1983 Def Leppard – Foolin’
Some artists who have significant success on the US Rock Chart often struggle to cross over to the Hot 100 pop chart. This group struggled for a few years but did much better later on.
Three UK students at Tapton School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, formed the band Atomic Mass in 1977. Initially, the band’s lineup was Tony Kenning on drums, Rick Savage on bass guitar, and Pete Willis on guitar.
Joe Elliot auditioned for the band as a guitarist, but the other three decided he had more promise as a lead vocalist. Joe suggested changing the band’s name to Deaf Leopard, but Tony convinced the band to change the spelling to Def Leppard.
Steve Clark joined the band in 1978 as their new lead guitarist, and Rick Allen replaced Tony on drums. The band became one of the most promising new heavy metal bands.
Their first album came out in 1980, and Mutt Lange produced the band’s second album in 1981. At least some sources claim that their video for Bringing On The Heartbreak appears to have been the first Heavy Metal video played on MTV., but other bands probably have a better claim to that record. Despite heavy airplay, the single did not carry the band to the charts.
The band fired Pete because of problems related to his drinking, and guitarist Phil Collen joined the group.
Mutt also produced their third album, and that’s when everything changed. Pyromania came out in 1983 and spawned back-to-back #1 records on the US Rock chart, Photograph and Rock of Ages. The records did not do as well on the Hot 100, peaking at #12 and #16. Neither record reached the top forty in the UK.
Joe, Steve, and Mutt wrote the band’s third single from the album, Foolin’. While the record reached #9 on the US Rock Chart, it stalled at #28 on the Hot 100 and is now mostly ignored by oldies stations.
The band began to record their fourth album, but Mutt dropped out of the project due to exhaustion. Jim Steinman (writer of many of Meatloaf’s hits) came in as producer, but he left the project soon after.
In December 1984, Rick lost his left arm due to a car crash. The band discontinued work on their album to help Rick. It took several years, but a they had a special drum kit designed so that Rick could continue playing drums for the band. They brought in an additional drummer, but it quickly became clear that Rick could handle the drumming by himself. The band ditched the extra drummer after a single session.
It would be 1987 before the band finished the fourth album. The wait was worth it: four singles landed in the top ten on the Hot 100 and one of them topped the chart.
The CMT television network has been producing a show called CMT Crossroads since 2002 that teams up a Country act with an act that is from another genre. One of the most surprising team-ups occurred in 2008, when Def Leppard and Taylor Swift recorded a show that included Taylor singing lead on one of their rocker numbers.
The band’s lineup has changed over time, but they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
The band even released a single that reached the top forty on the US Rock Chart as recently as 2022.
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