You came from a working-class background.
Absolutely. I was born in bred in Broomhill, a part of Sheffield that has rows of terraced houses back to back. Both of my parents worked – they had to – but that made no difference to me in my own little Walter Mitty world of music.
How many jobs did you have?
Three, including the one I do now. From 1975 I worked in the office of a factory called Osbourne’s. I was on around thirteen pounds a week. I was fired for playing cricket in the basement storeroom. But the union rep negotiated me five hundred pounds, which bought Leppard’s PA. Later on I drove a delivery van – which I’d borrow in the evening for gigs – for an ironmongers. I stayed there until we got our record deal – the day after Led Zeppelin played Knebworth. By then I was earning twenty-five pounds a week.
What did you buy with your first big royalty cheque?
Apart from looking after my mum and dad, it was a house in Cobham in Surrey. Remember, we started in 1977 and didn’t see a penny until 1983, so don’t tell me we didn’t pay our dues.
Advances must be paid back.
Yeah, they go into recording. Around our first album we were on a very small wage of around twenty quid each. Even when Pyromania started to sell – and it did six million by the end of 1983 – half of its profits were used to clear our debts.
They say money can’t buy happiness, but it must make it easier to attain.
Anybody who that says money doesn’t change them is a fucking liar. If somebody gives you a cheque so large that your dad would have to live to be a hundred-and-fifty to earn, you spend it wisely. Gamble ten per cent of it, sure, but look after it. Having seen how much money Hysteria cost to make, when I bought my current house in Ireland I installed a studio. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Some musicians, such as Maiden’s Steve Harris, stay just the same as they were before they became rich.
Most of the bands that play our kind of rock do, though I know one rock star, who I won’t name, that spent an enormous amount of money on a Harley but still has an outside toilet. Harry’s place in Essex was like Downton Abbey. The first time I went there, other than drinking in the Horse & Cart [Harris’s on-site pub] we played tennis and Subbuteo. He has the same kind of background as me.
What car do you drive?
A Beamer. But so do plenty of others.
You’ve never gone down the George Best route of spending loads of cash on booze, birds and cars, and ‘squandering’ the rest?
Have I fuck. I’m married with a little boy. You read about people like MC Hammer spending seven million dollars on a house, then four-hundred grand on some gates with his initials, employing an entourage of twenty-seven people – and then going bankrupt in fifteen months.
If you walk into a bar and buy drinks for everybody you’re a flash git; if you don’t buy anybody a drink you’re tight. That must be a dilemma.
All of my mates are intelligent and sussed enough – and Sheffield enough – to know that. You don’t call them up and complain that your Ferrari’s been towed away, or you’ve sent the dog off to rehab.