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Def Leppard’s Change In Sound: The Tale Of Two Leppards

Def Leppard's Change In Sound: The Tale Of Two Leppards

Def Leppard is arguably one of the most successful bands to emerge from the 80’s hard rock and heavy metal scene.  The band found success early on, hitting the scene with their debut full-length album “On Through The Night” in 1980. Followed up, only one year later with “High N’ Dry”, the band was quickly gaining a large fan base and praise worldwide.  Def Leppard hit the big time with “Pyromania” in 1983 striking up huge record sales sparked by the enormously popular single “Photograph”.  Def Leppard was now a household name.    Everything seemed to be going the band’s way but tragedy was soon to strike the band and unfortunately, more than once.

Starting on December 31st, drummer Rick Allen’s Corvette veered off of the road and the accident caused Allen to lose his arm.  Most assumed his career was over with the band, but both Allen and the other members of Def Leppard were determined to continue together.  Rick Allen worked with Simmons Drums to develop a custom drumkit that would allow him to use his foot to handle the parts that he could no longer do without his left arm.  I have to give both Def Leppard and Rick Allen a tremendous amount of respect for weathering a storm as significant as this.  It would be three years of recording before the band would release “Hysteria” to massive critical acclaim. It’s Def Leppard’s biggest selling record to date.

Tragedy would soon strike the band for a second time when guitarist Steve Clark died of a lethal mix of prescription drugs and alcohol in 1991.

It is my personal belief that these two events lead to Def Leppard’s split personality in their sound.  Prior to “Hysteria” being released, Def Leppard owed more of their trademark sound to being influenced by bands like AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and UFO.  More keyboards and electronic drums were introduced starting with Hysteria.  I believe this has a lot to do with Allen’s injury.  The band could make it all fit in a more cohesive manner with newly inserted pop influences.  And thus began the change from a more hard rock/melodic metal sound to a more slightly subdued pop-rock.

The death of Steve Clark officially tilted the band’s sound and direction to an even more pop-influenced sound that completed Def Leppard’s metamorphosis away from a heavier rock sound.

The band continued to explore lighter musical fair on albums like Slang, Euphoria, X, Yeah! and Songs From The Sparkle Lounge.  Def Leppard’s latest release in 2015,  simply entitled “Def Leppard” had more than a slight nod in sound to their “Hysteria” album, but the band seems have crossed a line that they are not likely to ever return from with the more pop-ish sound being favored for their hard rocking sonics of the past.

No one can say that things haven’t worked out great for Def Leppard, regardless of which sound you prefer.  While the band’s change in sound caused some division within their fan base, it’s also true that many fans have liked Def Leppard throughout their entire career.

Def Leppard was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2019 and continue to sell out concert venues worldwide.

You can get enjoy Def Leppard’s sound with Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the band’s box set.

Def Leppard released the box set called Volume 1 in 2018  featuring the following material:

On Through the Night
High ‘n’ Dry
Rarities Volume One
Live at the L.A. Forum 1983
The Def Leppard E.P.





The band is set to release the box set for Volume 2 on June 21, 2019, which contains the following material:

Retro Active
Rarities Volume Two
Rarities Volume Three
Rarities Volume Four







About the author

Bobby Caughron

Bobby Caughron is a music journalist and Editor-In-Chief for XS ROCK. He began a life-long fan of hard rock and metal music after hearing KISS as a kid. He is still an avid fan of the 80s metal scene and continues to discover and write about new music in all rock genres today.

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