5 Reasons Def Leppard Should Be in the Hall of Fame
Even though Def Leppard have been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2005, they didn't earn their first nomination until 2018.
They've regularly graced "most snubbed" lists over the years, including ours. For whatever reason, the nominating committee seems to turn its nose up to bands that rose to fame during the '80s. Like many hard-rock bands, Def Leppard have never been critical darlings, and they've never been nominated for a Grammy. It probably doesn’t help matters that “Pour Some Sugar on Me" may be the unofficial anthem of strip clubs across the globe.
Singer Joe Elliott doesn’t seem to be stressing the nomination. “We weren't looking for accolades when we got together as kids,” he said during an interview with Forbes. “We just wanted to be part of everything we grew up listening to.” He later admitted that enshrinement would be special, if only because it would allow the group to celebrate with its fans.
“When we were made aware of [the nomination], we kind of pushed it to one side and plowed on with our career cause the only thing we were really bothered about was making records, playing live, making more records, playing live more often in front of more people," he noted. "That's what we do. And then all of a sudden the fans get involved and then we become interested because it literally is about the important people in our lives, which is our audience.”
Here are five reasons Def Leppard should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They Helped Usher in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal
With 1979's self-titled debut EP and then a debut album, On Through the Night, in 1980, Def Leppard led the charge for the latest evolution of British music. The swagger, shredding guitars and long-haired aesthetic they helped establish were later emulated by the many bands that came after them. Def Leppard eventually brought the subgenre to the mainstream and found massive commercial success all over the world.
They're Among the Bestselling Bands of All Time
Album sales aren’t the defining factor for Hall enshrinement, and rightly so. Music history is filled with many artists who were financially successful but didn’t leave an indelible mark otherwise. Still, it’s hard to overlook the sheer volume of Def Leppard’s album sales.
With more than 100 million albums sold worldwide, Def Leppard are among the greatest-selling artists of all time. The band is one of only five rock acts that has two or more diamond-certified albums, meaning 10 million or more copies sold in the U.S. The others in this elite club -- the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Van Halen -- are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Pour Some Sugar on Me" has become a pop-culture staple, thanks to countless appearances in movies, commercials and strip clubs. Still, Def Leppard's list of hits extends beyond the pulsating lilt of "Sugar." "Animal," "Rocket," "Photograph" and "Rock of Ages" all reached the Top 5 on Billboard's Rock chart, with the latter two songs peaking higher than "Pour Some Sugar on Me." They've also maintained remarkable longevity: Their 2018 tour with Journey sold more than 1 million tickets.
They’ve Overcome Incredible Obstacles
When drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash on Dec. 31, 1984, it could have marked the end of his career. Instead, he was determined to continue his role in Def Leppard, a goal his bandmates fully supported. Allen essentially had to relearn how to play the drums, using a custom kit and utilizing his legs more than ever before.
Months after his accident, Allen called the rest of the band into his studio. “We all went in there not knowing what to expect,” Elliot recalled during a 2018 interview. “It was quite simple, but he just started playing the beginning of 'When the Levee Breaks' by Led Zeppelin, and it was astonishing.” After continued recovery, Allen returned to performing in 1986.
The band survived through Allen's accident, but its next challenge shook them even further. In 1991, guitarist Steve Clark was found dead in his home due to a lethal mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. The band had already started work on what became the Adrenalize album. They decided to push forward. Phil Collen recorded his own guitar parts as well as the parts Clark would have played. In an interview with Classic Rock magazine, he remembered how strange it all felt. “We had recorded demos on multi-track, so it was really easy for me to get inside that,” the guitarist recalled. “I was sitting there with him when he played the original parts. I could relay that. But it was like playing along to a ghost. When you hear that original track and there he is, it feels like he’s alive. It’s really weird, a very strange sensation.”
Former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell eventually took Clark's place in 1992. More than 20 years later, he'd face his own life-threatening battle. In 2013, Campbell revealed he had Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite the diagnosis and treatment that followed, Campbell continued touring with the band. In a 2018 interview, Campbell reported on his recovery. "I'm very, very fortunate," he said. "I can continue my life and my work."
Their Studio Methods Cast a Huge Influence on Modern Music
Def Leppard are notorious perfectionists in the studio. Much of this can be attributed to the influence of producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange. During a 2013 interview with Goldmine, Collen remembered a tedious moment working with Lange during the Hysteria sessions. "A guitar player friend of mine came in the studio to say hello, and I was sitting there going 'bing, bing, bing' on one note," he said. "And then I am tracking it and then going back and doing another note, 'ding, ding, ding,' and tracking it and he goes, 'What the fuck are you doing?' We were like, 'Wait ‘til you hear it all together.'"
Collen admitted the perfectionism was part of the fun. "It was not painstaking, because we were doing something that had never been done," he noted. "Every time we put a new part on, we got excited about it. We had to play things that would assist the song and not affect the groove or the melody. It went on a long time, and sometimes it was exhausting, but, at the same time, it was groundbreaking, which made it really exciting."
That perfectionism, mixed with the band's arena-rock style, built on layers of heavy drums and sound effects, had a far-reaching effect on music over the past three decades. The band continues to influence artists to this day, even in the pop world. Pink, Taylor Swift and John Mayer are just some of the artists who pledge allegiance to Def Leppard.
They Proudly Celebrate Their Influences
Even as Def Leppard became worldwide superstars, they've continually praised their classic-rock influences. Take 1987's "Rocket," which name-checks the various artists who've left an impression on the group, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, and Queen. And then there's singer Joe Elliott's unending love for Mott the Hoople. He even fronts a Mott cover band called Down 'n' Outz.