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def leppard / hysteria interview

August 1987

A 'Hysteria' era interview published in August 1987 with the entire band taking part.


August 1987

"We're just normal blokes who like a beer now and again."

An interview originally published in 1987 and many UK fans first introduction to Def Leppard interviews just as the 'Hysteria' album was released.

What A Bunch Of Weeds!

Heavy metal groups used to smash down a few doors, toss a telly or two out of a hotel window and practise a few Satanic rituals - all before breakfast. But not any more, it seems.

Sylvia Patterson meets Def Leppard, a group who prefer a nice round of gold, listening to Mel & Kim records and sending roses to their grannies...

Joe Elliott, gleam-toothed lead singer with 'mean' metal persons Def Leppard, is eating a banana. Bass player Phil Collen, who has just emerged from a piping sauna, is swilling a bottle of non-wibblifying mineral water.

Guitarist Steve Clark is sitting daintily cross-legged, actually giggling at the perv-persons in a horrible heavy metal publication, only squinting up from under his fringe to chirp "You won't be wanting to talk to me - I'm the quiet one who never says anything." Not very "rock 'n' roll", is it viewers?

Crumbs. Def Leppard are one of the most famous and "legendary" rock groups who ever existed. However, they've been completely non-existent for the past three and a half years because a) they failed to invent a "good enough" new record (because of "producer wrangles") and b) because their drummer, Ricky Allen, had his left arm torn off in a horrendous car crash on New year's Eve 1984, and he's since been inventing electronic spook-drums and using foot pedals to be able to play just as well as he ever did on their new LP "Hysteria".

Def Leppard care quite a lot about this new LP (they've spent one million pounds on it, fact fiends), because their last one, "Pyromania", sold seven copies in America - pipped that year only by Michael Jackson's "Thriller". "Hysteria" is so monumentally brilliant, they are certain, "that we wouldn't be surprised if it sold double that - 14 million copies." And - gusp!! - they're five completely normal and utterly charming blokes from Sheffield!

"It all began in Joe's bedroom in 1977..." begins Rick forebodingly in his Sheffield twing. "Er...sounds a bit ride, that, doesn't it. heh hehe. We only asked Joe to join the band because he was tall and enthusiastic which is what we wanted."

Def Leppard 1987.

"You know. It's true," begins a mirthfull Joe. "these guys put up with me not being able to sing for two and a half years! The only singing I'd done previously was in the Junior School Choir and I once played Elvis Presley in a school play when I was 11. They only asked me because I was the guitar chords to "The Wonder Of You". My singing was absolutely useless."

It was still very "useless" when Ver Leps began playing their first ever "concerts".

"The first one we ever played was in a gymnasium at Westfield School and we got paid five quid. And you should have seen the ridiculous clobber! Stripy trousers and leopard-skin-T-Shirts and silk and all that crap. We thought we were very sexy and of course we weren't - It's amazing what you think when you're 19!"

Nevertheless, after playing "loads of dingy dungeon-type pubs and getting paid 15 quid!", they invented their very first self-financed EP entitled (herm, herm) "Getcha Rocks Off" and thus begin the spiralling twirl of superstardom that has "forced" them to become tax exiles in Amsterdam.

"The government got more money - a lot more money than we did - for "Pyromania," booms Joe "and we just didn't agree with that. The only thing I miss is seeing Sheffield United at home to Leeds. I think it's the working-class mentality - I'm earning some money and you're not having any of it!"

Phil: "It's not as if we didn't work for it! I've been in a dark, horrible studio for 14 hours a day for weeks and ended up wearing the skin off my fingers playing that guitar. Blood, you know."

Rick (Sav): "We're not like people think we are. We're just normal blokes who like a beer now and again."

Phil: "Or a Perrier."

Strangely, it's all true. The Def Leppard chappies really are each other's best friends in the whole world. They do "everything together" which includes living in the same quite nice house in Amsterdam.

"Our house has 10 bedrooms, a lounge and a dining room, three kitchens, three toilets and three shower rooms. It's like The Young Ones without the vomit ha ha! Our front room is a gym simply because we watch loads of videos. We've watched every film there is in Holland. We're onto repeats now! Everything from Mad Max to Rambo to The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, crap American stuff. Black Adder - and Rick's a great Agatha Christie fan."

Rick (Sav): "I've got every book she ever wrote! Every one!" he beams proudly.

Joe: "We all love Viz comics too - Buster Gonad And The Unfeasibly Large Testicles! haha!. Billy The Fish, he's half man, half fish and he's a goal-keeper! haha!"

Who might have been, but probably wasn't, the "inspiration" for Ver Lepps very own five-a-side football team.

"Yes!" gushes Joe smirkfully.

"We're a proper football team - Def Leppard FC! We're pretty good! We've even got our own strips which were sponsored by Puma with little Def Leppard FC logos on - It's a boyhood dream! We play a lot of charity games for sick animals or whatever we think appropriate at the time. We played in Nebraska once and 18,000 people turned up - the city declared a state of emergency and there were only four coppers on duty haha! They made us move to another venue and not tell anybody about it. We lost..."

And apart from that, they're rather keen players.

Joe: "Me and Rick play golf. I love golf! What's wrong with that? You get fresh air for hours, you get exercise, you've got a poxy little white ball that you bash about and keep losing - great!"

Hmn,Def Leppard would also like it to be known that they are "the best group in the world - we're hardly likely to think otherwise, are we?", that their cascading locks are "rather nice! We like our hair!", that they are "quite good-looking". Well, with a bit of make-up..." and that they invented Bon Jovi, (a bit).

"If we had never existed, Bon Jovi would probably never have existed." declares Joe. "What they're doing is what we were doing three years ago. Which is fair enough, isn't it? Good luck to 'em! I think if you pinned down both Bon Jovi and Europe they would say that we were their favourite band. It's obviously been a big help to them that they're very good-looking and all that, but you have to remember that their music's not crap either. I think it's really good! I mean, look at Status Quo - God bless 'em but they're a bunch of ugly bastards! So it really is songs that decide in the end, isn't it?"

Def Leppard 1987.

Hysteria 1987 Interview - Photo Gallery

"We never forget how lucky we are," booms Joe "We are lucky! God, I haven't forgotten working in a basement store in a pokey room with no windows in for three and a half years - eight hours a day. There you are thinking "I'm 19! I'm going to be here 'til I'm 65! Like hell I am..."

Rick (Sav): "Phil used to be an electrician and he's colour blind! haha!"

Phil: "Yeah, I used to wire burglar alarms in London and they'd be going off in all these grannies houses all over the East End haha!"

Er - so what do "old timers" like Ver Defs reckon to the pop charts these days?

Joe: "I think it's in a very healthy state! People have discovered guitars again! Boy George's new single is brilliant! People like Mel & Kim and all that, though, are an unfortunate but harmless necessity. Id' rather be hearing INXS meself."

Rick (Sav): "I like Mel & Kim!"

Joe: "Naaah, they're not a proper pop band."

Rick (Sav): "I quite like Jody Watley, too! (Looks most embarrassed) Well, not that much..."

Joe: "And look at that Terence Trent D'Arby! He's the only man that could get away with singing 'a crock of dog shit'! That's what he sings! On Radio One!" (He sings 'of crocodile cheers' actually - Ed) "wish we could get away with that! He can't even sing properly! He sings sharp!"

Which just goes to show that Ver Defs are really just the most normal and slightly weedy rock group ever.

"We send red roses to our girlfriends!" puffs Joe to prove it. "I send roses to my granny! I do! And to me mum on Mother's Day! We like to think of ourselves as completely normal human beings and we ring interflora as often as anybody else! Twice or three times a year, to be precise."

Def Leppard - you're utter pop toffs.

By Smash Hits 1987.

Def Leppard 1987.

Rick's Story

Ricky Allen is 23 years old, he's the most mild-mannered person on the planet Earth, he has one arm and he looks like a cherub.

"I joined Def Leppard on my 15th birthday!," chirrups Rick breezily.

"My mum and dad told me to leave school because I was never going to get another opportunity like this. So I did. I didn't care if I couldn't count!"

Indeed, he did not. He cared only to be the drummer in Def Leppard which is probably why he wasn't about to fling it all away when he lost his left arm two and a half years ago.

"There was never really any doubt that I wouldn't be in the band again - the guys said 'if there's a way you can do it, you'll still do it', but all they were really concerned about was that I was still alive. Within three and a half weeks I was out of hospital and within two weeks of that I was back working with them - just singing at first, but at least I was there. Obviously there was a time when I felt really sorry for myself, you know?"

"I got nearly half a million letters from all over the world - letters, cuddly toys...unbelievable. I mean, I always just thought of myself as the drummer with the band. I got all these bizarre letters from all these one-armed drummers! So I just thought, 'well, if they can do it I certainly can!'"

Def Leppard 1987.

And so he can - with his electronic spook-kit.

"I never thought about still using an acoustic drum-kit for one second. People have tried it using two sticks in one hand - oh no, can you imagine it? So what I have is a combination of electronic pads which play with my right arm and foot-pedals which play pretty much what I played with my left arm. There are some things I can do which, to a normal drummer, would be physically impossible - so it has its advantages, believe it or not! The band think I play even better now. I don't think so really - but it's nice of them to say so. I know it sounds so corny but we really are just like a family. I think, for all of us, that things are better now than they've ever been. We take it all a lot more light-heartedly now, too. But we still want to be legendary! We want to get on the cover of a rock history book! How's that for a cliche!"

"It's strange. I sometimes think of when I used to go up to see my careers officer. And I'd be sitting there twiddling my thumbs. I had a couple of thumbs then heh heh - and he'd say 'Well! What are you going to do then?' 'I'm going to play drums in a rock band!' 'Oh right, Ricky...' and he'd pat me on the head. But now I know that playing drums for Def Leppard has been the best thing that's ever happened to me and I'm not about to forget that."

By Sylvia Patterson @ Smash Hits 1987.

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