A puzzled Def Leppard try to work out why Britain doesn’t love them any more after their huge success in the States.

SOURCE: Melody Maker – 10 December 1983 | By Derek Oliver

Def Leppard’s meteoric rise in America this summer has certainly left a lot of people with egg on their faces.

With “Pyromania” reaching sales of nearly six million and live audiences  regularly totalling five figures, their army of British critics have had their scepticism stuffed right back down their throats.

The Def Leppard “Pyromania” tour of the US has been labelled as the most successful money grossing metal machine to blitz its way through the vast American wastelands since the last [Rolling] Stones tour.

Even the regular mega-wimp box-office-busting stadia strut of the Journey and R.E.O. Speedwagon clan has been taking, in comparison, a bashing recently – Asia actually postponed their recent tour because of the depressed market and when that happens you know times are hard.

In these circumstances America’s phenomenal adoption of Leppard is an even greater achievement.

From the debut gig of the current world tour at London’s dingy Marquee Club to the dizzy heights of the giant Los Angeles Forum, where they headlined for two successive nights and sold seats even faster than The Beatles or Elvis at their peak, Def Leppard have turned a dream into frightening reality.

Britain, meanwhile, has remained stoically unmoved. Since the release of their debut LP “On Through The Night” and single “Hello America” (how could you be more blatant?) the spotted ones have been dogged with more sell-out tags than the January sales.

Yet their determination to become a slick power-packed rock band instantly severed all relations with those who elevated them to the N.W.O.B.H.M. forefront in 1978.

An obvious career upgrade in marketing terms, but a kick in the teeth to those who helped them on their way. Subsequently the British press and fans alike have condemned them to a life of near exile.

With tails tucked firmly between their legs they spent an increasing amount of time Stateside and ignored the UK to the point of publicly renouncing any intention to crack the market here in the future.

On the face of it that’s a pretty sad state of affairs and one that in all fairness should never have been allowed to happen. Def Leppard, to my mind, were always a cut above the competition during those early days and their quest for combined melody and ultra-smooth presentation was something that should have been actively encouraged rather than sneered at.

Cracking Leppard in the States has represented a major investment. The band’s backers (Including Peter Mensch of AC/DC fame) spent huge amounts of money on the “High ‘n’ Dry” album.

Refusing to panic when it didn’t set the world on fire, they ploughed twice as many greenies into “Pyromania”.

It took an incredible nine months to record but their faith was well-founded and Leppard have now repaid the investment several times over.

“Pyromania” is a great record, almost perfect, but a little clinical and precise if anything – and that can be just as nauseating as listening to a scratched second hand copy of the MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams” on a single speaker Dansette. Too good to be true.

Sitting in the intimate (?) confines of Phonogram’s press office, having just completed the European segment of their world tour, twin lead guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen look suitably shattered. It’s been a lot of hard work then chaps?

“You could say that,” mutters Phil, “but you get used to it after a certain amount of time. It’s like going away on a holiday that never ends; it’s great at the beginning but after a while things catch up on you and that’s when you realise it’s a great deal of hard work.”

Did you think “Pyromania” would be what really has turned out to be the success story of 1983?

“It’s a great record,” says Steve. “We had a fair idea that the material we had prepared for the LP was strong enough to beat ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ but to be honest with you, it came as a real shock to find us top three all through the summer. We spent nine months on and off doing the album and getting everything exactly right, including the business side of things, so we did have everything geared up for its release. But when you remember that our first live dates this year were in the UK and by the time we got to Hammersmith the thing was already top 10 in the US – and we hadn’t even promoted it – that was when it hit home all right!”

Phil: “For me it was an even bigger surprise. I mean after Girl finally split I was almost penniless and living from day to day wondering where my next meal was coming from. Then I got a call from Joe (Elliott) out of the blue asking me to take over from Pete Willis. I was so content just to be back in a band again let alone sitting in the American charts without even playing a single date over there.”

Steve Clark and Phil Collen live

At this point I asked them whether “Pyromania” was the result of a calculated master plan, an idea suggested by its near perfection – it’s unheard of to find this sort of sophistication in such a young band.

“If by that you mean had we planned to make a better record than ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ then, yes I would agree,” says Steve. “We did go for this one correctly from the word go, but you’ve got to remember that those songs are all ours and no matter how long we spent on getting the production right, you can’t deny the fact that they are, in one way or another, all great tunes. But no, it wasn’t a clear-cut attempt at turning us into the biggest thing since sliced bread.”

Phil: “You see, there was a huge great gap between R.E.O. Speedwagon and, say, Van Halen and we just happened to come up with songs that fitted that area perfectly. The band, even before I joined, had always written in that style. All you’ve got to do for proof is to listen to the albums. Just because you make a good record, people automatically start to knock you. It’s the same all over this business. Once someone makes it, in whatever capacity, the bitching starts. We haven’t changed one single bit.

I mean, look at us now the way we’re dressed, you’d think we hadn’t a penny to our name. We’re not into setting up an image one bit; in fact if anything we’ve got kind of an anti-image. We wanted to be successful, everyone does if they were honest enough to say it, but our popularity has come from a lot of hard work, believe me – we’ve all paid our dues in one way or another, I can assure you.”

Having hit home base with “Pyromania”, the follow-up is going to present many problems. If the next one doesn’t go at least top three then it’ll be regarded, by the industry, as a failure and if they make an Identikit attempt at writing Son of “Pyromania” they’ll be crucified for that also. So what’s planned?

Steve: “We’ve obviously talked at length between ourselves about this problem and we’ve come to the conclusion that there is still room for lots of improvement on all levels. Basically we’re not going to repeat the ‘Pyromania’ writing formula. Phil’s contributing much more in the writing department, he didn’t get a chance before now for obvious reasons, and we’ve got some great ideas between us. Some of the new material in a lot of ways will be quite adventurous although some of it will be in the typical Leppard tradition. Right now the last worry we’ve got is to repeat the achievement of ‘Pyromania’. We’re more concerned with developing our potential than cloning our past.”