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Before Hysteria and Pyromania, and the global tours with larger-than-life pyrotechnics,
2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Def Leppard were a group of fresh-faced teenage friends with rock band aspirations. Crank up one of the band’s irresistible anthems and follow the new Inductees through Inductee Insights powered by PNC Bank.
2019 Inductees Def Leppard set the stage for metal’s domination of the masses.
The band defined visual theatricality. They staged larger-than-life concerts filled with pyrotechnics, intoxicating energy and seductive swagger. To this day, their pop-rock hooks and jaw-dropping stage shows resonate with millions of fans worldwide.
Rock domination started with a group
Rock domination started with a group of fresh-faced teenagers. Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England in 1977. Budding rock star Joe Elliot met guitarist Pete Willis by fate when he missed the bus one day. Willis introduced Elliot to his band, Atomic Mass, where he met bassist Rick Savage. Rather than audition for Atomic Mass, Elliot pitched his new friends a different band – Def Leppard. The band would mix heavy metal and pop hooks, a stark contrast to punk and new wave peers. The newly formed Def Leppard soon recruited guitarist Steve Clark and drummer Rick Allen for the recording of their debut EP.
Released in 1980, Def Leppard’s debut On Through the Night catapulted the group out of small clubs and into radio airplay. After rising to number 15 on the U.K. album charts, the band picked up an opening slot on AC/DC’s tour. Once producer “Mutt” Lange caught wind of Def Leppard, he would guide them as they honed their signature sound. It would sustain the band from pub rock to metal and everything in-between. A year later, Def Leppard released High ‘n’ Dry with more polished songs like “Bringin’ on the Heartache.”
1983 ushered in Def Leppard’s multi-platinum
1983 ushered in Def Leppard’s multi-platinum masterpiece Pyromania. Now joined by guitarist Phil Collen, the band began their takeover of the airwaves and the screens of millions with the ascendance of MTV. Tracks like “Rock of Ages,” “Photograph,” and “Foolin’” became both sonic and visual touchstones for a new generation. Equal parts tight leather pants and Union Jack t-shirts, the group’s look was as captivating as their sound.
Joe Elliot’s anthemic hooks soared above glossy vocal harmony layers. Steve Clark and Phil Collen saturated their songs with guitars, tracking single-note melodic licks over chunky power chords. Underneath, Rick Savage chugged on the bass to support the active texture above. Rick Allen’s larger-than-life drum sound anchored it all. In the case of Def Leppard, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Allen took this as an opportunity to use a custom pedal-oriented, all electronic drum kit to craft the perfect arena drum sound that reverberated throughout stadiums.
A surge of resilience and inspiration
A surge of resilience and inspiration set the stage for the release of Hysteria in 1987. The album was stacked with seven hit singles including “Love Bites,” “Hysteria,” and the stadium-anthem, “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The band had become arena rock legends.
While the 80s was marked by Def Leppard’s dash to success, the 90s symbolized a new evolution. Viv Campbell joined the band, completing a lineup that has remained untouched for 27 years.
Def Leppard emerged as the most commercially successful act in the new wave of British heavy metal. Artists from Metallica and The Struts to Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift claim them as an influence today. But the band’s greatest asset is their perseverance.
British rock group
Def Leppard, British rock band that was one of the prime movers of the new wave of British heavy metal in the 1980s and remained popular in concert into the 21st century. The original members were Pete Willis (b. February 16, 1960, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England), Rick Savage (b. December 2, 1960, Sheffield), Joe Elliott (b. August 1, 1959, Sheffield), and Tony Kenning. Later members included Steve Clark (b. April 23, 1960, Sheffield—d. January 8, 1991, London, England), Phil Collen (b. December 8, 1957, London), Rick Allen (b. November 1, 1963, Dronfield, Derbyshire, England), and Vivian Campbell (b. August 25, 1962, Belfast, Northern Ireland).
Formed in Sheffield by teenagers Willis, Savage, and Elliott in 1977, at the height of punk rock, Def Leppard forged an accessible melodic version of heavy metal that was slower to catch on at home than in the United States, where a new British Invasion of pop-oriented heavy metal bands revived the fading genre. After releasing an extended-play record on their own label, the band reached the British charts with their first album, On Through the Night (1980). Wide exposure for music videos that capitalized on the band’s good looks pushed High ’n’ Dry (1981), Def Leppard’s second album (and their first with producer-cowriter Robert [“Mutt”] Lange), to sales of two million copies. However, it was the metal classic Pyromania (1983), with hits such as “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages” and sales of more than 10 million copies, that assured the group’s place in rock history.
Amid this success came difficulties. In 1982, during the recording of Pyromania, guitarist Willis, who had a drinking problem, was fired and replaced by Collen. The following year drummer Allen lost his arm in an automobile accident, but a customized drum set allowed him to continue with the band. In 1987 Def Leppard released Hysteria, which sold more than 14 million copies and generated several hit singles, among them “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Love Bites.” In 1991 guitarist Clark died of a drug overdose, and, though the band continued to produce hits, especially with Adrenalize (1992), it never regained its exalted status. However, it remained a popular concert draw.
In the 21st century Def Leppard’s recorded output concentrated on re-releases and live albums, interspersed with the studio albums Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008) and Def Leppard (2015).
Def Leppard band was initially compiled by a bunch of schoolboys back in 1977 with the first lineup consisting of vocalist Joe Elliott, drummer Tony Kenning, bassist Rick Savage, and guitarist Pete Willis.
Rick Savage, Tony Kenning, and Pete Willis all went to the same school in Tapton in the Sheffield, South Yorkshire and joined their forces to form the Atomic Mass in 1977. It was renamed into Def Leppard after Joe Elliott joined the band a bit later in November as the vocalist following a fortuitous encounter with Pete Willis after missing his bus.
Guitarist Steve Clark completed the first formation of the Def Leppard band in January 1978 after an impressive performance at the auditions. The same year Tony Kenning abruptly left the group to start his own band Cairo . Frank Noon stepped in as the group was working on of their first three-song release but was soon replaced by the 15-year-old drummer Rick Allen.
Personal adversities affected the band’s formation throughout their long-standing career but Def Leppard current squad has been consistent since 1992.
Currently, Def Leppard band consists of Joe Elliott (lead vocals), Rick Savage (bassist, backing vocals), Rick Allen (drums, backing vocals), Phil Collen (guitar, backing vocals), and Vivian Campbell (guitar, backing vocals). This is the longest-standing line-up in the band’s history.
The list of all Def Leppard members
Tony Kenning – drums, percussion (1977–1978)
Pete Willis – guitar, backing vocals (1977–1982)
Steve Clark – guitar, backing vocals (1978–1991) died 1991
Rick Savage – bass, backing vocals, additional guitar, additional keyboards (1977–present)
Joe Elliott – lead vocals, additional guitar, additional keyboards (1977–present)
Rick Allen – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1978–present)
Phil Collen – guitar, backing vocals (1982–present)
Vivian Campbell – guitar, backing vocals (1992–present)