While the music industry has tried many times, it’s never quite been able to pin Def Leppard down to one particular subgenre.
The band’s stylistic ambiguity is a source of pride for frontman Joe Elliott, who notes that over the decades Def Leppard has been lumped in with bands like Iron Maiden on one hand and Warrant on the other.
Elliott says that neither the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ nor the ‘Hair Metal/Glam Metal’ labels have ever satisfied him. Def Leppard has always been a rock band, with equal reverence for both The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
And just like those bands, Def Leppard has always been focused on songs, not fads.
In a recent conversation, Elliott noted that what genre Def Leppard was tagged with varied wildly depending on the time and location of the reporter writing it.
“So, it’s an interesting thing that people always lumped us into [NWOBHM],” Elliott said.
After the band resurfaced in 1987 (four years after taking a hiatus over Rick Allen’s car accident), all of a sudden they were referred to as hair metal.
“Something happened in Los Angeles while we’re living in a freaking windmill in Holland, and we get roped into it,” he continued.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I’d be the first to admit that with bands like Warrant, ‘Cherry Pie’ – come on, it sounds like ‘[Pour Some] Sugar [on Me].'”
But those similarities were coincidental, not conscious, he said.
The NWOBHM label didn’t work because Def Leppard didn’t have the aggressive sound of bands like Iron Maiden.
He added that the hair metal label didn’t work because Def Leppard:
- Is British
- “Never spent any time on Sunset Boulevard”
- Had pretty modest hair by the day’s standards
“What came out of us musically had nothing to do with anything else, it was totally us. Like I said, we’ve always wanted to be a stand-alone band,” Elliott continues.
“And I’ve been accused, for decades now, of being all very defensive.”