JOE ELLIOTT On DEF LEPPARD's Formation 40 Years Ago In Sheffield
Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott was interviewed for the Hysteria 30th anniversary in August and the full audio is now available.
He was speaking to Matt Stocks for Episode 39 of his Life In The Stocks podcast.
The interview was conducted a few months ago, probably in August as the Hysteria reissue was released.
Joe talked about growing up in Sheffield, starting in music, joining Def Leppard, writing their first songs/first provate show, Peter Mensch/original managers, supporting AC/DC in 1979, friendship with Brian Johnson, Back In Black album, Mutt Lange influence/production, making On Through The Night, USA success, UK success in 1987, famous fans/influences, 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute, Brian May friendship, U2, Ricky Warwick and stopping drinking and the Hysteria album.
For the first half of the lengthy interview he recalled his early life in Sheffield and the formation and early months of Def Leppard's career. Which took place now just over 40 years ago in Sheffield in late 1977.
Listen to the full 43 minutevia the link.
Visit thesection for more news on new music (based on band member quotes).
Life In The Stocks Podcast - Joe Elliott Interview Quotes
Growing Up In Sheffield
"Well Sheffield in the 70s was a city, the only place I knew. So I couldn't make any comparison. I mean now it's hard to unscramble the egg of comparing it to Middlesborough or London or Carlisle or Manchester or whatever. But it's all I knew other than maybe holidays in Wales. We used to go to Abersoch or Aberffraw and Pigeon House (a caravan park) which was in the north of Anglesey. I don't know. I mean I was just a passenger in my Mum and Dad's car."
"But you know it was a city if, I don't know how many people, a million people, half a million people live in Sheffield. All I knew was my neighbourhood which was Broomhill. And Crookes and you'd occassionally nip down to Endcliffe Park which was like going to another planet, you know, 'cause it was like a bus ride away. Growing up in Sheffield I realised now that I don't know how important it was in my psyche of music because the radio that I was listening to was also the same radio that Phil Collen in London. So we were tuning into Radio Luxembourg and Radio One. Watching Top Of The Pops and picking it all up from there. So location and geography was kind of secondary to what was being fed into our psyche from the only medium we knew which was radio and TV. And it was very limited back then. Three TV channels, eventually four."
"So you watch Top Of The Pops once a week and you see bands like Slade and we'd just got colour TV so they're all trying to outdo each other with fancy costumes 'cause you've got Sweet and Slade and T. Rex and Bowie and Wizzard and Mott The Hoople all wearing these mad clothes and writing these brilliant pop-rock songs. And meanwhile when you weren't watching Top Of The Pops or listening to the radio you were out with your few mates kicking a ball around in the park or playing Tennis when Wimbledon was on and playing Golf when the open was on and going to the pitch and putt."
Starting In Music
"I was totally into the sports. Totally into the music and we just had a very tight neighbourhood. I knew four or five kids and went to school, went home. I was an only child so I kinda had my own world which I certainly don't regret one bit because upstairs to the record player. I was really lucky that I seem to have had this gravitational pull towards music as a kid you know. Relatives have told me that the first thing I did when I crawled was crawl to the radio. When I was four I was with the plastic Paul McCartney guitar stood on a little stool trying to sing Love Me Do and it was obvious that I was gravitating towards music at a very early age."
"I wrote my first song when I was eight 'cause my Mum got a guitar and then I wanted one and you know rightfully so both my parents said: 'Well if you learn to play we'll buy you one for Christmas'. So I had my Mum teach me the few chords that she knew and we would swap and learn songs together and I started and I wrote one and all of a sudden I was like. I like this, this is fun you know. It was right up there with kicking a football. Obviously better at the end of the day."
"But yeah it was the most ordinary, extraordinary childhood you could ever expect you know. Really good parents. Very disciplined but not overly strict. Totally got the fact that I loved music 'cause they did too. They never stopped me watching it. I wasn't banned from watching David Bowie 'cause he "looked weird". They were like: 'He looks weird'. And that was just a comment, not: 'You're not watching that!'. It was just normal really."
Joining Def Leppard
"We got together in my parents, well my bedroom in my parents house in. Almost 40 years ago. I met Pete Willis in the street and just said: 'I just bought this Les Paul copy.' Exactly like that one there. 30 quid from a junk shop on London Road. And you know I was inspired in '77 by the likes of the Pistols and The Clash who, you know, even I could tell they weren't exactly musicians in the sense of playing guitar like Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen or whatever. And I thought well if they can, I can. And I bumped into Pete and I knew he played guitar. He was a friend of a friend if you like. ."
"And I said to him you know: 'Do you wanna get a band together?' and he said: 'Oh, I've kind of got one. We're looking for a singer'. So I just blurted out: 'Oh, I'll do it'. So he said OK. I said come round to my Mum and Dad's house and we'll talk. So he brought Sav and Tony Kenning. Who was the original drummer and the four of us just talked. Just like this and we talked about the music we liked and stuff that we should be listening to and I was playing them stuff and they were going Oh have you heard of such and such a band. And I'd go: 'What you mean this lot?' (they'd go) Wow, you've got a great record collection. And that was pretty much it."
"By the end of the night we had the name of the band and nothing else. I suggested it 'cause I'd come up with it at school and I'd been carrying it around in my head for two years and Tony Kenning suggested the misspelling of it which was genius. I just thought it sounded good. It's a ridiculous name but I just thought it sounded good. (Powerful?) It's become that but it's just different. You know that was the important thing. It was just weird."
"And then we slowly but surely started moving on from this idea of being in a band to actually being in a band. In other words Pete had a guitar so we occasionally get to go round to his house and listen to him play and then we go. Tony found a rehearsal room down near Bramall Lane. It was this old Spoon Factory and we cleared out all the machinery and we kind of cleaned it up a bit and painted the walls. It was like a den. We still hadn't played a note yet. We put posters up. We dressed it up and we started bringing bits of gear in. We were borrowing stuff. I didn't even have a microphone you know. Got a bank loan to buy some gear. Had a very accommodating bank manager who was a huge music fan. So he's like: 'OK I'll lend you some money'. And then I bought a mic or borrowed one for the first week in rehearsal."
"And literally I'd been hanging with these three guys. the four of us had been hanging together for five weeks before I even opened my mouth to sing. You know it was just the weirdest thing. So I suppose we did form the band but it was the most arse-end-upwards way of putting a band together. I mean there's been other examples. U2 were very similar. they got together as an idea. None of them really knew what to do. I'm not even sure if they even had an instrument picked. You be the guitarist and you be the singer. It was kind of a bit like that with us.
"But we got going and the enthusiasm carried us through any lack of ability that we had and first couple of days that we were together we abandoned attempting Stairway To Heaven but we'd nailed doing Suffragette City by David Bowie. And that suited me fine 'cause it was the kind of music that I really dug."
First Songs/First Private Show
"You know and then we started writing songs. Within the first couple of weeks me and Sav had written Ride Into the Sun. We started piecing stuff together. We had a little Christmas gig for some friends in the rehearsal room. December time (1977). This was when we were still a four piece and put some lights up. I don't know why we did it and we even wore some weird stage clothes and like three fiends sat cross legged on the floor. And played for them these half a dozen songs that we knew which were like Suffragette, Jailbreak by Lizzy. Couple of other songs. We ended up doing, we used to loads. We used to do Emerald. We used to do Rosalie. We did Jailbreak. We did a bunch of covers just to - we used to do Rock And Roll Susie by Pat Travers. We used to do a ton of stuff."
"But we only had four songs by December but we used to just keep playing these four songs over and over again. And then Steve Clark joined in January (1978) I think it was and them we just started to expand because it gave us a) more ideas, a bigger sound. And it broadened our horizons so we could do Lizzy songs better with two guitars and we could do harmony guitar stuff and thicker rhythm stuff. And then Steve would come in with songs ideas. And I think like the fifth song we ever wrote was Wasted 'cause he came up with this riff and we were just like jaw droppingly like blown away by the riff like whoah that is something special. And yet it was still only early 1978, you know, we hadn't got a clue what we were doing, but we were having so much fun doing it."
The Hysteria Album/Proudest Achievement?
"Yeah. I suppose it is because it's lasted longer than any other record we've made. You know there are people, of course there's people who are gonna be listening to this going: 'Oh it's not as good as Pyromania' or 'I went of you when you went pop'. And it's like well, this is who we are. This defines who we are. You know it defines where - it was the zenith. It was really, it was like where do we go from here? We can go any direction because this gave us everything. It had rock. Hard Rock. It had Soft Rock. It slow, it had fast. It had medium. It had commercially, uncommercial. It had extremely weird stuff on it. And you know it was very experimental for the year that it came out."
"You know and it's lasted the test of time for the most people that listen to it. They still listen to it, you know, which is. Hey, if you've got one record is your arsenal like Dark Side Of The Moon for Pink Floyd or Sgt. Ppper for The Beatles or Hotel California. Rumours for Fleetwood Mac or whatever. You only have to have one. If you get two or three, great. But one is better than none, oyu know, and this record is the thing that we shall forever be judged against and that's not a bad thing."
Buy 'Hysteria 30th Anniversary Edition' Online
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