On the night Def Leppard played one of their tiniest shows in a very, very long time, Thrash Hits .com grabbed five minutes with singer Joe Elliot. Ruby Q was on hand to chat hair metal, radio hits and longevity.
Prepping for a near sold out, joint-headline arena tour with fellow ‘80s cock rockers Whitesnake (who Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell jokes was in for all of, err, five minutes) the Leppard are performing to a crowd just short of 500 later at London’s Islington Academy. And there’s already a queue outside.
No surprises there. These guys have sold over 60 million records worldwide (over 20 million on 1987’s Hysteria alone), been inducted to the Rock Walk Of Fame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, heck, they even played the Philadelphia leg of Live8. Simply, their music equals big business.
That means bucks galore, especially in this credit crunch climate which sees record labels dropping bands like freshly swotted flies and groups not even getting the mere sniff of a chance of band bankruptcy. It’s hard times and Leppard head honcho, that volume-defying larynxed frontman Joe Elliot, agrees, even though they don’t seem to be suffering.
“The music industry has changed a lot and if you’ve been around for a long time people know your songs,” explains Elliot in between fanning his face. “There’s not much chance of a young new band building up a back catalogue.” He’s right.
Watch ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ by Def Leppard
Thrash Hits has just finished watching the five Lepparders straddle burgundy thrones and wisecrack through some music TV shorts for their VH1 Classic Countdown (alas, the bands don’t really get to pick the tracks by the way – what a sham).
This scene of a still lion-maned Elliot, who is slathered in foundation and being endlessly dabbed by make-up girls in between almost every take, gives an insight into band-life that not many groups nowadays will get the opportunity to experience.
He continues, “How many Arctic Monkeys are there? Where do you think they might be around in five or six years’ time? Oasis are just moving into that like legendary status where they’ve got a career and they’re not just putting out a couple of albums and then disappearing.”
Watch ‘Animal’ by Def Leppard
The reason for this? Radio. They just ain’t playing the new stuff. Elliot continues, “You see bands like The Police reforming and they put 60,000 people in every place they play because they’ve got the songs.
“You’re probably going to have heard ‘Message In A Bottle’ more over the last five years than you will have heard ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’ by Green Day because the radio won’t play new stuff as much as it plays old stuff. The stations are playing to the mums and dads and they’re the ones buying it.”
Later on at the gig though it’s clear that, although they play more hits than you can remember, have probably been heard plenty themselves on our radio waves and work the stage like a bunch of fine herb sprinkled and seasoned pros, this band is not just about the music – it’s the whole shebang.
The cringe-worthy, but almost awe-inspiring, onstage moves; the double, nay make that triple encore we experience; the genius guitar riffs that rip your face off and make you beg for it back; those sweaty fifty-something torsos that could easily belong to someone thirty years younger, and, of course, that larynx defying howl.
Watch the epic version of ‘When Love And Hate Collide’ by Def Leppard
Indeed – Def Leppard are as subtle as a brick to the skull but boy it’s top grade fun; a fuck-you-blind guilty pleasure that should not be ignored. It’s been over 28 years since their 1980 debut album, On Through The Night, but why does Elliot feel there’s still so much love for ‘80s hair metal?
He muses, “Music is music. It’s either good or bad and I think a lot of people are coming to terms now that music from the ‘80s isn’t all stupid and funny and you can listen to it. It’s becoming ok to like the ‘80s like it was ok to like the ‘70s.”
Maybe it’s just if you’re listening to Def Leppard. As, if tonight’s show and the new album, Songs From The Sparkle Lounge is anything to go by, these cock rockers will be rocking cocks ‘til at least twenty million other wannabes have had a stab at what they’ve achieved. And that’s saying something.