for Atomic Mass, Elliot pitched his new friends a different band – Def Leppard. The band would mix heavy metal and pop hooks, a stark contrast to punk and new wave peers. The newly formed Def Leppard soon recruited guitarist Steve Clark and drummer Rick Allen for the recording of their debut EP.
Released in 1980, Def Leppard’s debut On Through the Night catapulted the group out of small clubs and into radio airplay. After rising to number 15 on the U.K. album charts, the band picked up an opening slot on AC/DC’s tour. Once producer “Mutt” Lange caught wind of Def Leppard, he would guide them as they honed their signature sound. It would sustain the band from pub rock to metal and everything in-between. A year later, Def Leppard released High ‘n’ Dry with more polished songs like “Bringin’ on the Heartache.”
1983 ushered in Def Leppard’s multi-platinum masterpiece Pyromania. Now joined by guitarist Phil Collen, the band began their takeover of the airwaves and the screens of millions with the ascendance of MTV. Tracks like “Rock of Ages,” “Photograph,” and “Foolin’” became both sonic and visual touchstones for a new generation. Equal parts tight leather pants and Union Jack t-shirts, the group’s look was as captivating as their sound.
Joe Elliot’s anthemic hooks soared above glossy vocal harmony layers. Steve Clark and Phil Collen saturated their songs with guitars, tracking single-note melodic licks over chunky power chords. Underneath, Rick Savage chugged on the bass to support the active texture above. Rick Allen’s larger-than-life drum sound anchored it all. In the case of Def Leppard, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Allen took this as an opportunity to use a custom pedal-oriented, all electronic drum kit to craft the perfect arena drum sound that reverberated throughout stadiums.
A surge of resilience and inspiration set the stage for the release of Hysteria in 1987. The album was stacked with seven hit singles including “Love Bites,” “Hysteria,” and the stadium-anthem, “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The band had become arena rock legends.
While the 80s was marked by Def Leppard’s dash to success, the 90s symbolized a new evolution. Viv Campbell joined the band, completing a lineup that has remained untouched for 27 years.
Def Leppard emerged as the most commercially successful act in the new wave of British heavy metal. Artists from Metallica and The Struts to Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift claim them as an influence today. But the band’s greatest asset is their perseverance.