Why Def Leppard suck.
It's not all good.
Everyone who knows me knows I'm a Leppard freak. I just love them. Sometimes, though, I'm not sure why…
This article was edited on 26th January 2003.
It hasn't been accepted as classic or legendary. Truly great music -- the classical composers that we still remember several hundred years later, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen -- transcends its time, and yet captures a moment in time. That's the two-fold process of becoming a legend. On the one hand, you have to be the voice of your generation, but on the other, people have to identify with it years later. The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan: this is music unquestionably that characterised the '60s, yet their popularity remains undiminished. If you took a poll of all music listeners in the world, the Beatles would still come out on top. Def Leppard unquestionably caught the moment in time; I'll fight anyone who'll claim another band defined the '80s so well, but perhaps…
…They should have known when to quit. Isn't this the band who sang "It's better to burn out than fade away"? Speaking in 1988, Joe Elliott said, "I'd like us to be remembered as a legendary band." Now, I'm very glad that Leppard continued because it means I've had the privilege of seeing them live twice and in the '90s they released three absolutely essential (to my mind) albums. If they wanted to be legends, though, they should have quit when Steve died. Just imagine it: they would have quit before grunge even took over, retiring as undefeated champions. The band members probably have continued recording but the Def Leppard legacy would be perfectly preserved. No band would have ever gone out on a higher note. From If Def Leppard had stopped, the kids today might have some respect for them, just as they do for Queen, Zeppelin, T-Rex, and the Beatles, instead of which Def Leppard are a laughing stock (let's not pretend otherwise). Maybe if Def Leppard had stopped during their own reign, they would have been accepted into the pantheon of rock legends.
Since they have decided to continue, I hope we get at least two more albums out of them.
No one's heard of them anymore. Sorry… not their fault. Just irritates me that when I ask friends if they want to go and see Def Leppard with me they say "Who?!?" They were rock in the '80s, yet today they are actually in danger of being forgotten. A UK guitar magazine ran a poll to find the top 50 rock bands of all time, and Def Leppard didn't make the list. Seriously: Motley Crue, a band who never had a bona fide UK hit, cracked the top 20 and Def Leppard didn't appear anywhere. BBC's I Love the 80s series ignored them. What is it?!
Just ROCK, dammit!! There has for years been much debate about what kind of Def Leppard record would sell best: a heavy record or a mellow one. X is busy proving the rock brigade right, looking set to become the first Leppard album not to certify gold in the USA. Joe Elliott's busy saying "Well, we've always been a pop band. Pyromania was very popular; therefore it was a pop record, and the same goes for our other big albums." This, by all accounts, is an extremely weak argument. If Pantera sold 20 million copies of their next record, they'd still be metal, not pop, and if *NSync's next bag of tripe only sells three copies, that will not make it a rock album. The word "pop" may derive its origin from the word "popular" but we all know that pop is now a style of music that rockers broadly define as "crap". For the purposes of this article, that narrow-minded and perverse definition will do just fine. X is not even a pop rock album. It's a guitar pop album. Now, there's a fine line in balancing artistic expansion with giving your fans what they want. Since the band make no bones about saying that X was made purely in a bid to have a hit, it is neither artistic development nor what the fans want. It is just commercial. I will now prove this.
Now: I don't know what kind of music this is. There are sort of some good guitars in the second verse, but it isn't really rock, and it isn't really pop. Maybe they've invented a new style. Fortunately, I don't think this style will take off.
You're So Beautiful: This is pop.
Everyday: I expect I will get some emails from people who think YSB is rock, but no such contentions with this song. Marti Frederiksen is doing his utmost to ruin Aerosmith but he took time out of his busy schedule to try to do the same for Def Leppard.
Long Long Way to Go: Do they not understand that boybands sell to young girls who have crushes on the band? Now, not to be rude or anything, but I don't think that many 11 year olds would go for Sav in his current state.
Four Letter Word: A rock song! Careful boys, you don't want to stain anything.
Torn to Shreds: I liked this song until I digested the first line: "I don't wanna fall in love, but it's been taken out of my hands." There really isn't enough vomit in the world. I guess there are too many loud guitars in the chorus for this to be pure pop but since this is my article, I can do what I want. Pop song.
Love Don't Lie: There is actually a bit before the chorus in this song where the only instrument is a keyboard playing a part you would expect in a trance song.
Gravity: No, why waste my time and yours.
Cry: A rocker! Two songs does not an album make.
Girl Like You: Okay, we're now at a whopping three rock songs but the lyrics are cleverly designed to allow you to regurgitate your food with a minimum of effort.
Let Me… No, don't even go there.
Scar: Four rock songs… wow, I have conceded that almost a third of this album is in some way rock. But the production on this song is very, very polite. Vivian explained that this song was actually an afterthought that the management told them to write so that the rock fans of the band wouldn't be too pissed off. It didn't work.
Now, I consider musical open-mindedness to be very important but when you forge your reputation on rock, it is a mistake to think your fans will follow you down a pure pop road, especially since there are pure pop bands that do that sort of thing very well already. So what is X? Is it for the band or the fans? If it's done out of pure commerce, as seems possible, then it isn't art and I detect a nasty smell… And if you're going to sell out, try to actually sell! We're not asking for Slayer here. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but unfortunately if you record rock albums for 25 years under a certain name, then you become expected to live up to it.
Stop lying to us! Def Leppard after Slang came out: This is the album that we really wanted to make. After Euphoria: This is the album we really wanted to make. After X: We were lying before. THIS is the album we really wanted to make. Credit us with some intelligence, guys!
Some things about the live show. One thing they really DO get right live are those harmony vocals, and that's a treat. In terms of energy, crowd-rapport, communication… flawless. Otherwise, well: the Slang tour lost money so these days Def Leppard's lighting rig is the economy version: ie, a couple of 10 watt energy-saver bulbs they bought at Wal-Mart. When I saw them they didn't move around much; Joe had done his back in. The biggest problem is the almost total lack of spontaneity. Even Joe's raps in between songs are often virtually identical every night. The X tour has improved a lot of my gripes, but many of them still hold true. Most of the guitar solos are played note for note as on the record. The arrangements are kept entirely the same as in their original forms. Now, there's an argument for doing things this way: those songs were hits for a reason, and we're all familiar with them this way. But when I went to see Alice Cooper, his band were just doing little rhythmic things every now and then to keep the crowd on their toes; Feed my Frankenstein was played down-tuned and a lot heavier with a brand new jam in the middle. Nothing major, but it keeps things more interesting for the band and it gives you a reason not to stay at home and listen to the record. Def Leppard albums are absurdly intricate. I mean, "Hysteria" just can't be reproduced live. There are a million vocal parts and 12 guitar tracks on there. So they might as well go up there and put a new spin on the songs because there is no way they can make them sound quite like the record. Oh, and they should play all the songs heavier and faster too!!
Joe. I said this about Jon Bon Jovi and I'll say it about Joe: he's a professional singer who smokes. It's his life, his lungs, his voice, but that's stupid and has to be part of the reason why he sounds hoarse as a, er, horse on all my bootlegs (check out Sheffield's Don Valley gig!).
They have an identity crisis. Def Leppard have decided to continue since the '80s but they really have had no idea what to do with themselves. How does a band that so defined the '80s fit in now? Well they haven't worked it out, so they've been good but schizophrenic ever since. They tried following the trend a bit with Slang but this took them from being leaders to followers; never good news. I've loved their stuff but they don't seem to know who to be anymore.
Rick. The whole one-armed drummer thing. This is not "why Def Leppard suck", this is: "Why everyone sucks when they talk about Def Leppard". Look, it really isn't that funny, apart from the "What has nine arms and sucks?" joke, which made me laugh out loud. If you're sitting there going "What is it? Tell us the joke!" then you really aren't very bright.
Okay, I'm far too tired to make any sense so I'm gonna call it a day. Lep on!
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Check this out: A friend of the band rebuts this article!
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