Def Leppard, in many ways, was the definitive hard rock band of the '80s. There were many bands that rocked harder (and were more dangerous) than the Sheffield-based quintet, but few others captured the spirit of the times quite as well. Emerging in the late '70s as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the group actually owed more to the glam rock and metal of the early '70s, as their sound was equal parts T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Queen, and Led Zeppelin. By toning down their heavy riffs and emphasizing melody, Def Leppard was poised for crossover success by 1983's Pyromania, and skillfully used the fledgling MTV network to their advantage. The musicians were already blessed with photogenic good looks, but they also crafted a series of innovative, exciting videos that made them into stars. They intended to follow Pyromania quickly but were derailed when their drummer lost an arm in a car accident, the first of many problems that plagued the group's career. Def Leppard managed to pull through such tragedies, and they even expanded their large audience with 1987's blockbuster Hysteria. As the '90s began, mainstream hard rock shifted away from Leppard's signature pop-metal and toward edgier, louder bands, yet the group maintained a sizable audience into the late '90s and were one of only a handful of '80s metal groups to survive the decade more or less intact.
Their major label debut was On through the Night (1980 in music). High 'N' Dry (1981 in music) was their first album to be produced by Robert John 'Mutt' Lange. From it, 'Bringin' on the Heartbreak''s video was one of the first 'metal' videos played on MTV video. Phil Collen, former guitarist from the band Girl, replaced Pete Willis who was fired on July 11, 1982 due to alcoholism. Pete Willis later recorded with the bands Gogmagog and Roadhouse. This personnel change took place during the recording of their next release, Pyromania (January 20, 1983). Lange was again the producer. Aided by the singles 'Photograph', 'Rock of Ages', and 'Foolin'', Pyromania sold six million copies in 1983 & 84.
The period after the album's success, however, was difficult: on December 31, 1984, Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash in which his Corvette veered off the road into a concrete wall. While recovering in the hospital from his accident, Rick was committed to continuing his role as Def Leppard's drummer. He practiced drumming with pillows, and realized that he could use his legs to do some of the percussive work previously done with his arms. He then worked with Simmons to design a custom electronic drum kit.
Leppard's next album, Hysteria,was released in early in 1987. The record was released that spring to lukewarm reviews, with many critics claiming that the album compromised Leppard's metal roots for sweet pop flourishes. Accordingly, Hysteria was slow out of the starting gates -- "Women," the first single, failed to really take hold -- but the release of "Animal" helped the album gather steam. The song became Def Leppard's first Top 40 hit in the U.K., but more importantly, it launched a string of six straight Top 20 hits in the U.S., which also included "Hysteria," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Love Bites," "Armageddon It," and "Rocket," the latter of which arrived in 1989, a full two years after the release of Hysteria. During those two years, Def Leppard's presence was unavoidable -- they were the kings of high-school metal, ruling the pop charts and MTV, and teenagers and bands alike replicated their teased hair and ripped jeans, even when the grimy hard rock of Guns N' Roses took hold in 1988.
After Hysteria 's release, internal problems (including the death of guitarist Steve Clark from a drug and alcohol overdose on January 8, 1991) resulted in a long delay before the follow-up.
Adrenalize was finally released in 1992, the only album recorded by Leppard as a four-piece (Elliott, Collen, Savage, and Allen). The album entered the US charts at number 1. It remained there for five weeks, selling six million copies, and the first single, 'Let's Get Rocked,' was on MTV's video countdown for a long time. It was also nominated for Best Video of the Year at the 1992 9th MTV Video Music Awards. However, it did not have the longevity of their previous albums, and in retrospect many fans consider it one of their weakest albums.
Retroactive was released in 1993 and is a collection of songs which, although not new, were either rare or never previously released. Some of this album's songs were written as B-sides for Hysteria singles. Retroactive was followed by the release of Vault 1995, Def Leppard's Greatest Hits, which sold 3.5 million copies.
In 1992, guitarist Vivian Campbell joined Def Leppard. (Vivian had been a member of Dio from 1983 - 1986, and a member of Whitesnake in 1987 and 1988.) He collaborated in the songwriting for Slang, which was released in 1996. Next came the album Euphoria in 1999.
X, Def Leppard's tenth album, was released in 2002. The band has stated that they are very satisfied with this album, and that in many ways they wish it had been the follow-up to Hysteria.