Originally formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England by five teenagers who really liked glam rock, Def Leppard became grouped with the NWOBHM before turning early-MTV pop-rock sweethearts. After kicking out a founding guitarist for too much drunken tomfoolery (Pete Willis), they released a well-received rock album (Pyromania), lost another sixth of a member (Rick Allen's left arm), released a phenomenally successful pop-rock record (Hysteria), which was essentially aiming to be "the hard rock version of Thriller", then the other original guitarist drank himself to death over the course of a few years (Steve Clark).Best known for predicating a thirty-year career on the bawdyChorus-Only Song, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and the terribly unfunny joke "What has nine arms and sucks?", they continue to release records (much more often than in their heyday) and do a world tour almost every year since 2003 despite becoming musical pariahs in the post-grunge era.Recently the band have experienced something of a career resurgence with well received collaborations with Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift introducing them to a new audience.They are one of only five bands to have two original (non-greatest hits or live) albums sell more than ten million copies each; the others being Van Halen, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. Musically, they are known for melodic dual lead guitarists, four-part harmonies both on record and live, and massively produced, Queen-esque albums.Members:
Darker and Edgier: The Slang album is much darker lyrically than the preceding albums Hysteria and Adrenalize.
Determinator - Rick Allen after his accident learning to play one handed. To the point after one show on the comeback tour after the accident the backup drummer on standby in case Rick couldn't play the songs said to the rest of the band essentially "You guys don't need me here" and flew home.
Also Vivian Campbell who refused to let a little thing like cancer stop him touring with the band in 2013.
Rick Savage during his fight with Bell's Palsy in The Nineties.
Early Installment Weirdness: On Through the Night and High 'n' Dry, their first two albums, have a much more straightforward heavy metal style and sound. Their signature melodic hard rock style came into force on the third album Pyromania due to the influence of their new guitarist Collen and Robert John "Mutt" Lange coming on board to produce this and the massive follow up Hysteria.
The Eighties: Seriously big during that era with Pyromania and Hysteria selling truckloads, high charting singles and huge tours.
Epic Instrumental Opener: "Gods of War" has a fifty second instrumental intro, followed by nearly a minute of the main tune being played before Joe begins singing.
Epic Rocking: They often include one or more long songs on their releases. Pyromania has "Die Hard the Hunter" at 6:17, Hysteria has two equally long songs with "Rocket" and "Gods of War" both at 6:37, Adrenalize chips in with "White Lightning" at 7:03, Slang gives us "Pearl of Euphoria" at 6:21; their longest song by far is "Overture" from On Through The Night, though they dialed back the song lengths on more recent albums.
Excalibur: Joe pulls it out of a stone in the video for "Rock of Ages". Of course, it turns into a guitar when he puts it on a table.
Foreshadowing: If you play "Rocket" backwards, you can hear the chorus of "Gods of War"note In Hysteria, "Gods of War" comes four songs after "Rocket" chronologically. in a few spots.
Hair Metal: The band themselves deny that they were part of the genre and Joe Elliott has been somewhat dismissive of other hair bands when asked about Leppard's association with the style. They count the British glam bands from the 1970s, such as T. Rex and Sweet, as key influences. However it seems more a reaction to ignorant media types pigeonholing the band than genunine animosity as Leppard have toured with Mötley Crüe, Poison and Steel Panther amongst others.
Handicapped Badass: Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident. His response? Get a specialized drum kit and keep playing.
Heavy Meta: "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)", "Let's Get Rocked", "Rock of Ages", "Rock Brigade", "Rocket".
Lighter and Softer: Their first two albums were definitely Heavy Metal, even showing a noticeable NWOBHM influence, but starting with their third album Pyromania they adopted a more radio-friendly hard rock sound. Their fourth album, Hysteria, moved even further in this direction due to nearly half the songs being ballads.
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: In their beginnings and on Pyromania, they were a solid 5, sometimes even a 6. By the time Hysteria rolled around, they had softened to a 4. High 'n' Dry seems to be a 7. Perhaps a weak one, but most of the time it's clearly metal, and On Through the Night is slightly stronger on that front. Phil Collen has remarked on the trend ("We were always halfway between heavy metal and Duran Duran").
Myspeld Rökband: They were originally called Atomic Mass, which was changed to Deaf Leopard. They became Def Leppard on Joe Elliott's suggestion after he joined the group as a tribute to Led Zeppelin (who deliberately misspelled the first word in their name) and to differentiate themselves from punk bands who named themselves after animals.
New Sound Album: Slang. To be fair, Joe Elliott had been making noises about wanting to explore new sounds as far back as Hysteria.
X as well.
High 'n' Dry as compared to the more traditionally metal-styled On Through The Night.
Also applicable to "Photograph" when, after a few listens, one realizes the singer doesn't actually have a relationship with the woman in question, and is merely obsessing over her photograph (although Joe Elliott insists that it's a tribute to Marilyn Monroe).
Step Up to the Microphone: They have four pretty good singers (Rick Allen only tends to do backing vocals during live shows), so it's no surprise that somebody other than Joe took the opportunity to sing lead for a couple of songs on Yeah! Sav does the lead vocals on their cover of "Dear Friends", while Phil sings and plays all the instruments on "Stay With Me". Collen also sings a verse on "Make Love (Like a Man)".
Technician Versus Performer: Steve Clark was the performer (technical only when he wanted to) while Phil Collen is a pure technician. Steve was regarded as main songwriter by both Joe and Phil, composing many of the riffs and solos. After he died, Phil was almost driven to leave the band himself out of frustration over his struggles to emulate Steve's playing style, but was successful in doing so for the remainder of Adrenalize.
Ironically enough, Steve was initially hired because he was a better player than original guitarist Pete Willis.
The Team: The band has very much the same line-up for nearly 3 decades.
Def Leppard were the subject of a Made-for-TV Movie in 2001. Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story follows the band's beginnings and rise to stardom, focusing especially on the alcoholism of both Pete Willis and Steve Clark and on Rick's accident. There's also a little something about Pyromania and Hysteria in there somewhere.
When first auditioning for the band, Rick plays in the style of several drummers, then falls off his drumstool. He's just imitating the drunken antics of Keith Moon.
In a Call Back to the above: When first trying out his new electronic kit with the band after his accident, Rick can't get the timing right, gets frustrated and falls off his stool. He echoes the audition incident to reassure the band.
Backstage at his first on-stage performance after the accident, Rick is practicing stick-twirls but drops the stick. After a dead silence falls over the room, Rick invokes the trope word for word.