Def Leppard keeps moving forward
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard doesn’t like MTV.
Sure, one might scratch their head and wonder why, considering that during a good part of the ’80s, the network played, in heavy rotation, many of the band’s hits. In fact, “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” the second single from 1981’s “High ‘n’ Dry,” was one of the first metal videos played on the network.
What pisses Elliott off about MTV is how the channel, which turns 30 this year, has changed from ground-breaking music television to a reality-show generator.
“I think it’s the most saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” Elliott told the Weekender from his West Palm Beach, Fla., hotel room two weeks ago. “The decline of MTV is worse than watching some relative die of Alzheimer’s. It’s awful. I’m sorry, but it is. I won’t wont be celebrating its 30th.
“I’m not a fan at all. I think it stinks. I can totally understand if people stopped watching videos, but it’s not MTV, so just put it in a coffin and bury it for God’s sake.”
Despite having its biggest success in the ’80s and early ’90s, there’s no need to put Def Leppard in a coffin. In May, photographer Ross Halfin published “Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History,” featuring a foreword by Elliott; the band released its first live album, “Mirror Ball,” in early June and is now on a tour of the same name, which stops at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton Wednesday, June 29 with opener Heart.
Fans can expect a setlist full of Def Leppard hits, like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph,” plus at least one of the three new tracks from “Mirror Ball,” which was released exclusively through Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
“Because we don’t have a record label anymore, we’re totally independent,” Elliott explained. “We’ve been able to go to every single territory in the world and literally say, ‘OK, who’s got the best offer on the table for the band?’ And Wal-Mart, by far, gave us the best offer that we could possibly accept.”
Elliott’s aware some might think the band sold out by going through Wal-Mart, but the singer doesn’t feel the broke any “massive oath that’s, like, rock ’n’ roll legend or something.”
“Our records have been available at Wal-Mart ever since Wal-Mart existed,” he stated. “To appease the naysayers of the world, we’ve actually done a vinyl triple album that will be available in Amoeba Records and places like that.”
Def Leppard, which formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, has featured Elliott, drummer Rick Allen, bassist Rick Savage and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell since 1992, made its first foray onto iTunes with “Mirror Ball’s” “Undefeated” — but it may be quite a while before the band’s back catalog joins the new track on the digital site.
“I’m not going to use ‘dispute,’ but we’re in negotiations with our now ex-record company and until we come up with some satisfactory decision, a relatively sane offer to put the music up, then we won’t do it because we won’t put our music up for free,” Elliott shared. “They’re not allowed to put it up, we can actually stop them — we have stopped them doing it. We will go with recording our own back catalog ourselves or come to some kind of negotiation.”
Unlike many of its ’80s peers, Def Leppard never stopped releasing new music over the years, but Elliott knows what most fans in the audience wants.
“The audience that comes to see us aren’t coming to hear B sides that came out only in Japan,” he said. “They’re coming to hear ‘Sugar,’ ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock of Ages.’ We’re not foolish, we know that.
Even if only a handful gets played on tour, there is a simple reason Def Leppard keeps creating new songs.
“We’re already 34 years deep into our career,” Elliott said. “We don’t want to end it anytime soon, but if somebody turned around to me and said, ‘You’ll never get the chance to say this is a song from our new album again,’ I don’t think I’d want to do it anymore.”
Unless, that is, the band got a good deal to play a stint in Las Vegas.
“If somebody offered me $20 trazillion to go to Vegas for three months to do something like (Elton John’s) ‘The Red Piano,’ I’d go and play Vegas because it’s only three months, not the rest of your life,” Elliott said.
“I’m too motived to not keep writing. Out of all the things that we do, next to performing, writing is my most favorite thing, and I love doing it, and I can’t see that day that I won’t ever write.”
This article originally published in the Weekender on June 29, 2011