Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 11:48 UK

Def Leppard get set to Sparkle

By Emma Jones
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Def Leppard
Def Leppard have sold more than 65 million albums since forming in 1977

When it comes to history, Def Leppard are up there with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

They are one of only a handful of British acts to have two back-to-back albums which sold more than 10 million copies each.

But to mark the release of new album Songs From The Sparkle Lounge - predicted to go top five this weekend - just 200 fans got to see them storm through their greatest hits at north London's Islington Academy.

It was a rare opportunity for the audience to eyeball singer Joe Elliott, bassist Rick "Sav" Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Viv Campbell, who are more used to playing North American stadium shows.

"There's a certain safety in stadiums," Elliott says.

"With a tiny gig like the one we just did, you can hear everything the audience is saying about you, and you have to watch out where they're putting their beer glasses.

"A couple of times I wanted to lift my mic-stand but I was worried about taking off Sav's head."

Still together

Def Leppard have notched up more than 30 years together since playing their first show at a school in Sheffield in the late 1970s.

While other bands of their age break up and occasionally make up for lucrative tours, Def Leppard really do get along.

"We all live at Joe's when we're recording," Allen explains.

"And then we're all together when we're touring. We're always together."

Cover for Def Leppard's latest CD
Songs From The Sparkle Lounge is Def Leppard's 11th studio album

"We've toured every year for the last four years," Collen adds.

"We want to promote our current album because we think it's great, and we also think our live show is great. Some of the stuff we've put out over the years wasn't that good.

"But now, our UK tour is nearly sold out. It just goes to show, if you try hard enough and work at it, you get this reward."

After the multi-platinum success of Pyromania and Hysteria, Def Leppard seemed to have lost their way in the 1990s, putting out an indie-inspired album, Slang, which was not well-received.

Success in US

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge is a return to form - crunching guitar riffs and lyrics Elliott has referred to in the past as "deep and meaningless".

It is already in the top five in the USA - helped by the success of the current single Nine Lives, a collaboration with US country star Tim McGraw.

"We haven't gone country, Tim went rock," jokes Elliott.

The band's willingness to experiment comes from a reluctance to be categorised.

"The bands we grew up with, like UFO and Thin Lizzy, were not metal bands," Elliot says.

Some of the stuff we've put out over the years wasn't that good. But now, our UK tour is nearly sold out
Drummer Rick Allen
"We've spent a quarter of a century trying to educate people and they just don't listen. We eventually put out an album of covers by people like David Essex and Blondie but even that hasn't got the point across that we have never been influenced by metal bands like Motorhead or Black Sabbath."

Success across the Atlantic saw the band relocate to the US, but Elliott insists returning home remains special.

"We'll have three homecoming gigs. Belfast for Viv, London for Phil and Sheffield for the rest of us," he says.

"You can imagine what the guest list will be like. It's always a mixture of emotions because you know you have to get your auntie in and having your family there is always a pressure. If it's a gig in North Dakota you just get on with it, but if it's the UK, you want to go out there and get it right, because it's your hometown."

Single's game release

Def Leppard on Top Of The Pops in 1989
Drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car crash outside Sheffield in 1984

After several years in an unappreciative musical wilderness, Def Leppard have become the first act to release a single - Nine Lives - through the video game Guitar Hero III. It's a lucrative partnership - but they all say they are fans of the game.

"The beauty of it all is that for 10 or 15 years the value of music was going down. No kid was asking for a guitar or a drum kit, they all wanted was a Nintendo. OK, now it's the same scenario, but at least there's some kind of rock and roll which is getting them involved in music again."

Def Leppard remain Sheffield's most successful musical act - despite the recent success of the Arctic Monkeys. They believe the way the Monkeys broke through is similar to the coming of punk in 1977.

"Alex Turner is a great writer," says Elliott.

"He is a poet. Hailing him as the new Dylan though, that's a little far-fetched, let's see how he does in 10 years. But good on them.

"They've joined the ranks of us, the Human League, Joe Cocker and Dave Berry as Sheffield's musical exports. Woo-hoo! "

He begins to laugh. Not taking themselves too seriously - that could be the secret of Def Leppard's longevity.




SEE ALSO
Def Leppard re-release Hysteria
21 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Rock band enter city hall of fame
16 Jun 06 |  South Yorkshire

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