Underrated Def Leppard: The Most Overlooked Song From Each Album
From New Wave of British Heavy Metal hip to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Def Leppard certainly hasn't been wanting for appreciation over its nearly 45 years together.
The quintet wasn't exactly a hit straight outta Sheffield, but it didn't take long before "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" broke things open, starting a string of 17 Top 10 rock chart hits and more than 100 million albums sold worldwide -- two, Pyromania and Hysteria, with diamond status in the U.S. And Def Lep is still filling stadiums and amphitheaters, on its own and with pals such as Journey and, at some post-pandemic point, Motley Crue.
But over the course of 11 studio releases, some tracks have certainly slipped between the cracks, even for the most stalwart fans. So join us on this deep and somewhat hysterical dig into the Sparkle Lounge...
From: On Through the Night (1980)
Every band deserves its epic, and this seven minutes and 44 seconds from Def Lep's Maiden (sic) effort checks that box. The band members may well be the first to acknowledges the song's proggy naiveté (more Styx than, say, Yes -- or Iron Maiden, for that matter), but with multiple tempo changes and solos by the late Steve Clark and Pete Willis its ambition can't help but make you smile. And so does the idea that this "Overture" actually comes at the END of the album.
"High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)"
From: High n' Dry (1981)
All hail some elemental themes ("I got my whiskey/I got my wine/I got my woman..."), solid riffs and focused Mutt Lange production that brings the best form his then-recent achievements with AC/DC. The sophomore album's title track is a kindred spirit to the Easybeats' "Good Times" and any number of other glammy hard rock party songs that preceded it.
From: Pyromania (1983)
This is the track for those who had trouble with the production polish that drove the group's mega-platinum success. "Stagefright" blazes with a punky kind of metal energy, and Joe Elliott is absolutely screeching over the wall of guitars and bass. The early Sheffield club days almost literally come screaming back here.
From: Hysteria (1987)
With seven singles there wasn't much that went overlooked on the Def Lep's fourth outing. A pounding, uncompromising rocker, "Run Riot" sounds comparatively raw within its surroundings, an energy blast that supersedes its sonic intricacies. And the mid-song instrumental break hews closer to the group's metal roots than any of the big hit fare.
From: Adrenalize (1992)
Though certainly a deep track, this sounds like the prototype of the (somewhat) back-to-basics approach Def Lep was after in the wake of Hysteria. Punchy, driving and, yes, adrenalized, it has a genuine swagger that some found missing this time out.
From: Slang (1996)
Advocates will tell you the experimental Slang was overlooked, entirely -- and the many detractors will tell you that was for good reason (Elliott and company certainly felt "the whiplash of the backlash" he sings about here). The album's opening track certainly stated its intent, kicking things off (successfully) with jagged industrial overtones and an Arabian Nights-flavored guitar solo, though the heavy beat helps keep one foot in arena anthem terrain.
From: Euphoria (1999)
Stung by the tepid reaction to Slang, Def Lep served notice it was back with the driving opening track from Euphoria, with guitars, melody and polished harmonies back in charge. Speaking of driving, that's Formula One racer Damon Hill, one of bassist Rick Savage's neighbors, playing a guitar solo.
From: X (2002)
The group pushed a few parameters on its eighth album (10th released overall, hence the title), especially working with pop hitmakers such as Marti Frederiksen, Per Aldeheim and Andreas Carlsson. The closing track, "Scar" is its most fully realized of the set, sporting a dynamic arrangement that could fit on Hysteria, a pleasantly restrained performance by Elliott and a layered chorus vocal arrangement that makes this sound like one that truly got away.
From: Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008)
Sparkle Lounge was a reference to the backstage tuning room where many of this album's songs got their start, and "Bad Actress" indeed sounds like a band riffing happily as it prepares to hit the stage. A galloping, straightforward rocker with a glam sheen, it's the core kind of Def Lep song we seldom tire of hearing.
"Broke N' Broken Hearted"
From: Def Leppard (2015)
It's kind of a country title, right? Not even close as the Leps tear into this Elliott-Phil Collen anthem whose narrator is unbowed as he states his piece atop a wall of riffs and some particularly hot guitar soloing. Please, may we have another?