How Brian May Demonstrated to Def Leppard That They Had Arrived

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English rock group Def Leppard was established in Sheffield in 1976. After guitarist Steve Clark passed away, the band’s sound and direction changed, becoming more pop-influenced. Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” album from 1987 was a turning point in their career since it combined elements of their hard rock background with pop tunes made using cutting-edge production techniques.

Joe Elliott remembered the day in 1983 when Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, showed Def Leppard that they were now a powerful musical force. The singer joked about how he landed the job with founding guitarist Pete Willis in 1976 while discussing some of his band’s most pivotal events with SiriusXM.

Joe Elliott said, “One day I bumped into Pete Willis on the way on from work, and he said he was putting a band together, and I just jumped in. I said, ‘I’ll give it a go.’ And they saw my awesome record collection, and I was tall, and I got the gig! … If I hadn’t missed the bus home that night, I wouldn’t have seen Pete Willis and then I wouldn’t be [sitting] here.”

He recalled how, at the beginning, they merely had a “concept” of a band and no equipment at all. He began penning songs and used a variety of, “everything that I knew on everything I’d bought or heard. The naivety is what carries it across, really. It was just a bunch of young kids having a goal. It’s something that their heroes had done 10 years previously – now it’s our turn.”

In 1983, while Def Leppard was traveling in support of Pyromania, Elliott recalled a performance at the Los Angeles Forum that they were informed May wanted to attend. “We were like, ‘OK, we’ll sort him out a pass.’ [The messenger] says, ‘No, he wants to come and play with you.’ We’re like, ‘Oh, – oh. ” May was described as, “an enormous part of an enormous band, with an enormous influence on us, So he brings his gear down and sets it up onstage. And we stood out at the mixing desk watching this iconic guitarist on our stage, start playing the riff to ‘Photograph.’”

“And that was like, ‘Wow, OK, I think we’ve kind of arrived!’ We hadn’t made it, but we’d arrived, you know. … When ‘Photograph’ was voted the most popular video on MTV, [it] was a eureka moment. You didn’t get paid the second your video got played on MTV. We didn’t see a penny until that tour was finished. So we were still on a hundred dollars a week. … We were selling out arenas, but we still hadn’t seen any money, so it was just weird.”

Def Leppard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019 by May.



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