The Early Years 79-81

The Early Years 79-81

“I would say that we sounded like a band trying to find our feet,” Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott tells Apple Music about the legendary British hard rock band’s first three years of existence. “We sounded like a band that were fans of certain music that you could hear leaking through massively to ours. Thin Lizzy, Rush, UFO, Bowie, T. Rex, Slade, Queen, Priest, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who—all those bands into one bucket, stir it round. I hear massive amounts of enthusiasm, and a lot of naivete. But in a very positive way.” The band’s primordial three-track debut EP (recorded in November 1978, when the members were all still in their teens) is packaged here along with their first two LPs, 1980’s On Through the Night and 1981’s Mutt Lange-produced breakthrough High ’N’ Dry, as well as a slew of B-sides, outtakes, rarities, and a full live show from 1980—a definitive document of the beginning of Def Leppard’s historic ascent. Here, Elliott recalls the band’s first three years, as told by a handful of the sprawling set’s 64 tracks. Ride Into the Sun “When we went in to record that EP, I think we had about 10 songs written, so what we did was pick the three most diverse songs. When me and Sav [bassist Rick Savage] wrote 'Ride Into the Sun,' it was the first song that we wrote together, and he just had this guitar riff, and I just started writing lyrics, and we just kept looking at each other going, 'Well, this was easy.' Because it just came together in like 40 minutes. I was 18, he was probably 17. I mean, just to sit down with this guy you've just met and start banging songs out, it's like, 'This is great fun and kind of easy. Is it going to be like this forever?'” When the Walls Came Tumbling Down “Showing our honesty and influences here: That's the complete riff from a song called I think 'Mother Mary' by UFO—the actual meter and chord progression of it. A friend of mine wrote these lyrics. I just thought it was very apocalyptic—when the walls came tumbling down, they sounded like the end of the world. When we were doing On Through the Night, we were in Startling Studios, Tittenhurst Park—this used to belong to John Lennon in '71. It's the house with the white piano and the white suits from 'Imagine.' I slept in John Lennon's bedroom for three weeks.” Bringin’ On the Heartbreak “I don't think we invented the power ballad, but we certainly got the blame for it. It was just supposed to be like 'Rain Song,' or one of these slow Zeppelin songs that you wouldn't call a ballad. I think they started being called ballads because people started throwing all these big vocal harmonies on them. It was the slow song, the mood changer. 'Bringin' On the Heartbreak' was written in a paper factory in Dronfield, on the outskirts of Sheffield, and they let us use this room to rehearse in because they felt sorry for us or something. We had these industrial heaters because it was the middle of winter. And it was originally called 'A Certain Heartache'—that's one little bit that Mutt changed. We totally rewrote the lyrics, but the melody stayed the same except for the chorus.” When the Rain Falls “‘When the Rain Falls’ turned into [High ’N’ Dry opening track] ‘Let It Go.’ Mutt's whole thing was he wanted to turn me into more of a frontman. At that time there was David Lee Roth and whoever else was out there, and he says, 'You know, your lyrics are all right, but they're a bit sitting-in-your-window-looking-out-melancholily-at-the-street-below. You should be out there kicking people's asses.' And that's how 'When the Rain Falls' became 'Let It Go,' which is a lot more macho and all that kind of stuff.” Good Morning Freedom “When you hear the B-side from the On Through the Night sessions, it's just done as a three-minute song, tailored, cut down. As we played it more live, we would expand it and build on it in the middle, and it just turned it into this fun thing that showed the chops of this band. It's 100 percent how we sounded in those days. And that one song out of all of them, for me, is my favorite, because it's really a brainless rocker, which always are fun ones to do. But when it gets to the middle bit, and you can hear the tightness of the rhythm section—and they were 16 and 17 years old. That's the epitome of it for me, just a fun romp through this three-minute, three-chord thing that we'd expand because we had the ability to do it, even as kids. It's my favorite thing to listen to. If I'm putting this thing on, I'd go straight to that track.”

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