Way back in 1979, the young lads recorded the Def Leppard EP, including the three songs "Ride Into the Sun," "Gethca Rocks Off" and "The Overture." Studio musician Frank Noon played drums on this release, and Pete Willis played guitar (Phil Collen would replace him during the Pyromania sessions. Willis was fired from the band for alcohol abuse).
A record deal with Polygram came fast, and in 1980, the band released On Through the Night. That album included straight-up rock songs, including "Hello America." It's groovy in a late 70s, decade crossover sort of way.
Back in the day, rock bands had to record and tour constantly to gain a following. Just over a year later, Def Leppard released High and Dry. Like it's predecessor, High and Dry included hard rock anthems, like the masterful "Bringin' On the Heartbreak," "Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)" and the album's title track. Here's the video for "High n' Dry (Saturday Night).
A producer switch and massive commercial success came with Pyromania. Thanks to good looks, catchy riffs and MTV, the Brits were suddenly a household name. Most American households own a copy of Pyromania in some form. The album includes the overplayed "Photograph," "Rock of Ages" and "Stagefright." Here's the video for "Too Late for Love," my favorite Def Leppard song (other than, of course, "White Lightning").
After four years, raging alcohol abuse and drummer Rick Allen's horrific car accident that left him with only one arm, the band finally got together to release Hysteria. Just about everyone knows at least one song from Hysteria, and for good reason: the album is RIAA certified diamond, and that's a lot of units sold. The massive commercial success of Hysteria is thanks to singles like "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Love Bites," and "Armageddon It." Here's the video for the album's title track.
After the seemingly never-ending "In the Round, In Your Face" world tour supporting Hysteria, the band went on a hiatus. During this hiatus, wonderfully talented guitarist Steve Clark drank himself to death (former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell took his place in the band). Many critics say that when Clark died, so did the band. I think this is an unfair comparison. Yes, the height of the Leps commercial appeal came during Hysteria, but the music scene was changing as well. By the time Adrenalize was released in the early 1990s, grunge was gripping the music world. Adrenalize included "White Lightning," (a tribute to Clark), plus "Let's Get Rocked," and "Make Love Like a Man." Here's the video for "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad."
Despite grunge and the loss of Clark, Adrenalize was a hit album, clutching the number one position on both U.S. and U.K. album charts (and sold around seven million units immediately after release). To follow-up on their success Def Leppard released a B-sides collection, called Retro Active. This unique collection included "Two Steps Behind," from the film Last Action Hero, as well as "Ride into the Sun," and "Only After Dark." Here's the video for "Miss You In A Heartbeat," one of the Leps best ballads.
After Retro Active, came the greatest hits package Vault. By this time, the band was ready to experiment with a new sound to combat the grunge wave. In 1996, Def Leppard released Slang, a grittier version of pop metal. I remember that Eric bought me Slang the day it was released. He was a senior in high school then, and we hadn't been dating so long. I just made it pretty clear the first time he came over to my house that I was fanatical over Aerosmith and other bands, namely Def Leppard. So he produces Slang and I pop it in my stereo. I was impressed, even if critics didn't like it. The guitars were louder and crunchier and Joe Elliott's voice was raspier than I remembered. Slang includes the songs "All I Want Is Everything," "Breathe a Sigh" and “Gift of Flesh." Here's the video for the album's title track.
While fans today complain that Def Leppard takes too long to record albums, I think the band is just enjoying a slower pace thanks to success. In 1999 Def Leppard released Euphoria. That album only spawned one hit single to speak of, "Promises."
After the semi- disappointing sales of Euphoria, the band tried again with X. I recently picked up X at a used record store for about five bucks. It's not bad, and I really like the postmodern concepts used in the video for "Now." The album also includes the songs "You're So Beautiful," "Cry" and "Girl Like You." Here's the aforementioned video for "Now."
The bands most recent release is Yeah! - an album of cover tunes. Critics and fans seem to really like Yeah!, but diehards are still clamoring for an album of all-new material. The boys covered "20th Century Boy," "Street Life" and "Waterloo Sunset." Here's the video for "Rock On" -- my favorite Def Leppard video in nearly a decade.
So, if you took the time to read this article and listen to the music, what are your thoughts on the Mighty Lep's musical progression? I hope Songs from the Sparkle Lounge see the band returning to their early rock roots, but only time will tell.