Def Leppard hardly drew breath this year. Taking on a punishing schedule that would poleaxe most bands half their age, Sheffield’s finest have toured extensively across the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia, before heading back for gigs in their homeland.
What’s more, they also found time to complete Def Leppard, their first studio album in seven years.
Coping with the heavy lifting of arena tours – be it pulling in 22,000 people in Salt Lake City or 20,000 in Minneapolis – is all very well. But the real boon is that the album signifies both an artistic and commercial spike for the band.
“It’s been crazy,” admits frontman Joe Elliott, looking back on 2015’s success. “The chart positions around the world have been mad. We haven’t seen anything like this since Adrenalize . The new album went to Number One in more or less every rock chart in the world. It nearly even made the Top Ten in the UK when it’s only available on digital and in the Classic Rock fanpack. This one has really connected. You can only put that down to better songwriting and good timing. We’re survivors now, the last men standing.”
Elliott concedes that it hasn’t all been roses for the band. The ongoing health of guitarist Vivian Campbell – who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013 – remains uppermost in everyone’s mind, while Elliott is still recovering from mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial issue that affected his vocals for intermittent parts of the year.
But he does believe that, as a unit, Def Leppard have reached a new level. Everything they do tends to invite inevitable comparisons to 1987’s mega-selling yardstick, Hysteria. Until now, that is.
“Making this album was probably the first time that we didn’t think that way ourselves. The first couple of songs are classic Def Leppard [Let’s Go and Dangerous], but then we go off on tangents. I could reference every band we collectively grew up listening to in some of these licks – Queen, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Faces, Bowie. We just wore our heroes on our sleeve, as well as our past. It was like pulling a cork from a great bottle of wine and just letting it breathe. If it is the last record we ever do, I’ll be so proud to go out on a high. But I would hope that we could even top this. It was liberating.”