This section looks at the 'Retro-Active' album release. The first ever compilation album released by the band as the 'Adrenalize' world tour ended. A collection a revamped B-Sides, Extra Tracks and never before released studio outtakes.
"We've pretty much cleared out the shelves with this album."
Def Leppard released their compilation album Retro-Active on this day in 1993.
The album was released on this day in the UK and around the world. And one day later in the USA and Canada. It became their third consecutive Top Ten album in the UK reaching Number 6.
The first ever compilation album or collection released by the band. It featured B Sides and unreleased tracks dating from 1984 to 1992.
The band first had the idea for an album featuring B Sides and new songs when touring the Hysteria album in 1987/1988. They had aimed to get the album released in the Summer of 1989 but plans were later shelved.
The idea resurfaced in December 1992 (when Joe also came up with the album title) and the project was put together in just six months. Recordings took place backstage on the May 1993 European tour. They also recorded at Joe's Garage home studios in Dublin before and after the Don Valley Stadium show. The project was then finished off by August of 1993 and ready for release by October.
This album was seen as a tying up of the Steve Clark era of the band before making their first album with new member Vivian Campbell. Vivian made his first recorded contributions to the band on this album.
Among the 13 main album tracks were two unreleased gems first written and recorded from 1984 to 1987. 'Desert Song' and 'Fractured Love'. The latter was part of the original tracklisting for the Hysteria album in Spring 1985 before Mutt Lange returned and the song was shelved. The intro was recorded by Joe on 11th June 1993 by tapping his fingers on the studio vocal booth "baffles". The sound was then enhanced and looped to form the atmospheric intro.
Most of the tracks were B Sides originally released in 1992 on the variousCD/Vinyl singles. All three B Sides on the UK 'Make Love Like A Man' CD single were re worked and ended up as the three singles from this album.
'Two Steps Behind' had a string section added to it and was the first taste of this album having been released in July 1993 as part of the soundtrack to the 'Last Action Hero' movie. It's first ever in concert performance was captured on film at theshow on 6th June in the middle of the final recording sessions.
Three songs were released in 1987/1988 assingle B Sides. The songs had a new snare drum sound added and were remixed to give them new life.
Read a great article below from October 1993 where the band tell the story of making the album in their own words just as the Adrenalize tour was about to end in Mexico City.
For long term fans you may notice (and remember) how similar their words sound to what was said about the making of the self-titled album released in October 2015.
Retro-Active - Joe Elliott Interview Quotes October 1993
"We didn't go in there with a stick up our asses like we normally do. We went into a studio in Munich one day, and Phil did all the E-Bow intro guitars on 'Fractured Love' while Vivian did some rhythm guitars on 'Only After Dark' because he didn't get to play on the original B-Side."
"The next day, at the gig in Munich, Vivian did some guitars between the sound check and the show on an eight-track recorder."
"We worked backwards, like we always do. But we've done it more organically than we usually do."
(On Two Steps Behind being a hit) - "It wasn't a B-Side it was a D-Side. We always knew it was a good song, but it was a complete fluke."
"We just went in there and said 'Bollocks, that's good enough'. And the music was better for it."
"Next time, as long as we've got the songs, the recording's not going to take a lot of time. I'd put money on that. Name your price, I'll match it."
The Making Of Retro-Active In Def Leppard's Own Words - October 1993
"We thought about it last December, starting working on it in our heads in January, physically started working on it in May and we finished it in August."
"The majority of the recording was done in Dublin in nine days. I had a nine o'clock flight to Japan one morning, and I was still in the studio at 8:20 having been in all night working on the intro to 'Fractured Love'. I just made the flight!."
"I've got my fingers crossed that we can keep that mentality when we go in to do the next record. I'm hoping we won't freeze up again!. The attitude of the band has changed so much since the start of '92. It's a different animal."
"We even recorded some stuff backstage. We just thought. 'We gotta get this done!'. We decided not to treat 'Retro-Active' like a normal Def Leppard album, cos we have tended to get a stick up our arses, over-recording and over-thinking everything. We just said, 'Either it's right or it ain't'."
"'Hysteria' sounds brilliant, but you had to contrive that excitement to a certain degree. This time we didn't have to. When we did 'Hysteria' we were thinking, 'We gotta get this thing finished, it's costing so much money'."
"'Retro-Active' was great, no weird head-trips going off. I enjoyed doing this album, and I can't really say that about the other ones, I like the way the others turned out, but I didn't enjoy the process."
"The inspiring thing about this album is that the sleeve cost more than the recording!."
"That big Def Leppard sound that's been around since 'Pyromania' has been a bit overdone, and everybody else has tried to do it as well. Ever since I got an acoustic kit at home, I've had a lot of fun going back to real drums."
"This processed drum sound that we're always getting criticised for; what the fuck do people expect?. They guy's got one arm!."
"It's very difficult for him to play an acoustic kit, because Rick's reliant on electricity - just as an electric guitar is reliant on electricity. It's taken us a long time to make that electric kit sound like an acoustic kit, but we've managed to do it on 'Retro-Active'."
"When you've got an acoustic drum kit that sounds big and fat, you have to make everything else sound big and fat - otherwise the drums sound too big and everything else sounds weedy. What were we gonna do? Fire Rick because he couldn't play an acoustic kit?."
"The general feeling in the band is that we want to get back to a more earthy feel. It's still gonna sound like Def Leppard, whatever we do, but we want to get back to our roots. The 'Retro-Active' album is the direction we're going in."
"I don't know whether that would work with Mutt Lange producing, although we may still write songs with him. It depends how the next album goes."
"Mutt's working with people like Michael Bolton now: not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not exactly my cup of tea."
"Then again, the guy produced AC/DC's Back in Black - one of the classic Hard Rock albums, I'd hate to get to the stage where we'd never work with Mutt again, cos we do work well together, there's no question about that."
"We approached 'Retro-Active' in a whole new way. We were living on the road, hearing stories,. We weren't locked away in our own little world, cut off from outside influences."
"We were very aware of what was going on around us, so that's why this album sounds much more 'now'. In the past, we've tried to make albums that sound like the future."
"We get accused of selling out, but AC/DC didn't grow up listening to Sweet and Slade and T. Rex. We did, and that's why we have a Pop element to our music. With 'Retro-Active', maybe we're re-awakening the Rock beast!."
"Who'd have thought we'd get an album done in six months?. Well, who'd have bet on Sunderland beating Leeds in the '73 Cup Final?!."
Retro-Active - Phil Collen Interview Quotes 1993
"We always talked about what we were going to do with those tracks, but we were never sire. With a band like ours - especially with our reputation for taking so much time between albums - it's not something you dwell on for very long."
"We've always out our energy into making the best albums we can, ad these tracks are all very good. They just didn't fit in for some reason or another."
"The funny part is that now that we hear them again, some of them are my favourites."
Retro-Active - Joe Elliott Interview Quotes 1993
"People always think that we have ten songs, let's say, on an album, and that we've been working on those ten songs for years."
"That's not true. We often go in and record any number of tracks, some make it onto an album, some don't. It's really that simple."
Retro-Active - Phil Collen Interview Quotes 1993
"I think Mutt has gotten a great deal of credit for his work with a lot of artists including us. But sometimes it does get a little tiring to hear how 'without him you wouldn't be the same'. I think Mutt helps make us a better band because he knows us so well and knows what we're looking for. But the idea that we're some kind of puppets that he controls is totally ridiculous."
"I don't know if you ever get over really get over losing someone like Steve. I think it might have been too painful yo go back and hear these things a couple of years ago."
"We've had a little time to adjust, to distance ourselves from his death. In a way this album is a tribute to him - a chance for the fans to hear just how great he was one more time."
Retro-Active - Rick Savage Interview Quotes 1993
"Do you think we're overexposing ourselves?."
"Yes, it probably will be strange for our fans to have so much new material from us in such a relatively brief period, but I'm sure they can handle it."
"The fact is that we've been around for quite a while now, and we've avoided doing the traditional live albums or the 'greatest hits' packages. We've tried to give the fans something a little different."
Retro-Active - Phil Collen Interview Quote 1993
Next Album Late 1995?
"Yeah, that sounds about right. But with us who knows?. We've pretty much cleared out the shelves with this album, so we'll be starting fresh."
"I think we've all got some good new ideas we want to try, and I know Vivian is really looking forward to contributing to an album. But as always, we'll take or time. After all, we don't want to spoil anyone, do we?."
Retro-Active 1993 - Press Biography Quote
"This is not a new Def Leppard album - nor is it an old Def Leppard record. It is "Retro-Active", a collection of songs that have appeared in hard to find places or, in certain cases, never made it out of the studio until now.
"Retro-Active" was compiled from songs recorded over a nine year period and features three versions of Def Leppard: with Phil and Steve on guitars, with Phil alone, and with the current Phil/Vivian axis."
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