Def Leppard are a British hard rock band, formed in 1977 in Sheffield. They experienced their biggest hits at the height of glam metal and are best known for their songs “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” and “Hysteria.” They have at times been associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, though the band have refuted any “heavy metal” label on numerous occasions. The longest running incarnation of Def Leppard has been Joe Elliott (vocals), Rick Savage (bass, backing vocals), Rick Allen (drums, backing vocals), and Vivian Campbell (guitar, backing vocals).
Def Leppard’s debut album, On Through the Night, was released on March 14, 1980. It was a hard rock album with clear heavy metal influences, with a strong resemblance to Thin Lizzy. Their second album, High N’ Dry, was produced by AC/DC producer Mutt Lange, who helped the band define their sound over the coming years. The album contained the hit “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” which was one of the earliest videos played on MTV.
Their 1983 album Pyromania helped establish a virtual blueprint for glam metal bands to work with throughout the 80’s. As one of the first bands to experience major success in the 80’s heavy metal movement, Def Leppard struck a chord by mingling their formerly labeled New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound with a refined glam metal and hard rock inspired sound. The result was the Diamond Certified album Pyromania. Produced by Mutt Lange, the album still receives heavy radio airplay today for the songs “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin,” and “Too Late for Love.”
Much time had passed since Def Leppard’s hit 1983 album, Pyromania, when 1987’s Hysteria was finally released. Not only had the rock/metal scene become saturated in glam metal influenced by the success of Pyromania, but the band itself underwent major changes. The group trashed the initial cut of this album, and started from scratch with producer Mutt Lange. The result was a very polished, clean, hard rock album with some glam metal aspects. The band had suffered adversities while recording, the biggest being drummer Rick Allen’s car wreck which caused him to lose an arm. Despite his major injury, he was committed to staying in the group, which the other band members fully supported. A custom drum kit was developed which allowed Allen to play with one of his feet working in place of his lost arm.
Four years after Pyromania, the band would experience its best selling album, Hysteria, which included an astounding seven singles: “Woman,” “Animal,” “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” and “Rocket.” The overall sound of Hysteria isn’t as much glam metal as it is polished pop rock. Producer Mutt Lange’s goal of the album was to make every song on the album a potential hit, much like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Decades later, the sound of Hysteria still sounds as crisp and polished, one of the benchmark albums of the radio friendly 80’s.
Their next album, Adrenalize, was the first album without guitarist Steve Clark, who died in 1991 from a drug related overdose. It was released on March 31, 1992, a full five years after Hysteria. Again, a lot of time had passed, and grunge was now the dominant form of rock music. Still, the album hit #1, and went triple platinum in the US. It contained the hit song “Let’s Get Rocked.” Vivian Campbell replaced Clark following the completion of the recording for Adrenalize. After extensive touring for the album, the band released Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits (1980-1995), which sold 5 million copies in the USA.
In May of 1996, the band released Slang, a departure from the sound fans were used to. It had a more eclectic feel, with some alternative rock influences that fit in with other music released during the 90’s. It was moderately accepted by fans, though did not receive the radio airplay of previous albums.
Def Leppard were featured on one of the premiere episodes of VH1’s Behind the Music in 1998, which resulted in more exposure for the band following the grunge and post-grunge years of the 90’s. In 1999, Euphoria was released, a return to the early sounds that made Def Leppard famous. It contained the hit “Promises,” which was produced by Mutt Lange. In 2002, the album X was released which was a pop-crossover album. It failed to receive much radio airplay. In 2006, the covers album Yeah! was released, and contained covers of songs by T-Rex, David Bowie, and Thin Lizzy.
Songs from the Sparkle Lounge was released in 2008, and was well received by most critics. It debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200. In 2011, the live album Mirror Ball was released with three new studio tracks. In 2013, the band had a residency at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, performing the album Hysteria in its entirety.
- On Through the Night (1980)
- High ‘n’ Dry (1981)
- Pyromania (1983)
- Hysteria (1987)
- Adrenalize (1992)
- Retro Active (1993)
- Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits (1980–1995) (1995)
- Slang (1996)
- Euphoria (1999)
- X (2002)
- Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008)
- Mirror Ball (2011)