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Why Def Leppard decided to embrace pop according to Joe Elliott

Joe Elliott

Classic Rock

Why Def Leppard decided to embrace pop according to Joe Elliott

Formed back in 1976 in Sheffield, England, Def Leppard released their debut album “On Through the Night” in 1980 and then “High ‘N’ Dry” (1981). Those two first albums were heavy and really had a sound more close to Hard Rock music. But after Pete Willis was fired from the band and replaced by Phil Collen, the group changed their sound, embracing Pop and but also keeping the heaviness.


In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, the band’s vocalist Joe Elliott explained why the band decided to embrace Pop back then. That obviously was the right choice since they made “Pyromania” (1983) and “Hysteria” (1987), which became their best-selling albums.

Why Def Leppard decided to embrace pop according to Joe Elliott

“Having not seen Mutt for nine months, when we first got together for ‘Pyromania,’ we would just discuss what’s been going on since we last saw [him]. Things that had happened in the past that we didn’t take much notice of, had really taken root now. Like, it was 1981 when the Human League released ‘Dare’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, with that brilliantly done drum machine. Then, there was New Order.”

“All of these drum machine things were becoming commonplace in that alternative rock scene. But nobody was doing it in what you might call the standard rock scene. You know, in 1982 when we were making ‘Pyromania,’ the new thing was Men at Work. And Asia. The established bands like Styx and REO Speedwagon were still making records like they always did.”

Elliott continued:

“We had this opportunity to come out all guns blazing. A British band with a much more pop-rock sound than the previous albums. Because me, Steve [Clark], and Sav [Rick Savage] had really taken more of a push towards the pop-rock side rather than the bluesy metal stuff that Pete [Willis] liked to play, which was drying up anyway a little bit. You know, Phil [Collen] wanted to join us because of that direction that we were going in.”

“Songs like ‘Photograph’ were more like a band like Boston, accessible rock. It wasn’t just out-and-out metal or something like that. The big harmony vocals, because Phil was a great singer, that was something that attracted him. That’s where me and Sav always wanted to go,” Joe Elliott said.

Leppard is one of the best-selling bands of all time with an estimated amount of more than 100 million records sold worldwide. So they were and continue to be a huge inspired for countless artists. Although they tragically lost the guitarist Steve Clark back in 1991, the band continued, recruiting the ex-Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell as his replacement. Since then the line-up continues the same with Elliott, Rick Allen, Rick Savage and Phil Collen.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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