Joe Elliott said he saw his “career flashing before my eyes” just before Def Leppard played a homecoming show during the grunge era.
Despite the challenges of the period, the English band had been together for 15 years when they performed a stadium show in Sheffield in 1993. In a recent interview with Goldmine, the singer said it was the moment he began to give up worrying about longevity. “I stopped saying, ‘No, don’t be so silly,’ about 1993,” Elliott said.
“When we formed, the Beatles had only been split seven years,” he noted. “Zeppelin was still together. The Who was still the original four-piece. Sweet was still going, you know. I mean, Slade was still going. Bolan had only been dead a year. Bowie was just coming out of his Berlin period. It was a totally different world. And all these artists that we were growing up with were just starting to disintegrate or split except for the Stones and the Who. … Punk had taken over. It was a different world.”
He added that the group “never sat down and discussed it, but when you get together as a band, the mentality, psychologically back then, was five to 10 years, because there was no 40-year-old band, right? There was no band in 1977 that formed in 1937. That’s ridiculous. You know, that’s before the war broke out.”
Elliott allowed that “old crooners” enjoyed decades-long careers, but that it was different for bands. “Frank Sinatra can’t split up,” he pointed out. “Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr. … can split, but individually they can go on for as long as they’re alive.”
His subconscious thinking crystallized “when we played Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, our hometown, and [it was] almost 15 years to the day since we formed,” he said. “We did this gig in front of 45,000 people in our hometown, all our parents and friends in the stands, beautiful summer’s day, people we went to school with in the audience. … Walking out there and that life-flashing-before-your-eyes-before-you-die moment – it was a career flashing before my eyes. … I went, ‘Wow, I think we can do this for as long as we want to do this.’”
After that experience, the singer said there was no need to try and put an end date on Def Leppard’s run time. “You couldn’t live your life normally knowing the day you were gonna die,” he reflected. “It has to be open-ended. … I say if we are still enjoying it and can do what we’ve just done now in five, 10, 15 years’ time, why not? Ian Hunter is 82! And he’s recording new material, recording new material right now.”
Elliott’s attitude to longevity was also instilled in the band’s latest album, Diamond Star Halos, which was recorded during their lockdown period. “It’s a COVID-free album you’ll have noticed,” he said. “We didn’t want people to put this on, hopefully, in ’25,’ 26, ’27 and go, ‘It’s dated.’ It isn’t all these references to needles and vaccines and lockdowns and isolation. No, this is the antidote to that. This is the cure, not the virus.”
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