The history of Def Leppard from year to year - from the start in 1977 to 2001. Click on any link or picture to open up a new window. For slightly more detailed biographies on the band members, click on the individual pictures at the top right.
The first gig
In November, the first Def Leppard rehearsal takes place in a spoon factory near Bramall Lane, Sheffield (UK). Lead singer Joe Elliott, bass player Rick "Sav" Savage, guitarist Pete Willis, and drummer Tony Kenning just renamed the band from Deaf Leopard (a name first coined by Joe Elliott at school in 1975) to Def Leppard. At Christmas, the band perform their first gig for six friends. Six songs are played, including covers by David Bowie, Thin Lizzy and their own original MISTY DREAMER.

The Def Leppard EP
On January 28, Steve Clark, joins the band as the second guitarist (click here for a short bio). Between February and July, the band rehearse interminably until Steve Clark threatens to quit if they don't get out and play. On July 18, Def Leppard play their first public gig at Westfield School in Sheffield. They are paid £5 -- out of a teacher's pocket. In November, drummer Tony Kenning is fired from the band and replaced by Frank Noon for the band's first recording, THE DEF LEPPARD EP, which costs 600 Pounds Sterling (approximately 900 US Dollars) for recording, sleeves and pressing on their own Bludgeon Riffola label. On November 28, drummer Rick Allen joins the band full time.

1979 The live reputation climbs, John Peel's show on BBC Radio 1 gives the EP the first radio airplay and a recording deal is signed with Phonogram (UK) and Mercury (US). All band members give up their day jobs and Rick Allen drops out of school. In September, the band open for Sammy Hagar and play London's rock mecca, The Hammersmith Odeon, for the first time. In October and November, Def Leppard supports AC/DC in the UK. During that time, the first single WASTED, produced by Nick Tauber, is released. Rick Allen celebrates his 16th (!) birthday at the Hammersmith.

On Through The Night
On March 14, the debut LP ON THROUGH THE NIGHT, produced by Tom Allom, is released. Around the same time, the single HELLO AMERICA sees the light of day. On April 1, the band sign with Leber-Krebs management company. They are looked after by the American duo Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein (later to form their own company, Q Prime). In May, the band arrive for debut US tours to open for, respectively, Pat Travers, Judas Priest, Ted Nugent and AC/DC. In August, Def Leppard return to the UK to play at the Reading Festival. The crowd, convinced that the band have sold out to the Yankee Dollar and turned their backs on their home country, greet them with a rain of tomatoes and beer cans.

High 'N' Dry
Recordings for the second album start in March, their first with producer and soon-to-be unofficial sixth Lep, Robert John "Mutt" Lange. HIGH 'N' DRY, is released in July and a European tour follows, supporting Rainbow. In the US, the band support Ozzy Osbourne and Blackfoot. In November, a new US cable channel called MTV discovers the video for BRINGIN' ON THE HEARTBREAK with heavy rotation, and HIGH 'N' DRY is shot back up the charts.

1982 In January, recordings for the third album start, again with Robert John "Mutt" Lange. In July, Pete Willis leaves the band and is replaced by Phil Collen, formerly of Lucy and Girl.

In January, the PYROMANIA, album and PHOTOGRAPH single are released to massive acclaim and sales. In the US, the LP sells 100,000 a week for most of the year and ends up selling over seven million copies in the US. Success in the rest of the world eludes them at this stage. In February and March, a UK headline tour is done and in the spring, the band support Billy Squier on tour in the US. In April, the first US headline tour is started.

1984 The PYROMANIA world tour ends on February 7 in Bangkok and the band relocate to Dublin, Ireland. Work on album number 4 starts in the spring, when each Lep, armed with a drum machine individually start working on song ideas. In August, recordings are started at Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum (Holland) with producer Jim Steinman (of Meat Loaf's BAT OUT OF HELL fame). "Mutt" Lange passed on working with Def Leppard on this LP because he was exhausted after producing The Cars' HEARTBEAT CITY. Steinman proves incompatible with the band's style and their collaboration ends, with eight backing tracks scrapped. By "Mutt" Lange's suggestion, He is replaced by Nigel Green, who had engineered the band's HIGH N' DRY album. On New Year's Eve, just outside Sheffield, Rick Allen's car overturns high speed and he is thrown clear. His left arm is severed. Microsurgery fails to reconnect the limb.

1985 Adapting a Simmons electronic kit, Rick learns to drum one-armed. Meanwhile, the rest of the band keep recording with Nigel Green. In the summer, "Mutt" Lange takes over as a producer and advises the band to re-record almost everything.

Rainy in Mannheim
To break cabin-fever of recording, the band plan to eight shows at the European Monsters Of Rock tour during the summer. As insurance, they bring Status Quo's Jeff Rich to supplement Rick Allen's drums. During the warm-up mini tour of Ireland, when Rich accidentally misses a gig, the rest of the band realize that Rick can drum alone. On August 16, they perform at Castle Donington, the first Monsters Of Rock show. In stark contrast to their Reading debacle, the show is a triumph and the crowd take them to their hearts. The final Monsters Of Rock show, taking place August 31 in Mannheim, Germany, is marked by a torrential downpour that lasts exactly the duration of Def Leppard's set.

In January, the recordings of the fourth album are finished. In February, another album's worth of tracks are recorded. Mostly live in the studio, to be used for B-sides. After kicking off the world tour in the UK on August, HYSTERIA, is released. Seven out of the twelve tracks are released as singles: WOMEN, ANIMAL, POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME, LOVE BITES, ARMAGEDDON IT, HYSTERIA and ROCKET. The album goes on to sell 15 million copies (including 12 million in the US alone). At last the band are stars in their home country. During their US tours, the band play "in the round" on a stage located in the center of arenas.

1988 After 227 shows supporting the HYSTERIA album, work begins on the fifth album in October.

1989 Recordings of the fifth album proceed at Wisseloord Studios and Studio 150 in Amsterdam (Holland), before the band relocate to Dublin. The band also plays TEAR IT DOWN live at the MTV Video Music Awards, Steve Clark's last show with the band.

1990 A year passes while the band keeps working on their album...

Steve Clark RIP
On January 8, guitarist Steve Clark dies after mixing alcohol with the painkillers prescribed to him after breaking three ribs earlier that year. Def Leppard continue recording their album as a four piece. For the first time in four albums "Mutt" Lange does not man the controls: rather serving as executive producer. Long-time mixer/engineer Mike Shipley sits in as co-producer along with the band.

The newest incarnation of Def Leppard is revealed to the world in April at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley stadium. Vivian Campbell, already well known and respected for his work with Dio and Whitesnake, joins the band and ADRENALIZE is released. They embark on a rare set of European club dates to work on their live show. It enters the US charts at number one and remains there for five weeks, selling six million copies. In Japan, Mexico and many other countries, it will become Def Leppard's biggest-selling album to date. In June, the SEVEN DAY WEEKEND-tour begins. Before it ends, some eighteen months later, Def Leppard will have played 241 shows, by far their most ambitious tour ever and the first time they have played "in the round" in the UK.

Retro Active
The producers of Arnold Schwarzenegger's new film Last Action Hero approach the band in March about contributing a song for the end credits. The band, still on tour to support their latest album, cannot make time to record a new song. Rather, they send a B-side called TWO STEPS BEHIND, which had previously been released only in the UK. In a triumphant return to their home town, they are the first-ever band to play the newly opened Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield on June 6 -- to sell out a crowd of 40,000, almost 15 years after their first gig. In July, TWO STEPS BEHIND is released, becoming a hit in the US, as well as the rest of the world. A string section recorded by Michael Kamen was added and the song was mixed, released, and was racing up the charts within six weeks. This inspires the band to remix the rest of their rarities and B-sides, in an attempt to put out all the remaining songs from the Steve Clark era, and begin a new phase in the history of Def Leppard: in August, RETRO ACTIVE, is released, goes platinum in the US and sells over two million copies worldwide. In September, the last gig of the ADRENALIZE-tour takes place. The band take a six month break, to write and work on new songs on their own, before entering a studio to begin work on their seventh album.

1994 Def Leppard head to a house overlooking Marbella, Spain, to record their next album. Pete Woodroffe, who co-produced RETRO ACTIVE, is tapped to co-produce the disc as well.

With the new album near completion, the band are approached by Mercury Records to release a Greatest Hits compilation, highlighting the first chapter of Def Leppard's career. VAULT, is released in October, a collection of sixteen tracks (with different tracklistings, varying on the country of release), drawing one song from 1982's HIGH 'N' DRY, two from 1982's PYROMANIA, six from 1987's enourmously popular HYSTERIA, four from 1992's ADRENALIZE and two from 1993's RETRO ACTIVE. In addition, there is a new song, WHEN LOVE AND HATE COLLIDE, which becomes Def Leppard's biggest hit in the UK ever, peaking at number two in the charts. VAULT goes on to sell 3.5 million copies. In October, Sheffield pays tribute to their biggest export - plaques go up at the Crookes Working Man's Club and the Don Valley Stadium. The band give the first exhibit to the National Centre For Popular Music and then go to tea with the Mayor. The day's finale is an acoustic gig 300-capacity Wapentake Pub where the band had played one of their very first shows back in 1978. On October 23, Def Leppard go for the big one and play 3 continents in one day. Starting at midnight in a cave in Tangiers, Morocco, they play an acoustic set. They then fly to London, England to play at midday. Finally, they end up in Vancouver, Canada for yet another show at 9.30 PM; 5,845 miles in a day!

In January, the band keep working on their next album and move from Marbella, Spain to Bow Lane Studio in Dublin, Ireland. In April, the first singles of the new album are released: SLANG in the UK and WORK IT OUT in the US. On May 13, SLANG, is released, followed by a world tour that starts May 28 in Bangkok. During the following months, the band tour Southeast Asia and the US, before the European leg starts in October. In December, the band tour South Africa, for the very first time, culminating in a sell-out show to 47,000 exuberant fans at the Johannesburg Stadium.

1997 April sees the band complete their world tour with dates in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Columbia, Equador, Argentina and Brazil.

1998 In March, Joe and Sav, along with international ice hockey star Tim Cranston, launch The Player's Cafe in Sheffield, a bar/restaurant combining sports, music and film. Their state-of-the-art video screen is the largest of its kind in Europe. In April, the band get together in Dublin to start writing and recording their next album. The album is recorded at Joe's Garage, Dublin where ADRENALIZE was recorded along with some of RETRO ACTIVE and SLANG.

On March 16, Def Leppard are one of the inaugural recipients of the newly launched Diamond Awards in the USA. The award are for over 10 million sales in the US of one album (HYSTERIA has now sold 12 million in the US - over 16 million worldwide) in the history of recorded music. Only 61 albums and 45 artists have achieved this level of success. Even more astoundingly, only eight of them were British artists. Def Leppard are in the fine company of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Elton John, George Michael, Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. On May 24, the first single off the new album, PROMISES is released. Two weeks later, EUPHORIA, hits stores, followed by a tour in Japan, the US and the UK. The band plays at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL on December 31 to celebrate the turn of the century during the second leg of the EUPHORIA-tour.

2000 The EUPHORIA tour takes the band to the States and Canada, where they play 78 shows. The 147-date tour comes to an end on September 30 in West Springfield, Massachusets.

Work starts on the follow-up to EUPHORIA. In the meantime, Joe and Phil release release the live CD of their CYBERNAUTS project, featuring old David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust/Spiders From Mars songs and play four gigs in Japan. In July, VH1 (USA) broadcasts on a movie covering the band's career until the start of the HYSTERIA tour, which is seen by millions of people.