HomeArtsDef Leppard - 'Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard' review

Def Leppard – ‘Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard’ review

Released today (18th May) and priced at £35, ‘Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard’ is the ultimate record of Def Leppard’s legendary career and is available to order from defleppardbook.com. The book’s limited editions became the fastest ever books to sell out in Genesis Publications history, after the Collector’s and Deluxe editions were fully subscribed within days of its announcement.

Part memoir, part scrapbook, the wide-ranging narrative from the band chronicles Def Leppard’s incredible story through hundreds of photographs where fans can reminiscence on the band recording in various studios, at promo shoots, on tour in planes, trains, cars and Holiday Inns, backstage and, of course, doing what they are best known for – performing their explosive live shows in front of global audiences from 1978 to the present day. 

From extensive new text contributions to in-depth archival interviews, every member’s voice is present within the book including Joe Elliott (lead vocals), Rick Savage (bass and vocals), Rick Allen (drums), Phil Collen (guitar and vocals), Vivian Campbell (guitar and vocals), Tony Kenning (drums), Pete Willis (guitar) and Steve Clark (guitar). ‘Definitely’ also features introductions by Queen founder and guitar maestro, Brian May, and renowned journalist and senior editor of Rolling Stone, David Fricke. May brings his testimony to a close with a line that describes the band as ‘original, inimitable and immortal,’ and after spending time pursuing these 300 lovingly crafted pages it’s hard to disagree.

Def Leppard book
Credit: Genesis Publications

The book is separated into chapters that deal with each album cycle and phase in the band’s career. As you would expect, the greatest interest fans will have in this book will be in those chapters that detail the band’s origins and early albums. Reading Joe Elliot’s description of his entrance into the Sheffield gig scene in the early 70s it becomes clear just how important both the city itself and the clubs and theatres were to him. A multitude of 70s tickets, posters and photos detail Elliot’s increasing love of Rock music and the growing influence of artists like T-Rex and David Bowie in this young man’s life.

Each member of the band describes how they played their own parts in the formation of Def Leppard after the chance meeting between Elliot and original guitarist Pete Willis and Rick Savage even treats us to an insight into his near miss with the world of professional football too.

Grim pictures of early rehearsal spaces bring a real feel of just how raw and down to earth these five Yorkshire boys were. I got emotional reading Steve Clark’s words about these early days, looking at the fresh-faced photos of this young boy, untainted, as he was, at that point, by the demons that would eventually fell him. He summed up the early months of the band’s inception in 1978 brilliantly. “Basically, we were all fucking posers,’ he admits as the record deal and support tour with ACDC comes and goes.

Joe Elliot talks honestly about his frustrations with the band being labelled as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene of the early 80s and then again when the media lumped them into the ‘hair metal’ craze of the late 80s alongside bands like Poison, Motley Crue (slight irony here given Leppard and Crue have been touring together for a while now) & Warrant. ‘If anything,’ Elliot fumes, ‘we were a baby Queen.”

Being Def Leppard in the 80s wasn’t easy. Willis and original drummer Tony Kenning were fired for ‘not being up to scratch’. Drummer Rick Allen loses an arm in a New Year’s car crash and the alcoholism that would eventually kill Steve Clark in 1991 begins to rear its head although Phil Collen and Rick Allen also talk openly about their own battles with addictions. Nothing is avoided, nothing is swept under the carpet and all issues are dealt with honestly – there’s no ghost writing here, everything comes in paragraphs and chunks ‘straight from the horses mouth’. There’s even a quote from Pete Willis that states how he now realises leaving Def Leppard probably saved his life as he was beginning to sink into battles with alcohol of his own that he wasn’t convinced would have ended well for him.

‘Definitely’ tracks the American explosion that occurred post-‘Pyromania’, the Mutt Lange years after the ill-fated match up with Meat Loaf producer and songwriter Jim Steinman and the ‘In the Round’ concert shows that were a unique and groundbreaking way of touring in the late 80s, all backed by an avalanche of photos, posters and personal memorabilia that makes you feel like you are back in Sheffield at Joe Elliot’s mum’s house thumbing through her own personal photograph album!

Def Leppard
Credit: Genesis Publications

Steve Clark’s death in early 1991 is dealt with without overblown, mawkish sentimentality. There’s a sense of lingering confusion and bewilderment, even to this day, from the rest of the band as to how they could have helped him battle his addictions more than they did. Joe Elliot wonders whether he could have done more to help his fallen brother and the whole period is covered with a grace and dignity that is a hallmark of this memoir throughout.

Viv Campbell joins the band, Grunge alters the musical and commercial landscape and yet Leppard endure. There’s still a sense of each member being able to talk freely and reminisce about events from their own narrative stand point. Viv Campbell wonders about 1996 album, ‘Slang’. “I have always felt that we took too much of a left turn with Slang,” he says, “We sacrificed the songwriting….but it didn’t really matter what we did because anything from the 80s was deeply resented at that point in the 90s,” and Phil Collen talks about dwindling ticket sales as people’s tastes changed.

Chpaters on “Euphoria’ and ‘X’ come and go. Phil Collen admits to ripping off his own work on ‘Promises’ by using the riffs to “Armageddon It’ and ‘Photograph’. “If another band had done that,” he says, ‘We would have sued them!” Collaborations with Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift come with interesting insights and glossy pictures. The Vegas residencies, Viv Campbell’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Phil Collen having to learn to play guitar again after a boxing injury at the gym are all covered in depth and with refreshing openness and honesty.

Phil Collen ends the book with a powerful and typically honest quote. “There’s no plan B,” he writes, “We haven’t achieved what we set out to do yet.” What an insightful and very personal history of one of the greatest bands in Rock history. This isn’t one of those memoirs that have been airbrushed by ghost writers. Nothing is hidden and you’ll want to dip back into the mountain of photos, posters, tickets and newspaper articles the moment after you have finished your first read. What a rewarding and in-depth look at a band that have as much fire inside them, still, in 2023 as they had in those grimy, winter of discontent days of Sheffield in the late 70s. Dip in and lose yourself in real and rich UK Rock history, you won’t be disappointed.

Publisher: Genesis Publications Release Date: Thursday May 18th Buy ‘Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard’ now

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