Thursday, 24th August 2017
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37 Years Ago DEF LEPPARD Play The READING Festival In England

Def Leppard 1980. Reading 1980

Def Leppard played the Reading Rock festival in England for the first time on this day in 1980.

The festival took place at Little John's Farm on Richfield Avenue in Reading, England with Whitesnake as headliners. About 40 miles to the South West of London.

It has never moved from this location and the 2016 festival, including a Saturday headline set from Red Hot Chili Peppers, is on this weekend 26th-28th. It is now held jointly as the Reading and Leeds festivals with bands playing each site on different nights.

Def Leppard had warmed up for their 1980 'On Through The Night' tour by playing around 40 shows in January/February in mostly small club venues.

They then headlined their own major UK tour in April before heading off to the USA for a two and a half moth tour from late May to early August.

Starting with the release of the album in March, some members of the UK press (most notably Geoff Barton) started to create a backlash against them for for seemingly having too much success too soon and gearing themselves for the US market led by their American managers Q Prime (Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein).

During the Reading show they played a 12 song main set and got an encore (Wasted).

Their set included a very rare song called 'Long Way From Home' which was never recorded or released officially. Another rarity 'Medicine Man' later became 'Rock! Rock!' and was played along with the pre High 'N' Dry version of 'Lady Strange'.

'Me and My Wine' was also (at the time) another unreleased song - later released as a b-side to 'BOTH' and remixed for the 1984 'High 'n' Dry' re-release. 'Satellite/WTWCTD/MM/Overture/Lady Strange' and 'Rocks Off' were recorded by the BBC In Concert Show broadcast a week later. The full show was recorded by an audience member.

As you can see from the band member comments below, the myth surrounding this show was played up in the press and by the band themselves in both 'Animal Instinct' and the BBC 'Rock Of Ages' documentary. Both Joe and Sav played it down in the years since in various interviews.

England did not turn its back on the band as at the time not many people outside a minority of rock fans had ever heard of them. It was a one off show where they had a dodgy time slot and didn't go down a storm with that particular crowd. The same thing happening to Phil Collen's then band Girl who played earlier in the day.

Their main problem was Ozzy Osbourne pulling out of the special guest slot and being replaced by Slade. They played just before Def Leppard and were a much bigger band with many Number One singles and big hits in their set."

Another issue were Whitesnake fans getting restless for the headliners. This prompted Joe to introduce the unreleased song with - "This isn't a Whitesnake song but is Long Way From Home.".

In a nod to Def Leppard's 1980 show Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett played a snippet of the riff from 'Getcha Rocks Off' during Metallica's August 2015 headline show.

The band performed on a Dutch TV show a couple of weeks later. View a playback performance of Hello America which only surfaced online in June 2016. It shows the band wearing almost indentical outfits to the Reading show.

Read some stories and comments about the show and photos of other bands who played on the same day.

Def Leppard 1980.

Rick Savage (On 1980 UK Media Backlash) - 1993 Interview Quotes

"I think we were misunderstood, and that was partly our fault for a long time," Savage explains. "This huge hype had been created around the band before we'd even got a recording contract. The press that we were getting, albeit that it was all positive, was misleading people into thinking we were a different type of band to the one we actually were."

"We'd played just about every gig you could play in the British Isles, from Exeter Roots Club to Aberdeen University," Savage counters. "There was nowhere else left to play, so we went to America where 'On Through The Night' had been quite well received.

"That's where the problems started. People had heard the record, they realised it wasn't a straight Heavy Metal album, and they kind of thought we'd changed in some way. Maybe we had, but it certainly wasn't a conscious thing. When we went to America everybody thought that was why the record sounded like it did, because we didn't give a shit about England."

"We were so stupid and naïve, we didn't even know that we could sell more records in America. When Joe wrote the lyrics for 'Hello America', he was literally looking at an atlas and listing the names of cities that sounded good."

Show Comment - By Joe Elliott 2004

"The legend about us getting bottled off at Reading 1980 is a myth really - we got an encore at Reading. We probably had six or seven bottles of piss thrown up - and maybe a tomato - but it didn't put us off. That 'backlash' was all blown out of proportion. We're living proof that bad reviews make no difference."

Show Story - From Animal Instinct Biography 1987

Any remaining jubilation over their American success was killed stone dead at the Reading Festival in late August. Originally founded in the Sixties as a showcase for top English blues, jazz and rock bands, the Reading Festival was almost entirely a heavy metal event by 1980. Iron Maiden, the Ian Gillan Band, Whitesnake, UFO and Budgie were among the metallic monsters booked for Reading that year and Peter Mensch, in what he thought was quite a brainwave, booked Leppard into the second-bill spot on the big Sunday night finale between Ozzy Osbourne and headliners Whitesnake.

Def Leppard 1980.

Theoretically, it was a good position for the band to show off the stage chops they'd picked up in the States. Instead, Def Leppard got practically canned off the stage. Jealousy over the U.S. success and fears that they were lost to Britain forever turned the tide against Leppard with frightening speed. In addition, fate made a critical play. Just before Reading weekend, Ozzy Osbourne cancelled his appearance; former glam-pop sensations Slade were booked in his place. After topping the British charts throughout the mid-Seventies, Slade had gone into a deep commercial funk for a few years. At Reading, though, they were in the midst of a roaring comeback. And Slade ended up roaring all over Leppard that day at Reading. As Joe puts it, "Slade played all their hits. And we didn't have any."

Def Leppard. in fact, played very well at reading. BBC Radio aired five songs from the band's set on a post festival broadcast. But Leppard played that set amid a torrent of vegetables and beer cans. Already psyched up for Whitesnake's neo-Zeppelin thunder-rock. audience energy had been raised to fever pitch by Slade. Def Leppard, caught in the middle, didn't stand a chance. It rained garbge throughout their entire set. Joe was hit in the balls by a full can of beer. Pete Willis received a huge chunk of grass and dirt in the face. When they finally left the stage, Def Leppard were, to all intents and purposes, finished in England.

"When the first tomato and beer can hit the stage, I knew this was it," Peter Mensch confesses. "Def Leppard were happening in America and they were coming back to England where four months before they were doing eighty five per cent in theaters. But to come back following Slade, combined with the fact that people thought we had sold out, that was it, We were gone."

Joe Elliott - 1980s Interview Quote

"There was just too much hard rock that weekend, there was no sort of contrast. We were one of the last bands on the bill and I reckon anyone, even the most devoted fan of that kind of music would get a bit fed up of it after three days. Probably the worst thing of all for us was having to follow Slade. They were great. They put on an amazing show and went down a storm, played the hits. It was a classic case of "follow that". We did our best but it didn't seem to go too well...I got half a tin of Tartan lager in my bollocks.".

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Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

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Phil Collen - Guitar
Phil Collen - Guitar
Phil Collen - Guitar
Phil Collen - Guitar