Def Leppard Reflect on Triumph and Tragedy
Def Leppard are reissuing two of their biggest albums, 1983's classic 'Pyromania,' and 1992's chart-topping 'Adrenalize.' Guitarist Phil Collen gave Noisecreep a preview of what to expect, starting with 'Pyromania.' "We have a whole live album that we recorded in '83 at the L.A. Forum, it's literally just been sitting there gathering dust and we've never put a live album out," Collen says. "And there's lots of like odd little bits, tons of photos from that era and it's kind of cool just digging it all up."
Resurrecting these particular albums brings a lot of baggage with them, as both records are famously associated with tragedy for the band. Drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident following the 'Pyromania' tour and guitarist Steve Clark, who suffered from alcoholism, died in the writing of 'Adrenalize.' Collen reflected on some of those memories. "The thing that happened with Rick, you think everything's fine and dandy and all of a sudden a curveball comes and someone nearly dies and they lose their arm," he says. "It was pretty freaky. And that really taught everyone not to take things for granted at any level. And the 'Adrenalize' stuff we experienced that a lot. Yeah, I still miss Steve all the time."
The losses associated with those times have been very well-documented in various times, to the point of overshadowing the impact of the music. But 'Pyromania' made the band arena-rock stars, taking the promising success of 'High 'N' Dry' and bringing them to the height of hard rock with songs like 'Photograph' and 'Rock of Ages.' "It was a real transition period for us," Collen says. "We released the record, we were playing half-empty theaters in the U.K. and we was an opening act in the States and we went from that to being a headline act. And we were kids. It was before we even knew what was going on to be quite honest."
By the time 'Adrenalize' came out in '92, Leppard were seasoned vets. Looking back on it now, despite the album's success, it debuted at number one, Collen believes it was the wrong album for the time. "We had the whole grunge thing and that really kind of got in the way of that record," he says. "It came out sounding a bit sweet and happy and it wasn't really a reflection of the time. There were a lot of kind of weird things happening and this album's almost oblivious. It's like, 'Hey, everything's great. And the worst thing was taking the trash out. Let's get rocked.'"
It's a very honest assesment, one that the many critics of the band, would be only too happy to agree with. Does Collen worry about those criticisms and think about things like the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame? "I don't even care. Yeah, it'd be great and be nice, but we have two diamond albums and that was actually a big deal," he says. "I was surprised I thought it was such a big deal. But when we got 'em and you're next to the guys from Zeppelin, Floyd, Elton John, and god knows who, Paul McCartney, all these people, it was actually, 'Wow.'"
Does all the success feel like vindication? "Yeah, I think so. I'm surprised that we're we are at right now because I would never have thought post-'Hysteria' or 'Adrenalize' that we would actually be in a position like this, where everyone thinks we're really cool."