Year first eligible: 2005
Members included: Rick Allen, Vivian Campbell, Phil Collen, Steve Clark, Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Pete Willis
A group of fresh-faced teenagers formed Def Leppard in Sheffield, England in 1977. They quickly emerged as the most commercially successful band in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Combining new wave’s accessibility with metal’s guitar-driven power and glam rock’s sexiness, they set the stage for metal’s domination of arenas, airwaves, and television in the 1980s. Def Leppard defined visual theatricality. They staged larger-than-life concerts filled with pyrotechnics, unencumbered performance energy, and sexy swagger. They created the model for hard rock bands looking to harness MTV’s hard rock potential with classic videos like “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages.” On the multi-platinum albums Pyromania and Hysteria, Mutt Lange guided the band as they honed their signature sound -- a sound that would sustain the band from pub rock to metal and points in-between.
With Def Leppard, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Joe Elliot’s anthemic hooks soared above glossy vocal harmony layers. At the height of their popularity, 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 anchor the active sonic texture above. In 1984, Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident. He took this as an opportunity to use a pedal-oriented, all electronic drum kit to craft the perfect stadium drum sound: heavy, economical beats with gated reverb and plenty of space between the notes that leaves room for maximum echo throughout the venue. Def Leppard opened the door for bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, and Bon Jovi to ascend into the limelight of the 1980s. Artists from Metallica to Taylor Swift claim them as an influence today. But the band’s greatest asset is their perseverance. Throughout changes in the music industry and personal struggles, Def Leppard continues to find new ways to rock, inspiring legions of fans in their wake.
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