The next big things to happen in Def Leppards early career were a debut album (On Through The Night) and touring with some rock giants such as AC/DC after they had changed to new management. After touring with AC/DC they headed Stateside supporting Blackfoot and Ozzy Osbourne.
Def Leppard got their first taste of being a band on the road and it was a taste that they liked! Next up was their second album “High ‘n’ Dry” for which they had managed to employ the talents of producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. And the Leppard’s were about to find out just how hard it was to make a good record. Once High ‘n’ Dry was released the band toured again around the world.
A problem was developing for the band where Pete Willis was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol and on numerous occasions he had to be practically carried off stage after gigs. He apparently suffered from stage fright at times and was in general a pretty shy guy and the fact that he was not the tallest person didn’t help his confidence, but relationships within the band were becoming strained.
During the High ‘n’ Dry tour Steve and Pete didn’t always get on too well while rooming together which caused more conflict. During live performances it was alleged that Pete would walk off to the side of the stage to have a drink, leaving all the guitar duties up to Steve.
During the recording of their third album Pyromania in 1982, Pete Willis was fired. He’d been given warning after warning but Pete’s condition with alcohol abuse was getting worse. He even turned up to the studio one morning very drunk and couldn’t play his guitar. So the band all got together and decided to dismiss him, which was not an easy decision, given the fact that Pete was one of the founding members of the band. But it was something that needed to be done.
Phil Collen, a Londoner, was brought in to replace Pete as the band and he had met before and had became friends while Phil was playing in his own glam-rock band called Girl. Phil was a breath of fresh air. He was a cheerful, confident lad and brought a different dimension to the band musically and Steve got on very well with Phil.
Phil was good for Steve. The other band members had said that Pete had been a bad influence on Steve at times, as he [Steve] tended to drink heavily a lot as well. Phil had brought Steve out of his shell and was a much better influence on Steve both in the band environment and in life in general. Steve felt that he was being more musically challenged with Phil around which was exactly what he felt he needed at the time. The two guitarists became very close and did everything together.
Phil had to learn the guitar parts for the new songs that were going to feature on Pyromania. Most of the material had been written for the album, but Phil offered up a handful of solos for two or three songs. And he was a very good guitarist. Phil and Steve’s styles were so very different that they complimented each other beautifully on the tracks. They managed to have the two guitarists play their individual parts on songs so that they intertwined with each other and the music flowed harmoniously and the lead and rhythm parts blended together almost as one. This helped to create the new unique Def Leppard sound.
When Pyromania was released it sold by the truck load, shifting 6 million albums off the shelves in America alone! This was the album that put Def Leppard into the Superstar bracket! The Americans simply loved them.
Pyromania spent something like 72 weeks non-stop in the US charts. The only other record that prevented it from clinching the number one slot on the chart was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Steve was now, at the young age of just 23, in a big, successful, hard rock band, headlining huge arenas, playing to sell-out crowds and had an army of female fans after his blood. This was like a dream come true and success beyond Steve’s expectations. The hard work and scraping together in the early days of the spoon factory had paid off making them very wealthy young lads. And Def Leppard, at the time, were the rock kings of America. Their success was growing in other countries too, but the USA was where they hit the big time first.
The Pyromania tour was a blast for Def Leppard. Steve and Phil also had the honour of being dubbed “The Terror Twins” by one of the band’s roadies. This was due to the pranks and nonsense that they would create or get involved in together. Phil and Steve were practically inseparable during this tour. They shared hotel rooms. They would always get drunk together and end up doing something completely stupid or naughty or get into some bar brawl.
However, Phil received his wake up call one day, after he had discovered that he had spent thousands of pounds on a jewellery store’s most expensive Rolex watch while drunk. Steve had also bought an expensive watch and an earring that night. After that incident Phil Collen gave up drinking for three months solid and eventually kicked the booze completely. But Steve carried on drinking.