Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 46 - Def Leppard

DEF LEPPARD

" It was insane, but we made page 3 of the Sun and I didn’t even have to get my tits out or anything!"
JOE ELLIOTT

Def Leppard are about to release ‘Mirrorball’ (click here to read the review on Rocktopia) – a collection of live tracks with 3 brand new songs which will be showcased at their summer festival appearances. When singer Joe Elliott was asked to appear on stage with Ian Hunter a couple of years ago, he was over the moon. As a life long Mott The Hoople fan, Joe put together a band consisting of The Quireboys (minus Spike) to be his backing band and The Down ‘n’ Outz were born. As if that weren’t exciting enough, two years later, the band (which were never meant to BE a band) are supporting Paul Rodgers.
Sue Ashcroft caught up with Joe in his home town of Sheffield where, less than a year ago the band and Leppard bass player Rick Savage had played a few songs at the Dave Kilner memorial show.

To be touring with Paul Rodgers – how did that come about?

He actually asked for us! We’ve known Paul about six or seven years – my wife and I got to know him when he was singing with Queen – we got to know him and his wife Cynthia. I don’t know why – maybe it’s the Mick Ralphs connection with Mott and Bad Company. I said to him “thanks for having us on” and he said “no, thanks for coming with us, I’m really glad you’re on board!” which was very flattering.

Do you feel that’s a pressure on you when you’re playing?

No, not really, it doesn’t bother me. Because I’m such a fan boy, I just can’t believe it. When I was ten and I went into Bradleys Records in Sheffield and bought ‘My Brother Jake’, that forty-one years later, the singer would be asking me to come out and tour with him, it was just like WOW!

I have to ask you to tell me the truth about what happened at High Voltage? I was there and saw most of what was going on, but I thought it was appalling.

So did Jimmy Page! (laughs) I went right up in Spike’s (Quireboys) estimations for a start! What happened was, before we went on, I was getting concerned that we were being delayed. The guy I spoke to said “don’t worry, everything’s running a little bit over time, but it’s not a problem”. This guy looked very official with the headphones and the walkie-talkie on and he said “nah, you’ll be fine, don’t worry about it”, but I said “if we don’t get on there soon, we’re going to have to start pulling songs, so I need to get up there and tell the band!” and he said “no really – it’s fine”. So, we went up there and did our thing, we brought Ian (Hunter) out to do the last five songs and as we were doing the FIRST one, I’ve got Malvin (tour manager) doing the ‘hand across the throat’ thing like “you’ve got to come off!” Malvin had told me before we went on “this is going to run over” to which I said “nah, the guy says it’s going to be alright”. Anyway, Ian said “fuck ‘em” and we just went straight into ‘Who Do You Love’. So, we got to the end of that and they literally pulled the power on us!

Mike Cobiashi (our manager) was going apoplectic at the side of the stage and these guys literally manhandled him off. They were lifting him and pulling him off the stage. They were such amateurs. I went over there to defend him and some guy starts pulling Ian’s chord out of his guitar, which Ian then takes off and is swinging about like a cricket bat – which upset him because he’s not that kind of guy. So then, a guy starts having a go at me and I tried to smash him with my guitar. We got pulled apart and he got all brave then, knowing that he had these guys holding him and two people holding me back – and remember, this is a guy who actually WORKED there – he looked me in the eye and went “is that all you’ve got?” and I’m thinking, you work for ME right now! So it all kicked off again. They were going to have me removed from the backstage area, which they had apparently done to Gary Moore the day before for a similar incident. See, if every band on the bill runs over by two minutes, then that eats into the time and the second last band are the one’s who get hammered for it because the headliners need their full set. The mad thing was, that ELP went on 50 minutes after we finished. There was only supposed to be a 25 minute turnaround and we only needed 15 minutes to finish our set, so where was the logic in that? We could’ve finished the set without any fuss and they’d still have had half an hour to do the changeover.

Now, the promoter girl (whose name I can’t remember), she was really good and, in fairness, it was their first festival. The stage hands that they’d hired (or whatever you wanted to call them), were definitely inexperienced – I think they’re normal 9-5 job was “do you want fries with that sir?” because they certainly weren’t professionals! (laughs) Security said they wanted to have me removed from the site and the promoter said “over my dead body!” and I had all sorts of people saying to them “let me tell you what really happened here…!” and were in my defence, so they ended up having the guy removed who had started the whole thing, who went for me. He was removed instead of me. It was insane, but we made page 3 of the Sun and I didn’t even have to get my tits out or anything! (laughs)

It was such a shame for Ian because he’d come all that way and you didn’t get to play the songs that everyone wanted to hear.

Yeah, there was ‘Man Overboard’, ‘All The Way From Memphis’, ‘All The Young Dudes’, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ – there was all sorts of stuff that we’d rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed and they ruined it! I know people sent accusing looks at me, that the set was too long, but the set was timed perfectly. We got delayed getting up there, so it wasn’t our fault. I mean, none of these stage hands ever came up and said “hi, my name’s John and I’m your point guy” so when this officious dude with the walkie-talkie and the headphones says to me “you’ll be fine, everybody’s running late”, I can only take him on his word, so we just ploughed on regardless because that’s what I was told to do. We got more publicity out of it though, than if it hadn’t have happened – we sold 600 records that week!

Speaking of which, you’ve done really well in America with the singles you’ve released. It all just seems to have snowballed for you, doesn’t it?

It’s crazy, the media based rock chart in the states, which is based on airplay on all the rock stations, is the true chart. It’s based on how many times each song gets played per week. ‘England Rocks’ was right in the middle of the BP scandal – in America, a song called ‘England Rocks’ gets to #4! We were then encouraged by people who had got the album at the radio stations, to go with ‘Overnight Angels’ as the second single. It was touch and go between that and ‘Good Times’. So, we went with ‘Overnight Angels’ and that went to number one! ‘Good Times’ has gone in at #33 on the first day, so it looks like we might have three top 10’s out of this album, which is crazy – and with no gigs either!

I got the new Def Leppard album a few days ago and listened with interest to the three new tracks. I think they’re fabulous!

Yeah, they’re not bad, are they? I was very happy with them because they’re all very different from each other, it’s not like they all sound the same.

Yes, I noticed that.

‘Undefeated’ is going to be a great one to do live and ‘Kings Of The World’ is more of a grower for people, but it’s just so complex and ridiculous – it’s like Queen, meets ELO, meets the Beach Boys with a bit of 10CC thrown in there.

Yeah, it’s a real epic song!

‘It’s All About Believing’ is for me, a song that sits right in between ‘Animal’ and ‘Hysteria’. For those people who keep saying “I wish they’d do something else that sounds like ‘Hysteria’”, I think we just did, without pandering too much, but they’re all different from each other which is what I really like. We’re playing them well and I’m singing them well and they’re just really positive songs. You can tell we’ve taken a year off. We’ve come back with all this enthusiasm and batteries recharged and the three song titles are all very positive. None of this miserable stuff, they’re all very up!

Read the full FULL interview printed in Fireworks #46. Available from:

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• Here in the Rocktopia Shop  (registration required)
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Def-Leppard-by-Ash-Newell

(Photo by Ash Newell)

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