|SPOTLIGHT REVIEW by Sandy Serge
Def Leppard - X
|To view the Def Leppard Internet Pictorial produced by the Serge
Entertainment Group, click here.
CONCERT REVIEW - DEF LEPPARD IN WISCONSIN by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the September, 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
Most people are familiar with the stories of the major adversities that have befallen Def Leppard over the British hard rock icon's twenty year history. But one adversity they have faced, albeit not as massive as losing life or limb but just as tragic in spades, is the treatment that the band has received from the music press over the years and radio more recently. Of course a lot of writers ignored the Leps' tenacity in favor of kissing up to the musical flavor of the time, such as grunge, alternative and rap. Perhaps they don't realize that the Leps are just a pure and simple damned good rock and roll band, and they might even find true intensity and meaning behind some of their songs if they look deep enough . But hasn't rock and roll been good and simple from its inception?
As a music journalist and fan, I look at any CD or performance with an objective and open mind. For that matter, I also listen to alternative, grunge and rap along with about every other style of music. I have witnessed Def Leppard in concert in all of their phases; as fresh-faced lads opening for Nugent and the Scorpions on their first tour to the States in 1980; as rising stars blazing a trail to fame behind the powerful "Pyromania" album; and as veteran rockers surviving the loss of Rick Allen's left arm and the death of guitarist Steve "Steamin'" Clark to pack arenas and stadiums for a seven day weekend. In 1999, Def Leppard began a marathon tour for their fans. The venues were a little different, with plenty of state and county fairs mixed in with a handful of auditoriums and arenas. The media had not been kind to 1996's "Slang" although it appears it might be just a tad more receptive to 1999's "Euphoria", a CD harkening back to the band's earlier music styles that was also largely ignored by radio. So the band turned to touring; would the popularity be there to greet them on the road?
In the summer of '99, the fans came out in droves. The response was so encouraging that Def Leppard returned to the States in the summer of 2000 to make another round of outdoor venue appearances. The first weekend of August found them in Wisconsin, at the State Fair in Milwaukee on Friday and the Kewaunee County Fair outside of Green Bay on Saturday. The weekend had its own little adversities, in the form of a power outage in Milwaukee and a chilling steady rain at Kewaunee, but these incidents only further solidified the Leps' loyalty to their fans and the reciprocal appreciation from approximately 15,000 rock and rollers attending the two shows. The band kicked their shows into high gear on both nights, starting with the anthemic "Rock Rock Till You Drop" and a raucous cover of Sweet's "Action". The band ripped into a set of songs mostly from "Pyromania", "Hysteria" and "Adrenalize" as well as playing the first single from "Euphoria" - "Promises"- and the title track from the great but overlooked CD "Slang". Kewaunee fans also heard "Paper Sun" from "Euphoria." They may have had that on the set list for Milwaukee as well, but as the band was nearing the end of their sixth song of the evening "Animal", the power went out in the entire state fair park, save the carnival midway. The music cut out right before the final chorus was to begin, so Joe Elliott, ever the consummate frontman, led the crowd in a spontaneous and loud rendition of the chorus, repeating it four times before stopping. After about ten minutes, they restored enough power for the amplifiers, and the band came back and finished a nearly full set, sans lighting except for the fading sun. As twilight approached, the band returned to a thunderous ovation for an encore of "Love Bites" and "Let's Get Rocked". To show their appreciation to the soaked crowd standing in the muddy infield of the Kewaunee County Raceway at the Kewaunee County Fair, the band played a live rarity, the fiery "Let It Go" from their second album "High 'N' Dry".
Joe Elliott's voice, a proven stalwart in the business, sounded phenomenal, from the soaring harmonies to the throaty rock snarls. The excellent guitar interplay between Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, and the driving bass power from Rick "Sav" Savage injected a potent fire into the live interpretations of the signature Def Leppard sound. This was punctuated and enhanced by the stellar drumming of the indomitable Rick Allen, who with only one arm still puts many drummers to shame. When you boil it all down, Def Leppard definitely has albums and performances that can be considered highly polished, but also very lively and immensely entertaining. They still get out there and rock on stage with a youthful exuberance that most 80's bands who have been around just as long seem to have lost somewhere along the way. The fans that packed these two venues in America's Dairyland were varied in age, sex and backgrounds, but the common thread was that they were rock and rollers. And they were some wildly enthusiastic rock and rollers on those two August evenings, with often deafening (or should it be defending) ovations for the songs and rocking and fist pumping and hand clapping to the music all night. It's all about rock and roll, and remember that Def Leppard are masters of playing good, simple rock and roll. And whether or not it is better to 'burn out than to fade away' as Joe Elliott intones in "Rock Of Ages", it is very much apparent that Def Leppard is not showing any signs of doing either for a long time to come.
|CROSSROADS..........DEF LEPPARD'S RICK ALLEN
by Mark E. Waterbury
Pivotal moments in musicians careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
(As appearing in the September, 1999 issue of Music Morsels.)
Many bands, musicians and artists have had to overcome adversity to get to a point of success. Then there are some that through other factors may have further bouts of adversity even while their careers are booming. Formed in Sheffield, England in the late 70's, Def Leppard would embark on a career that would sell millions upon millions of albums and endear them to a huge legion of fans worldwide. But the band's setbacks and tragedies nearly equaled their mammoth successes in the eyes of many critics and fans. And drummer Rick Allen is the paradigm of the band's rollercoaster ride of triumph and tribulation.
Growing up in Sheffield, Rick's brother used to bring home records for him to listen to. "One of the albums was Deep Purple's "In Rock" and that kind of got me going," Rick recalls. "I'd been trying to (air guitar) the tennis racket for years and he kept taking it away from me so I started air drumming. That was pretty much what got me going - Ian Paice. And it was great because once I got myself into a band, it got me out of the house which was even better." At the age of fifteen, after playing with several other bands in the area, Rick responded to a newspaper ad and joined Pete Willis, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott and Steve "Steamin'" Clark in the band Def Leppard, who had already been performing with a now forgotten drummer. The fivesome garnered attention from the press, as well as AC/DC manager, Peter Mensch, who hooked them up with Mercury Records, releasing the band's debut "On Through The Night" in 1980. The debut did quite well on the UK charts, and Def Leppard began touring with Sammy Hagar and AC/DC.
Shortly thereafter, Peter introduced Def Leppard to Mutt Lange. "He really worked with us to help develop a sound for us that really stuck and people really liked. His thing was to make more of a sound that crossed over into more of a Top 40 or pop market. And I think that the marriage of the two was really good." After the growing success of 1981's "High 'n'Dry" and subsequent tours with Ted Nugent, Judas Priest and others, Def Leppard released "Pyromania" in 1983. With a headlining tour, three hit singles and an eventual ten million copies sold, the album propelled the band to superstardom.
It did not happen without difficulties, as Pete Willis was asked to leave the band during the recording due to problems with alcoholism, subsequently replaced by Phil Collen. Mutt Lange was not able to work on the follow up, and after Meat Loaf producer Jim Steinman didn't work out, the band hired Nigel Green, who had engineered "High 'n' Dry". But on New Years Eve 1984, Rick Allen was involved in a devastating car accident that severed his left arm. The arm was reattached, but had to be amputated when infection set in. "I really didn't want to (drum) after that," Rick remembers. "I just felt really defeated and really down. I felt like a bit of a freak show, didn't even want to think about it. But then Steve and Phil came to visit a week or two after I came around, and they were real positive about it. They said I was, too, even though maybe I was putting on a brave face. Shortly after that, a friend of mine started developing these foot pedals for me, and I forgot about the fact that I didn't want to do it. There was this real positive crowd around me saying, "You can do it", and I guess it kind of rubs off." The specially-designed electronic drumset allowed Rick to climb back in the saddle, performing for the first time at Europe's Monsters Of Rock in summer of 1986. The band finally finished their new album in 1987. Titled "Hysteria", the album sent six singles into the Top 20 and sold over fourteen million copies.
Tragedy struck the band again in 1991, as guitarist Steve Clark lost his long-time battle with alcoholism and died from a mixture of drugs and booze while the band finished their new album, "Adrenalize". But Def Leppard pressed on, hiring ex-Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell. Rick, who today refers to the loss of his arm as a "bad shaving accident", notes that the friendship aspect of the band has helped them cope with the difficult times. "Not that we've always got on...it's always good to have some lighthearted competition when it's coming up in songs. The bond we have, the fact that we all grew up together, is the most important thing." "Adrenalize" went on to huge success itself, but the same could not be said of its follow up, 1996's "Slang". Exploring different sides of their musical tastes, "Slang" was a very good album that was panned or ignored by a majority of the critics, who seemed to turn on Def Leppard since "Hysteria", claiming it was too pop-sounding. Instead of fading away into obscurity as many other bands have, Def Leppard showed their resilience once again as they entered the studio in 1998 to record a new album. "Everyone around us wanted a classic sounding Def Leppard album again," Rick recalls. "We basically used "Pyromania", "Hysteria", and several elements of other records as a blueprint, and that's how we came up with "Euphoria". And I think it's great. I still think it's great."
"Euphoria" made a rapid rise up the charts after its release, and the band is currently on the road supporting it by performing at state fairs and other venues prior to their Fall European tour. "It's a blast to be out there, and we're really enjoying doing these shows. It's good for us to find out what the whole scene is like at the moment. Then the idea is to come back in the winter and do some indoor shows. It's a little difficult with the radio aspect. Radio is changing to a certain degree, but the first single hasn't really kicked in the way we thought it was going to. We're all hopeful with "Goodbye". That should help everybody's state of mind." The fans still like the music and that has helped to keep the band going through all the years. "I think the fact is it's pure entertainment. It's escapism. We always get serious to a certain degree on every record that we do - with lyrical content, this, that and the other. But for the most part, it's just entertainment and escapism."
|INDUSTRY PROFILE - MALVIN MORTIMER, Def Leppard's Tour Manager
by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the September, 1999 issue of Music Morsels.)
Born and raised in South Wales as the son of a coal miner, Malvin Mortimer had a brother who's band Racing Cars released a hit single on the UK charts in 1972. "During that period, I just started following him around," Malvin remembers. "Carrying (equipment) inside and plugging it in...and feeling important, like I'm-with-a-band type thing." At the time, Malvin had been working for a fire extinguisher factory. He had just received a promotion when his brother made him an offer he couldn't refuse to work with the band. "I did the job for two days, and then just left and went out on the road. Took about a two-thirds cut in wages, but I just loved it."
Through his brother's band, Malvin met Manfred Mann's Earth Band as well as others, but in 1978, Racing Cars disbanded, leaving Malvin in a London apartment not wishing to try his luck back in South Wales with the high unemployment rate. He made a few phone calls and hooked up with a guy starting a promotion company for Gary Numan, who had the hit single, "Cars". "I landed a gig doing backline for him and it was more work than I had ever known. It was a very comprehensive backline and I was totally under-qualified. But I worked hard and I was always there, and people noticed that."
From 1980 to 1982, Malvin was a guitar tech with The Pretenders. While working for them, a lighting designer told him about a young up-and-coming rock band from Sheffield called Def Leppard that he had just gotten a gig with. "Again, someone saw the way I operated and invited me to another gig." Malvin started with Def Leppard, working with the late Steve "Steamin'" Clark just before the band's breakthrough "Pyromania" tour in 1983. "It seems like I joined them and they took off," Malvin muses. "I'm always taking credit for that of course, as a good luck charm at least."
Malvin stayed with Def Leppard, becoming their Tour Manager in 1991, a position he has maintained for the past eight years. Malvin loves the traveling involved with touring with the band, even though being a tour manager takes him away from the music in certain terms. "I like to play myself a bit. I used to sing in a couple of bands. Tour managing primarily consists of getting the band out on stage and then doing some additional work. I do find time to go out every night and listen to a few songs to see how the sound is, and tap all the crew guys on the shoulder and ask them if they're doing okay. There's a lot of little things I've got to do everyday. It's not real hard. It's just time consuming." On his off time, Malvin likes to paint on his computer, and if he has time, enjoys a good round of golf. Even the off-tour time keeps him busy, although he also finds time for his two daughters who live in London. "My thirteen year old daughter writes songs and sings with a killer voice. And I think that is going to be my career in retirement."
Euphoria - Def Leppard
by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the September, 1999 issue of Music Morsels.) -- Remember Def Leppard's breakthrough album "Pyromania" with the target on the album cover? A prophesy maybe because the British rockers have been "targeted" by members of the music media. That's the curse sometimes of phenomenal fame such as the type this band tasted with their mega-hit machine follow-up "Hysteria". Then there was the accident, the tragedy and still another huge album with "Adrenalize" - unpretentious melodic rock with some hard punch harmony vocals - the type music critics love to rip on. Here, with the very well-engineered "Euphoria", do we have still another target? Will this produce the "same old sound" cliches from the critics? Face it, this is Def Leppard, straight forward music; they're not going to sound like The Offspring or Korn to stay with the times. They dabbled in probing the different facets of their songwriting capabilities with the excellent but sadly overlooked "Slang" about three years ago. That CD proved their talents. Hell, they've been proving their talent since the beginning. So "Euphoria" is sort of a "greatest hits" perspective without the actual hits - yet. The lead track "Demolition Man" weaves the youthful energy of "On Through The Night" with the soaring harmonies of later releases. The funky "All Night" harks back to the "Slang" title track. "Paper Sun" brings the hard driving feel of "High And Dry" to mind. There are some ballads here, well done as usual. This is the Def Leppard signature and probably another reason for them to be targets. But this band's signature sound - a sound that appears to be meticulously honed - goes beyond that, and has been often emulated, but rarely equaled. And if "Promises" seems like a song designed to get airplay so the band can enjoy a resurgence, then so be it! It's already #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and what better test of time is there than that? The fans demanded a return to that anthemic sound and the Leps gave the fans what they wanted. Now watch them as they begin to reclaim their fame. "Euphoria" proves Def Leppard won't be going anywhere but up!
Photo by: Danny Clinch
For a free hard copy of this article, please email your snail mail address or your fax number to MusMorsels@aol.com with the text "Def Leppard Review" in the subject field.