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Music / Def Leppard

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Left to right - Rick "Sav" Savage (bass), Phil Collen (guitar), Joe Elliott (vocals), Rick Allen (drums), Vivian Campbell (guitar).

"Gunter glieben glauten globen..."

Originally formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England by five teenagers who really liked glam rock, Def Leppard became grouped with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (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 bawdy Chorus-Only Song, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" or their anthem "Rock of Ages" (which famously begins with the utterance of the page quote), they continue to release records (much more often than in their heyday) and do a world tour almost every year since 2003. The band later 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.


  • Rick Allen plays drums on a custom kit built to bypass his disability.
  • Vivian Campbell wrote and played the guitar parts on Dio's "Holy Diver" and moonlit (moonlighted?) as a member of Thin Lizzy.
  • Phil Collen is in too good of shape for a man in his fifties.
  • Joe Elliott never met a bad metaphor he didn't put in a song.
  • Rick Savage used to be "the Cute One" (even getting name-checked to that end on Heroes).

Former Members:

  • Steve Clark, whose playing style was largely influenced by Jimmy Page's playing
  • Pete Willis, who unfortunately let alcohol get the better of him and was fired. However he's since turned his life around and has said that the firing probably saved his life by making him face his problem.


  • On Through the Night (1980)
  • High 'n' Dry (1981)
  • Pyromania (1983)
  • Hysteria (1987)
  • Adrenalize (1992)
  • Slang (1996)
  • Euphoria (1999)
  • X (2002)
  • Yeah! (2006)
  • Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008)
  • Def Leppard (2015)
  • Diamond Star Halos (2022)

"Rise up, gather round, burn these tropes to the ground!"

  • Album Title Drop: Pyromania gets its title from a line in the song "Rock Of Ages". Strangely, "On Through the Night" off of their second album shares the title of their first album.
  • Apocalypse How: "When the Walls Come Tumbling Down" describes a Class 2 at best, Class 3 at worst.
    A blinding light the sun had died
    Tidal waves and open graves
    The fate of the human race
    The city's heart no longer beats
    No pity have I left to lend
    A sinner sits reciting Dylan
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: No, that page quote doesn't translate to anything.
  • Audience Participation Song: Several, with "Pour Some Sugar On Me" as the definitive example.
  • Bawdy Song: "Pour Some Sugar on Me", "Let's Get Rocked", "Rock Rock (Til You Drop)", "Women", "Make Love Like a Man", and that doesn't count album tracks.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Tall, rail-thin Steve Clark and short, muscular Phil Collen, ironically both of them having traits of both.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Subverted by Rick Allen. Despite losing his left arm in a car accident, the band developed a special drumkit for him.
  • Classical Music Is Boring: The band lampshades this in "Let's Get Rocked." The narrator balks at his girlfriend's musical choices, which include the likes of "Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven," which makes him "wanna scream."
  • Cover Album: Yeah! is a cover album made up almost entirely of songs from the 1970s, including "Drive-in Saturday" by David Bowie, "20th Century Boy" by T.Rex, and "Stay With Me" by the Faces.
  • Cover Version: The Sweet's Action, Mick Ronson's Only After Dark on Retroactive
  • Crossover: With Taylor Swift, of all people, via CMT Crossroads.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Slang album is much darker lyrically than the preceding albums Hysteria and Adrenalize.
    • "Love Bites" is this compared to many 80s power ballads, with its bleak lyrics and dark tone.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video: "Hello America".
  • 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 '80s: 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: When Steve Clark was in the band it was common for them to 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 at 7:40. Without Clark, they dialed back the song lengths on later 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 a few spots.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Vivian Campbell.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: "Let's Get Rocked".
  • 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 genuine animosity as Leppard have toured with Mötley Crüe, Poison and Steel Panther amongst others.
  • Handicapped Badass: Even without his left arm, Rick Allen can still beat skins with the best of them. He has an adapted kit to bypass the disability, but you wouldn't tell just from listening.
  • Heavy Meta: "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)", "Let's Get Rocked", "Rock of Ages", "Rock Brigade", "Rocket".
  • Heavy Mithril: "Overture", "When the Walls Came Tumbling Down"
  • Intercourse with You: If you shake one of their records, several of these songs will fall out.
  • Instrumentals: High 'n' Dry has "Switch 625". Euphoria has "Disintegration".
  • 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.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Pyromania, Hysteria (twice), Adrenalize, and Slang.
  • List Song: "Rocket", which lists the bands that Def Leppard count as influences or the titles of their songs, including David Bowie, Elton John, Mott the Hoople, Queen, Thin Lizzy and many, many more.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Same lineup since 1993.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Their debut album On Through The Night, as well as their independent Def Leppard EP, closed with "The Overture". Slang, X their self-titled album, and Diamond Star Halos also ended with the longest songs on them.
  • Lyrics/Video Mismatch: The 1984 version of "Bringin on the Heartbreak". The song is about the dangers of getting caught in a one-sided relationship. The video has Joe being haunted by a figure in a lighthouse and getting burned at the stake by his own bandmates.
  • Morality Ballad: "From the Inside" - it's about drug addiction but written and sung from the point of view of the drugs.
  • 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: Pyromania, their first album with Phil Collen, saw the band incorporating pop influences into their sound.
    • Slang saw the band experimenting with Grunge.
    • X was straight-up pop rock.
  • One-Letter Title: One of their albums is called X.
  • Other Common Music Video Concepts: namely...
    • Backstage Pass: "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (U.S. version) and "Armageddon It".
    • Band From Mundania: "Me and My Wine".
    • In The Studio: "Love Bites".
    • Junkyard/Construction Site: "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (U.K. version; actually a demolition site).
  • Power Ballad: Many, many. "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" from High 'n' Dry was their first. The 1987 album Hysteria is practically built on them. Including the Title Track, "Love Bites", and even "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (though it is more thunderous than the other two).
  • The Power of Rock: "Rock of Ages", "Let's Get Rocked".
  • Record Producer: Mutt Lange.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: They just hid it real well until one of them died.
  • Shout-Out: "Rocket", a shout out to the groups that the band likes.note 
    It's better to burn out..than fade away!
    • "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)" has the line
    On the Stairway to Heaven, what a way to go!
    • "Back in Your Face" has this line during the final verse
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" and "Switch-625" were intended to be this, as they segue into each other on their source album, High 'n' Dry, and are played back-to-back live, though typically radio stations will only play the former song.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: "Die Hard The Hunter" is about a Type 4.
  • Song of Song Titles: "Rocket".
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Two Steps Behind".
    • 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)".
  • Stop and Go: "Animal".
  • 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, and the band gives him full credit for engineering the harmonized 'twin rhythm guitar' sound of "Photograph" and Hysterianote . 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. And yet even in that pairing Steve was the Performer, always playing to the crowds and reveling in what Joe Elliott liked to call "rock god poses", whereas Pete would play more standardized solos.
    • This dynamic was strong enough to be reflected in the instruments Clark and Collen played. Clark preferred vintage guitars, beautiful looking and iconic, but lacking in modern features, while Collen stuck to the cutting edge "superstrats" with all the latest tech.
    • However, Clark's and Collen's respective musical backgrounds actually invert this, as Clark was a classically trained musician whereas Collen (like many of his peers) plays by ear. Clark once described the difference thusly:
      "I do read and write and know the rules of music... Phil will play something if it sounds right, whereas I will look at something and say 'It's wrong to play that note there; it's not musically correct.' So, he's a bit more adventurous."
  • Tron Lines: The cover for Hysteria has Tron-like circuit lines surrounding the center image.
  • War Is Hell: "Gods of War"
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Sleeveless Union Jack shirts and short-shorts.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Pour Some Sugar on Me".
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Jim Steinman was briefly brought in to produce Hysteria when Mutt Lange was unavailable, against the band's wishes. During one of the sessions, he attempted to include a take where Steve and Phil were just tuning their guitars, saying "It sounded honest." The band was incredulous, bought out his contract, and brought Mutt back in at his earliest opportunity.

TV Biopic

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.

This movie rocks the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Steve, so tragically much. Pete, not so tragically. And Phil to a lesser extent, before he gave up drinking.
  • The Determinator: Joe Elliott. Also "Mutt" Lange, once he shows up.
  • Henpecked Boyfriend: Original drummer Tony Kenning is forced by his girlfriend to quit the band. In reality she was a factor, but not the only one or even the main one.
  • How We Got Here: The film actually starts with the auto accident, then flashes back to the band's beginnings.
  • I Am the Band: Defied with a vengeance when it comes time to fire Pete due to his overdrinking:
    Pete: You can't do this to me! This is my band!
    Joe: Wrong! It's OUR band!
  • I Meant to Do That: used no less than three times, all by Rick Allen:
    • 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.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Joe and Rick first meet Phil Collen when he's playing in the glam band Girl. Phil thinks they're trying to flirt with him rather than ask him to audition for the band.
    Joe: Excuse me? Can we talk with you for a sec?
    Phil: Look mate, the makeup's a gimmick. I'm not into blokes.
    Joe: Oh! No, that's not what we meant...
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Mutt Lange is South African and has the corresponding accent in real life. Anthony Michael Hall plays him with his own natural American accent. Since the accents of Def Leppard are all over the place though, he probably just decided to not embarrass himself.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: It's pretty easy to tell not all the actors playing Def Leppard are from Sheffield, or are even British for that matter.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The band's history is compressed into a tidy 90-minute package.
    • Composite Character: Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein, the band's early managerial team, are compiled into one person.
  • Satellite Character: Rick Savage is barely in the movie at all, and tends to just stand around when he is; he neither says nor does anything to drive the plot.
  • Technician Versus Performer: played up with Steve and Phil's first guitar duel.
  • Television Geography: So very very much. Egregious signage, road marking and location errors, a road through high moorland being doubled by a wide highway in Canada, and the fact that almost none of the buildings, street furniture and power equipment actually look even remotely like they do in Britain. And those are the mild examples.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Steve, so tragically much.