Def Leppard craves respect in interview

July 6, 2007

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Interested in writing for us? Click here. Also join us at for contests and further news. Thanks for visiting!

Def Leppard craves respect in interview

Recognition may elude band, but fans keep on coming

Thursday, July 05, 2007
By Cody McDevitt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CINCINNATI — Sweat dripped off my brow as I waited for Def Leppard to arrive for the sound check at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center, a venue nearly identical to the Post-Gazette Pavilion, where the band will play on July 7. I had watched the stage crew build the custom-designed drum set for one-armed drummer Rick Allen.

Def Leppard joins a triple bill with Styx and REO Speedwagon Saturday night at the Post-Gazette Pavilion.
Click image for larger version.

Def Leppard/Styx/REO Speedwagon

Where: Post-Gazette Pavilion.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $31-$81; 412-323-1919.

“Bring ‘em out?” a worker asked before he got the OK from the technician.

The worker left and retrieved the band.

The band dressed and behaved casually for this round of songs. Joe Elliott had a baseball cap on. Vivian Campbell went shirtless. Rick Savage smoked a cigarette in between guitar riffs of “Photograph.”

Campbell, Elliott, Savage and Phil Collen went out to the front of the thrust stage to rehearse “Two Steps Behind.” A crowd of women will go crazy three hours later when this song is played, but at that time, it was just empty seats and a few employees.

“They’re going to be pouring at your feet,” Elliott told Campbell as they checked to see how close the seats were to the stage.

Once the band finished the sound check, their manager guided me into a room that was dimly lit, decorated by Marlboro Reds and a bottle of whiskey and dominated by scented candles. The perfect place for an interview.

Collen walked in first, stocky but well-built. Elliott walked in later, a bit pudgier than he was in music videos like “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

Their band hails from Sheffield, England — a town reminiscent of blue-collar Pittsburgh. In 1977, they set out to be the next Beatles, the next Floyd, the next Who. But did they fulfill those goals?

“No. But there’s no point in having ambitions as high as that table,” Elliott said as he pointed to a table a foot off the ground. “It depends on what you want to say. Are we as iconic as the Beatles? Are we thought along the same lines?”

He paused and shrugged because he didn’t want to say no — but he knew it was not so.

“But we’ve sold two albums that have gone 10-times platinum. We’re one of only six artists in the world to have done that. So at different levels, we’ve achieved different levels of success.”

Elliott is asked why he detests the “hair-band” label. “I hate it because no one ever says it about Zeppelin, and they had hair,” he said in his thick English brogue.

So then why does Leppard have the label?

“The TV thing, it’s such a huge thing. Unfortunately we did get lumped in with Poison. It was the time frame,” Collen said.

Their videos established a hair-band image in the minds of fans and critics alike. Def Leppard’s music was probably better than their peers, but there was little difference between Whitesnake’s video for “Here I Go Again” and Leppard’s video for “Foolin,’ ” which had Elliott tied down to a table while he sang. Both videos were over-theatrical.

You don’t see the band as magazine cover boys too often, and Elliott elaborated on why they aren’t placed there or among lists of the best musicians of all time.

“Rolling Stone and some of the others are really going to be stumped as to whom to put on the cover in a few years because Dylan’s going to be dead, McCartney is going to be dead, The Stones are going to be dead. Is anybody going to step up to the plate in their eyes that they can now turn into the icon?”

His voice did not bear the humor it had during the sound check.

“They’ve been putting Dylan on the cover since ‘65, and they still put him on the cover. The bands of that era are thought of in the same ilk as they were then. They don’t allow anyone into their little clique. U2 is slightly sneaking in there, more because of Bono’s political stuff than his musical contribution.”

“It’s just an observation,” Elliott said in a more reflective tone, “because there comes a point where you can’t put Morrissey on the cover of Rolling Stone every time because he’s the only thing they’ve got left to hang their coat on, or because he’s really cool. He’s not Bob Dylan. I’m not saying we’re Zeppelin, but sooner or later, the [stuff] is going to have to change. They are still pandering to the way they thought post-Woodstock.”

Later, during the concert, some fans’ T-shirts reflected Elliott’s theories. There were a few Motley Crue shirts in the crowd, but then again a few Zeppelin shirts as well. When judged by the audience, Leppard has a hung jury in determining its historical place in music.

Which means that critics still decide where Def Leppard fits as an influential band. For the most part, Elliott was right, despite a positive Rolling Stone review of “Yeah!,” their most recent album. Even if he had critical acclaim, he probably wouldn’t be happy.

During the interview, Elliott would mention record sales, but then focus on Rolling Stone, which had them on the cover in April 1992.

“You get it when you’re young, but do you get it in 10 years time?” he asked rhetorically.

“The point is we have to adapt ourselves,” he said. “It used to be if you got the cover of Rolling Stone, you were there, you made it. It’s probably more important now to make the cover of some download Web site.”

It is hoped he adapts to the times as easily as he does to the weather. During the show, there was a thunderstorm so bad that fans were swimming to get a view. Elliott laughed and began playing “Singin’ in the Rain.”

“What we’re trying to do, if we’re not ahead of the game, we keep an eye on who is,” Elliott said of maintaining the band’s popularity. “We don’t so much follow them, but we make a decision of whether that’s a good or a bad thing to do. We might come across an idea that isn’t good for now, but maybe it will be in two years.”

Perhaps he should let go of his desire for critical acclaim and be as carefree as a tap dancer in the rain. After all, it’s probably more enjoyable to be cheered on by thousands of people than to be a name on a list.

See Comments Below For This Article


3 Responses to “Def Leppard craves respect in interview”

  1. Weather Network on October 24th, 2007 5:27 am

    Weather Network…

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…

  2. taketasgrf on July 17th, 2008 12:56 am

    def leppard arent hair metal. they started out as a hard rock band with a heavy-metal-styled playing, and soon became pop rock because of mtv. anyone that calls def leppard “hair metal” is an 80’s boy.

  3. David Whitton on September 20th, 2008 3:03 am

    Don’t people call bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Def Leppard and AC/DC heavy metal bands because they absolutely hate the term “heavy metal” and Def Leppard doing the same thing to the “hair metal” tag? If that is really true, then they shouldn’t call Motorhead a heavy metal band because Lemmy Kilminster does not like Motorhead being called a heavy metal band, as he often said in interviews. Like AC/DC, Lemmy thinks of his band simply as “rock n’ roll”. Why do people do the opposite to Motorhead?
    They think it’s not how loud the music is that matters, it’s how intense the music is that matters. It’s just Deep Purple were once in the Guinness Book of World Records for “loudest band in the world”, and these days they’re often called “hard rock.” If you’re not going to call Def Leppard a hair metal band, here’s a list of bands you should not call hair metal:
    1. Whitesnake, because they originally began as a bluesy hard rock band.
    2. Guns N’ Roses, because the music they played owed little to 1980s metal and more to 1970s hard rock.
    3. Probably Skid Row, because Skid Row were only this sub-genre on their first album. Later albums saw them move towards a heavier, thrashier sound.

Got something to say?

E-mail It