Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott says the secret to the band’s longevity is simply patience and refusal to be swept aside by the tide of bands which fit a popular short term trend.
When grunge exploded onto the music scene in the early ‘90s a number of more traditional rock bands were phased out or dropped.
But Elliott says the key to Leppard’s enduring success was ‘perspiration’.
He tells Meltdown of the WRIF radio station in Detroit, Michigan: “What we did in the '90s was remember what we said to ourselves in the '80s. Bands like Reo Speedwagon, Foreigner, Journey and Styxx… When we came along, there seemed to be a lot of bands from that '80s era that just … I don't know… They kind of gave up, or their record companies gave up.
“I don't think the bands ever gave up, but the industry gave up on them, and the new boys came along. We said to each other, 'One day, this is gonna happen to us. In ten years' time, there'll be the new boys coming along and they're gonna try to do to us what we apparently, supposedly did to the '70s bands.' And we said, 'We have to make sure that we don't let that happen. And even if it does happen, we just have to keep going until it comes back around.’”
It was the arrival of Guns N’ Roses which began to muscle bands like Def Leppard off playlists but Elliott was determined not to chuck in the towel.
He went on: “Success, or just life in general, is like a wheel. As long as it's in motion, every single part of the wheel always ends up back at the top. So, yeah, Guns came along. When Guns kicked it in '92, we were still selling three nights out in every arena in the States with an album that was No. 1 for six weeks on the Billboard charts. And then in the mid-'90s, it got tough. And then towards the end of the '90s, we noticed that the grunge music started to sound happier; it wasn't all Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
“A lot of the bands that kicked our ass, if you like, kind of went away or died, or people died within the bands. And then you had bands like Sugar Ray coming along that were kind of grungy, but they were happy-sounding stuff, and the Goo Goo Dolls.
“They were going, like, Top 40. [And I was] like, 'This is a pop song [packaged] as grunge.' And then people started re-accepting us, and we realized, 'There's a lot of hard work gonna be involved here. We can't take it for granted. We can't expect to be lifted up like the Pope and carried around in a box. We've gotta get back up there and do this ourselves.'”
He adds: “It took a long time, but we were always prepared to do the hard work. And I think the difference between us and a lot of other bands is that we aren't scared of the perspiration… Inspiration is one thing, but perspiration is another. And we've always been keen to get the point across.”
Since forming in 1977, Def Leppard have risen to become one of the world’s biggest selling bands with album sales in excess of 100 million worldwide.