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Def Leppard - Biography





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".


In January, Steve Clark joins the band as the second guitarist. 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 Pounds -- 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.


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 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.


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, the new US cable channel MTV discovers the video for "BRINGIN' ON THE HEARTBREAK" and plays it with heavy rotation; "HIGH 'N' DRY" is shot back up the charts.


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 that country alone. 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.


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.


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.


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 16 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.


In October, after 227 shows supporting the "HYSTERIA" album, work begins on the fifth album.


Recordings of album #5 proceed at Wisseloord Studios and Studio 150 in Amsterdam (Holland), before the band relocate to Dublin. The band also play "TEAR IT DOWN" live at the MTV Video Music Awards, Steve Clark's last show with the band.


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


On January 8, guitarist Steve Clark dies after mixing alcohol with painkillers prescribed to him after he broke 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: he rather serves 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. The band embark on a rare set of European club dates to work on their live show. The album enters the US charts at number 1 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.


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.
On June 6, almost 15 years after their first gig, they are the first-ever band to play the newly opened Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield: a triumphant return to their home town to a sell out crowd of 40,000.
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 is added and the song is mixed, released, and racing up the charts within 6 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.


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 enormously 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 -- a feat for which they receive a mention in the Guinness Book Of Records. 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 Studios 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, the album "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.


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


In April, the band get together in Dublin to start writing and recording their ninth album. The album is recorded in Dublin at Joe's home studio - Joe's Garage, where "ADRENALIZE" was recorded, along with some parts of "RETRO ACTIVE" and "SLANG".
VH1 starts broadcasting the Def Leppard episode of their "BEHIND THE MUSIC" documentary series, the first in a row of Def Leppard-related shows the station will be showing in the future ("STORYTELLERS", "HYSTERIA: THE DEF LEPPARD STORY" and "ULTIMATE ALBUMS" would follow).


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 and is 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.


The "EUPHORIA" tour takes the band to the States and Canada, where they play another 78 shows. The 147-date tour comes to an end on September 30 in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
In September, the band gets inducted at the Hollywood Rock Walk Hall of Fame, where they receive a plaque and leave their hand prints in cement.


Joe and Phil work on their CYBERNAUTS project, playing old David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust/Spiders From Mars songs, Vivian works with his other band CLOCK, Rick starts his own RAVEN DRUM FOUNDATION, and Sav enjoys life as a father. At the same time, work starts on the follow-up to "EUPHORIA".
The four home videos are being re-released on DVD: "HISTORIA" and "IN THE ROUND IN YOUR FACE" on the first DVD, and "VISUALIZE" and "VIDEO ARCHIVE" on the second. Both releases are updated with interviews and the videos taken from the "Slang"- and "Euphoria"-albums.
In July, VH1 (USA) broadcasts "HYSTERIA: THE DEF LEPPARD STORY", a movie covering the band's career until the start of the "HYSTERIA" tour, which is seen by millions of people and is rated tremendously high.
Throughout the year, the band travels between Dublin, Stockholm and California to write and record new material with Max Martin, Marti Frederiksen, Per Aldeheim and Andreas Carlsson.


In June, "NOW", the first single from the band's tenth album, is released. The album "X" (as in the Roman numeral for 10), is released in July. Before the "X" tour starts, the band plays a number of shows in the UK, including one in Leeds, attended by Queen Elizabeth.