BW&BK Interview: DEF LEPPARD – Best Before: 1987

By Carl Begai

Way back in November 2004, I had the opportunity to interview Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen. By that point I’d pretty much dismissed the band as a lost cause with their best years behind them, but as a diehard fan of their first three albums and one of the millions willingly sucked in by Hysteria – featuring Collen on the latter two – I accepted without a second thought. It was a fantastic conversation, with Collen being unexpectedly receptive to what I figure were some unexpected questions given the amount of ass-kissing that usually goes on between journos and rock stars during press junkets.

I’m re-posting the story (originally found here) as a tribute to Collen’s latest Manraze album, PunkFunkRootsRock, which will be reviewed on this site in the coming days. It’s a brilliant record – the band’s second and, admittedly, my first taste of their music – sounding as raw and organic as you’re gonna get in this day and age, devoid of the ultra-processed bells-and-whistles-up-the-ass over-produced pap Def Leppard are now famous for. Hell, PunkFunkRootsRock could and probably should be the album that followed the Leps’ no-bullshit ’81 album, High N’ Dry. It’s that good, in my “humble” opinion (with all due respect to Collen’s bandmates, past and present).

Read on, stay tuned for a Manraze review, sample a few bits and pieces from PunkFunkRootsRock at the end of the story, try to tell me I’m wrong 🙂 And remember, this interview took place in November 2004

I used to be a Def Leppard fan. I admit to owning a copy of the band’s Hysteria opus from 1987 – an album fellow Knucklehead Martin Popoff so accurately describes as “tasteless and devoid of all life” in his Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal. It was the beginning of the end of my fanboyship, although their first three albums kicked my ass and continue to do so to this day. Gritty, raw, bare bones hard ass rock-to-metal packages, On Through The Night (’80), High ‘N’ Dry (’81) and Pyromania (’83) were laid down by a band with stars in its eyes, grateful for every pancake they sold because it meant an extra round of pints at the pub. The gazillion-selling hit that was Hysteria changed all that, of course, with each album that followed offering up more and more ultra-layered processed cheese based on producer Mutt Lange’s original blueprint of How To Make A Better Sellout, which incidentally, actually began to take shape during Pyromania. Present day feedback and sales suggest that I’m not alone in my thinking, as Def Leppard hasn’t had a major blow-the-doors-off hit since Adrenalize (’92). Their last album, X, sewered out worse than Ashlee Simpson on SNL, yet the band’s label recently saw fit to release a Best Of compilation featuring, lo and behold, lots of older pre-hysterical material.

Needless to say I was surprised. I mean, the schmalz-loving Top 40 cuddle-rock contingent that keeps Def Leppard afloat today either doesn’t know, or more likely doesn’t care about the old classic songs. Given the chance to speak to guitarist Phil Collen and ask him what gives – could this perhaps be a sign that times and sound are changing? – I jumped at the opportunity. Continue reading BW&BK Interview: DEF LEPPARD – Best Before: 1987